Wyoming’s education funding system is constitutional, the state Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.
In the decision, the high court ended its jurisdiction over the state’s K-12 school system and concluded a case that originated 14 years earlier with allegations that the funding system unfairly denied students the education they are entitled to under Wyoming’s constitution.
While things are not perfect, the government’s actions to remediate the problem have gone a long way to solving the problem, the court found.
“Some deficiencies exist, some changes are required, and new issues will arise; however, this court is satisfied that the Legislature has in place a thorough and efficient educational structure funded from state wealth as required by our state constitution,” said the opinion, authored by Justice Marilyn Kite.
The state’s actions have boosted funding for operations and capital projects, the high court found. Since 2002, according to the opinion, Wyoming lawmakers have earmarked $990 million for school capital construction funding and placed large sums in the school construction account. Only a small portion of the money has been spent so far, but that is not a constitutional problem, the court determined.
“Our review of the evidence discussed below persuades us, as it did the district court, that the state has acted in good faith in trying to meet the mandate through research-based policy making, statutory enactment, and appropriations of large sums,” the opinion said. “At this point in time, we are convinced the state is moving forward as quickly as can be expected.”
Kathryn Valido, president of the Wyoming Education Association, one of the participants in the lawsuit, declared the outcome to be a victory.
“Our schools are better and our students are the true winners,” she said in a statement.
“We have increased educational opportunity for students in districts of all kinds and sizes, we’ve increased the pool of high-quality teachers, and we look forward to quality schools being built to meet the needs of our changing education environment,” Valido said.