As always, it was good to see so many education partners at the Joint Education Committee meeting this week. The discussion was particularly helpful in two ways: 1) moving the ball forward with educational programs, and, 2) continuing the very important debate about education funding in Wyoming. I left JEC early to testify at a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. where I shared information about Wyoming’s investment in education using mineral revenues. The bill, H.R. 5259, is co-sponsored by Congresswoman Lummis and would give states and tribes a stronger voice in coal policy and regulation decisions. Here is additional information about the bill and testimony I provided.
Next week, there are several events of note taking place in Cheyenne. First, the Joint Appropriations Committee is meeting to discuss cuts to state agencies effective as of July 1, 2016 (the start of a new biennium). In recent weeks, each state agency identified an 8% cut. This 8% is in addition to the cuts realized during the legislative session. For WDE, this means our agency budget has been cut close to 16% since the beginning of the 2016. As with school districts, WDE hopes to find ways to do more with less and keep cuts away from our core and statutory responsibilities as a state agency.
Wyoming’s Career Readiness Council will also convene next week to hear from state and national experts on how to shape the future of career and technical education in Wyoming. The council will make several important decisions that will keep the work moving forward and in a positive direction.
CHEYENNE – State Superintendent Jillian Balow testified today at a legislative hearing on the Certainty for States and Tribes Act held by the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, in Washington, D.C.
Balow said in a letter to the committee: “Since 2003, Wyoming has spent more than $3 billion from federal mineral royalties, taxes, and fees for school construction or renovation, improving the educational environment for over 100 schools and touching each one of Wyoming’s counties… In addition, approximately twenty five percent of our school operational budgets rely directly on federal mineral royalties… Wyoming is not alone in facing budget shortfalls for education and other essential government services due to the current downturn in energy production. States across the country, and particularly in the West, are being forced to make difficult decisions about budgets.
“Reinstating the Royalty Policy Committee is one straight-forward, common sense way to improve communication between States and the Federal Government. In addition, through the creation of the State and Tribal Resources Board, those states and tribes most dependent on royalty revenue from oil, gas, and coal will be provided greater opportunity to report on the impact of changes to royalty policy and be allowed additional time, if needed, to prepare for any reductions to critical services, including education funding.”
H.R. 5259, the Certainty for States and Tribes Act, would reconstitute the Department of the Interior’s Royalty Policy Committee, which was established in 1995 to advise the Secretary on royalty management issues, as well as other mineral-related policies. In addition, the bill would create a “State and Tribal Resources Board” to assess the economic impact of proposed policies and regulatory changes on state and tribal budgets and governmental services, which are often supported by revenues from mineral production. The bill is intended to create an open and transparent process to ensure a fair return to the American taxpayer and to ensure that states relying on proceeds from federal land are treated fairly.
WDE stood up an exciting website this week called Wyoming Measures Up. It can be found at wyomingmeasuresup.com or via link on the WDE website. This site tracks our progress toward ensuring that significantly more students are ready for post-secondary success in college, a career, and/or military service. Please take a few moments to look at how education in Wyoming and our work is represented. Thank you, once again, for your effort and input in bringing a vision for Wyoming education to life. The website and metrics are the culmination of over a year of strategic planning, analyses, and statewide stakeholder input. For years educators, parents, citizens, and policymakers have asked that we define success and share a vision. It’s exciting to deliver Wyoming Measures Up.
WDE and Wyoming education were well represented at meetings across the state and nation. Here are a few meetings that took place this week:
WAEMSP met in Thermopolis with a full agenda including ESSA updates from WDE senior leadership
At the Wyoming Transportation Summit (hosted by WHSAA) educators discussed ways to be more efficient with travel
The Select Committee for Tribal Relations heard from WDE and others about the importance of legislation that creates a structure to support tribal learners and the culture of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes
Google training was hosted and organized by Fremont 25
WDE staff and I traveled to Phoenix to participate in two meetings: Indian Education and ESSA, and Accountability and ESSA
Next week, I will testify in front of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee on a bill co-sponsored by Congressman Lummis. The bill will reconstitute the Royalty Policy Committee that would provide advice to the Secretary of the Interior regarding royalty rates. This is an important bill for many reasons, not the least of which is Wyoming education. The Committee has not had a “seat at the table” for several years and it has caused hasty and one-sided decision making. The bill helps reestablish proper checks and balances. Several weeks ago, I testified at a U.S. Department of the Interior listening session in Casper and spoke at a Wyoming coal rally. It is imperative that we all help educators and community members understand how education in Wyoming is funded and how the mineral industry contributes to our excellent quality of life.
It’s with a heavy heart that we see communities in Campbell County hit hard by changes in the coal and oil industry. Here are links to comments from Senator Enzi and an article that includes comments from Governor Mead’s press conference yesterday.
There are few, if any, words of optimism in light of this devastating news–our hearts break for the families and communities affected. I reaffirm my commitment to Wyoming education and stand strong in the belief that these times must strengthen, not weaken, our commitment to students. Education is the key to economic diversity, innovation, and our future. Every district is having difficult conversations about cuts right now–don’t forget to celebrate and build on all of the good things that are happening in the schools and in our state.
April is Financial Literacy month! On Tuesday, the first ever AmeriTowne-WyoTowne was opened with 5th grader and mayor, Camden Jackson, cutting the ribbon. This is a hands-on opportunity for students to run a town for a day. Wyoming is the second state to build an AmeriTowne, Colorado has several. 5th graders in Casper will begin running the town in a couple of weeks. The vision of the Daniels Fund, Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming, Natrona County School District, and other partners is to see WyoTowne be available for many, many more students across the state. Here is an article about the grand opening and a link to more information about AmeriTowne.
The Chapter 31 rules were unanimously approved for promulgation by the State Board yesterday. The rules are the result of a year+ collaboration with school districts. Thank you for your work in helping us hit the mark on graduation requirements that help ensure comparability, excellence, and local flexibility.
Also, a team from WDE will travel to Washington, DC next week to work on ESSA implementation. I will spend a full day working as part of an ESSA work group with other state chiefs. I am also participating on a national panel to discuss Title II priorities. Thank you to the multiple school leaders who provided feedback to me this week as I prepared for the panel. We are anxious to share additional information and resources with you in the coming weeks.