School coalition welcomes governor's support on inflation but still discussing lost money

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CHEYENNE, Wyoming — A coalition of Wyoming school districts welcomes Gov. Matt Mead's support of an inflation adjustment for K-12 public schools, but the governor did not agree to make up the money districts say the lost in recent years.

"The back money from past years, where we hadn't had an inflation adjustment, we're going to continue in dialogue," said Donna Little-Kaumo, superintendent of Sweetwater County School District 2 in Green River.

Mead's supplemental budget proposal released this week includes $15 million to help schools cover increasing costs for basic needs, such as heating and school materials, in the next school year.

The governor's budget recommendation will be reviewed by the state Legislature, which will come up with its own spending plan. The Legislature convenes in January.

Wyoming has consistently ranked among the top 10 states in spending per student on K-12 education. In the 2012-2013 school year, Wyoming spent $15,943 per student, ranking it seventh in the country and well above the national average of $10,938, according to numbers compiled by the National Education Association.

But the coalition of nine districts say state funding has failed to keep up with inflation in recent years.

They say Wyoming districts have been shortchanged about $151 million, forcing them to cut back on programs to make ends meet.

Lawmakers aren't completely in agreement on the inflation adjustment let alone the $151 million the districts want. The interim legislative education committee is on the same page as Mead in providing a full inflation adjustment next school year, but members of the separate interim appropriations committee are more selective in handing out inflation adjustments.

Little-Kaumo said the districts will continue to press their case with the governor and lawmakers.

"But the coalition couldn't be more pleased with the step forward with the governor clearly articulating his support for K-12 education in the state of Wyoming," she said.

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