The new Wyoming state schools superintendent, Cindy Hill (R), said during an interview last month that she was considering rejecting all federal education funding that comes into her state. “If we need anything for our kids, we just ask our legislators,” Hill said. “Why would we go to the feds? We’re a state that doesn’t need to.”
Instead of dismissing this notion out-of-hand, Wyoming legislators are proposing legislation enacting a study into what such a refusal would entail:
Legislation that would investigate the effects of not accepting federal funding for programs in kindergarten through 12th grade has been proposed by Reps. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, and Matt Teeters, R-Lingle, and Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody. House Bill 132 tasks the state attorney general and superintendent of public instruction with presenting a plan in time for the Legislature’s 2012 budget session.
Similar notions have evidently been kicking around the Wyoming legislature for years. But the problem with this line of thinking is that, while federal funding makes up only a small portion of overall education funding (about nine percent nationwide, and six percent in Wyoming), it mostly goes to support low-income, high-poverty districts.
For instance, in the Laramie County School District in Cheyenne, Wyoming, 32 percent of the students are low-income and just six percent of the district’s funding comes from the federal government. In comparison, nearly the entire student body at the Fremont County School District is low-income, and the school depends on the federal government for 40 percent of its funding.
Not that there aren’t problems with the way this funding is apportioned amongst school districts, as CAP’s Raegen Miller wrote:
Since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act’s initial authorization, a number of technical and political decisions have led to a set of four formulas that determine the amounts and destinations of grants under Title I, Part A. Concern for the law’s goal of improving equal educational opportunity by targeting children in concentrated poverty has guided the formulas’ evolution, but the funding formulas are still found wanting…Children living in concentrated poverty are poorly served by a labyrinthine funding scheme comprising four separate formulas.
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) has pushed back on those wanting to reject federal funding. “Before we say, ‘We’re not going to take any of this money,’ I think we need to recognize what is that going to do to our state,” he said. “I am not willing to sacrifice education of Wyoming citizens to make a point that we often — for some of us, and on occasion for others — [are] dissatisfied with what federal government policies are.”