A family-owned daily newspaper serving Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming since 1949

Fresh eyes

May 18, 2017 - By Steven R. Peck, Publisher

K-12 school 'recalibration' intends to re-focus state education priorities

Local news followers have been seeing and hearing the word "recalibration" a lot in recent months. Well, get used to seeing it even more. Wyoming's K-12 public school system is about to get recalibrated.

Simply put, recalibration means re-examining what our priorities are for public education in Wyoming, then figuring out how much it would cost to do the things we say we want. After that, we must decide if we can afford it.

The slumping energy economy in Wyoming, which provided a lot of funding for public schools when it was roaring and earmarked tax revenues were high, has scooped the guts out of public school funding. Through big cuts made this year, and there is well-justified fear that more will have to be made next year.

So, the recalibration of the state's education funding model is more than just an academic exercise. Its a fiscal imperative.

Education policy makers, lawmakers, and revenue providers often refer to the educational "basket of goods." That means, ideally, what we would like to deliver to Wyoming students and citizens with our public education system.

We are asked to imagine a shopping basket and to create our perfect grocery list. Then we find out if our "store" even carries those items, or, if not, what it would take to get them, and, of course, what it would cost.

The Wyoming Legislature has made school recalibration a top priority for its interim period between legislative sessions. Before making more funding cuts, if necessary, in the K-12 system, they want to see if recalibration changes the state's education policy.

Anyone who's been around public education knows that every decade, perhaps even more often, opinions about what public education ought to be delivering seem to change. Has that happened this year, or is this strictly about money? Some say the recalibration effort is being launched now as an excuse to define a much smaller "basket of goods" as justification for further spending cuts.

There's a dose of cynicism in that view. Wyoming education patrons ought to both hope and trust that it isn't true. Honestly, recalibration in the face of the state revenue declines probably is a necessity, cynical or not.

Honestly, recalibration is considered desirable to do every few years, anyway, but it takes on added significance this year. If we are going to have a lot less money to spend on education, then we had better be as comfortable as we can get with that money will buy.A fresh-eyed look -- recalibration -- will help.

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