I would like to refute the idea that cutting educational costs will save Wyoming money. Numerous national studies clearly show this to be false.
According to the Alliance for Excellent Education increasing our graduation rate to 90 percent from the current 79.3 percent would generate $9.8 million in additional earnings, increase our gross state product by $12.6 million and save $1 million on health care annually.
Student test scores indicate that small class sizes help close the achievement gap in grades K through three by up to 38 percent. Students who have small classes for at least three of those formative years continue to benefit throughout their academic years and later in life, with higher graduation rates leading to higher salary earning potential. That means the rest of us benefit, too. One cost-benefit estimate by the National Education Association indicates a $2 return on every $1 spent when class sizes are reduced.
The Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the United States Department of Education, has concluded that small class size is one of only four, evidence-based reforms that have been proven to increase student achievement through rigorous, randomized experiments.
A dollar-for-dollar investment in education increases private income and jobs more than any sector of the economy, according to the NEA.
Studies by the Columbia University Teachers College suggest that decreases in the student-teacher ratio lead to an 11 percent to 18 percent increase in high school graduation rates and 4 percentile to 10 percentile point improvement in standardized test scores.
According to the New York Times, it costs $167,731 per year to house one inmate. Without a good education, people are often unable to earn enough money to support themselves, and they and their families often end up in our penal or child welfare system. The public is already paying the price of poorly educated students. Would you rather pay for schools or prisons?
Some argue that America spends more per pupil than most countries, so there’s room to cut back. But that’s not long-term thinking. As Linda Darling-Hammond told the Boston Globe, “the vast majority of jobs are knowledge-based. If we do not invest [in education] we really can’t survive as a nation.”
The very consulting firm from Denver that the Wyoming Legislature hired to investigate educational funding stated that Wyoming should be spending over $50 million more, not less.
Teachers’ salaries in Wyoming have decreased by 13 percent.
We can’t cut our way to prosperity. Government spending does not create economic woe. It benefits the economy when funds are dedicated to areas of long-term value, including education.
Both the governor and the Joint Appropriations Committee presented a budget with no cuts to education.
Senator Dave Kinskey (R-Sheridan) was obviously the recipient of a quality education or he would not have been able to attend Harvard University. He also benefited from the University of Wyoming Law School. Why does he get to benefit from a solid education, but doom his own grandchildren to a lessor education?
It is time to speak and be heard. The majority of state senators are ignoring their own data, their own governor, their own Joint Appropriations Committee in order to score a personal, yet deeply wounding “victory”. You have a say in the future of education in Wyoming. Speak, write, call! Don’t let these unconscionable and unconstitutional bills — SJ-4, SJ-0117, HB-140 — pass without being heard.
Jeanne Raney is a speech language pathologist who has worked in preschool, public school and medical settings working with the special needs population. She has a master’s in communication disorders from the University of Minnesota, recently completed a master’s of jurisprudence in child law and policy from Loyola Law School, Chicago, and is currently completing her administrative certification through the University of Wyoming. She lives in Sublette County and works for Sublette County School District 1. Her views are her own and do not represent those of the school district.