Editors note: This is the first in a two-part series by Torrington Telegram intern Kassidy McClun, a student at Southeast High School in Yoder.
GOSHEN COUNTY – As Wyoming struggles with the energy sector’s poor profit margin, the effects of the Cowboy State’s economic misfortunes has worked its way into public schools, as they are beginning to face a decrease in educational funding. Moreover, the effects have already started to be felt in Goshen County schools.
During the Wyoming State Legislature’s October meeting, a select committee was gathered to discuss school finance recalibration. The committee discussed creating a school funding model that would limit the costs school districts in Wyoming spend only in specific categories, not providing entire block grants to the districts. The funding that has educated generations of Wyoming students over the past decade has hit a breaking point. However, the question still stands: what areas of the educational program are they cutting? What does the decrease in public school funding mean for student’s activities, athletically and educationally?
While legislators, politicians, educators, parents, and more have tried to make their voices heard on this subject, the student’s perspective has often been ignored, although the students are the direct customers affected by the educational decisions made at state and district levels.
The student body at Southeast High School was recently told Wyoming legislators agreed to pass a bill on Nov. 14 to cut $16 million from the education budget. They were then asked to respond to the short answer question: “How do you think school budget cuts will affect students in Goshen County?”
The students at SHS did not disappoint, as they were open to express many of their concerns.
A sophomore, who wished to stay anonymous, said: “Teachers will lose jobs; therefore, students will not have as many classes to choose from. I can see Southeast School shutting down for good if budget cuts continue.”
Another student, a senior, expressed her concerns about the educational cuts: “Less extracurricular activities will be available to students, and some electives could be cut from the school’s program.”
“The effects of this budget cut will mean teachers getting laid off, or moved from full time to part time,” another senior at Southeast said. “Also, the district might increase lunch programs and cut athletic activities, especially the games that need hotel rooms and two bus drivers.”
Ms. Jean Chrostoski, Superintendent of Goshen County School District No. 1, addressed the concerns of the high school students.
When asked what areas of the educational program they are cutting from, Chrostoski said that most of the information is unknown at this time. As for the student’s concerns on having fewer electives and extracurricular activities to choose from, Chrostoski said: “This is too soon to tell. The Board of Education has created a budget committee to review the efficiency of the district and review potential reductions.”
As for teachers: “Approximately 80% of the district’s budget is salary and benefits. Reduction in staff is likely, and the district would prefer to do that through attrition as best it can – meaning, if someone leaves or retires, that position would be evaluated as to whether or not it is needed,” Chrostoski said. “Could there be a reduction in benefits (i.e., how much the district pays for health insurance)? That would be a topic for the salary relations committee. When there is a decrease in salary or benefits, it’s a collaborative effort between the staff and the board of education.”
It is important to keep in mind that “all areas of government are being cut, not just education,” Chrostoski said. “All schools in Wyoming will be impacted by the cuts to the funding formula. The state of Wyoming currently has contracted with a consulting firm to evaluate how schools are being funded.”
To contact Goshen County’s education superintendent for more information on the budget cuts, Ms. Chrostoski can be reached by phone at (307) 532-2172 and by email at [email protected]