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School Spokesman/Senator Expects School Funding Lawsuit

Amy Richards, Townsquare Media
Amy Richards, Townsquare Media

A Gillette resident who is both a Wyoming legislator and a spokesman for Campbell County School District #1 says he thinks a lawsuit against the state over cuts in school funding is going to be filed at some point.

State Senator Jeff Wasserburger ¬†(R-Campbell Converse counties) is also Director of Public Relations for the school district. He says of the possibility of a court fight over school funding in Wyoming “No matter what the legislature does, there is going to be a lawsuit.”

But what isn’t known yet is when the suit will be filed or which school districts will be involved.

Campbell County schools have a long history of filing lawsuits against the state over education funding issues and have been involved in four landmark court decisions over the years dealing with that issue.

The school board on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution which is widely seen as authorizing a lawsuit, but not actually filing one.

Wasserburger says he disagrees with the terminology of saying the action “authorizes” legal action (because no decision to actually file a suit has been made), but does say the resolution is a “warning shot” to the state about legal action over school funding.

He says the resolution says the district disagrees with cuts to school funding made by the legislature as well as how the cuts were implemented. He says if the state continues with those policies “I’m sure the school district will sue the state at that point in time.”

The Wyoming Legislature cut $34.5 million from education funding earlier this year. Governor Matt Mead has signed that bill into law.

Wasserburger notes the legislature’s Select Committee On School Finance¬†will begin hearings on Monday on school finance recalibration. He says he expects the school district “will be hanging on ever word and every motion” of that process.

The committee is scheduled to hold seven two-day hearings around the state, leading up to the filing of a recalibration bill in January ahead of the 2018 Budget Session of the legislature.

Wasserburger warns that if the district sees the committee moving in a direction that violates existing court decisions on education “you could have a lawsuit filed within a week.” But he says it’s also possible the district might wait for a bill to be approved by lawmakers next year and signed by the governor before taking any legal action.

Wasserburger says he thinks it would be better to have the lawsuit filed sooner rather than later so that lawmakers will have a court decision in hand to guide their future actions on school funding.

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