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January 4, 2023

A lawsuit filed by the Wyoming Education Association (WEA) charging that the State has for years refused to adjust school funding to account for inflation and to update the current school funding model will be allowed to proceed to trial.

On December 7, a district court judge in Laramie County, Wyoming, rejected the State’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The court permitted the WEA, a non-profit corporation representing 6,000 teachers across the state, to pursue the suit, Wyoming Education Association v. State, and its claims that the State is inadequately funding Wyoming’s public schools.

The WEA was also a plaintiff in Wyoming’s landmark line of school funding cases, Campbell v. State. In 1995, in Campbell, Wyoming’s Supreme Court declared that education was not just a fundamental right, but also “a paramount priority over all other considerations.” The court ordered the State to determine the cost of a high quality education, fully fund the public schools, adjust funding at least every two years for inflation, and review the components of the school funding model every five years to ensure resources are keeping pace with needs and costs.

In his December 7 decision, Judge Peter H. Froelicher rejected the State’s claim that the WEA and its members, as well as other teachers and parents of public school students, do not have standing to sue. The judge ruled that all have a “tangible interest” in the outcome of the case, and they would directly benefit from increased funding.

The judge also rejected the State’s claim that the constitutional right to education is exclusively held by students. Rather, the judge emphasized that the fundamental right to education “exists to benefit not just students but all Wyoming citizens through education of its youth.” The judge also concluded that the WEA’s allegations sufficiently stated a claim for a constitutional violation, and therefore the case can proceed to trial.

“The WEA is committed to safeguarding the rights of public school students throughout Wyoming,” said Patrick Hacker of Hacker, Hacker & Kendall, PC, the firm representing the WEA. “That’s why this case is so important. We now look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate the significant and unwarranted level of underfunding of our public schools.”

Education Law Center, founded in 1973, pursues education justice and equity to ensure that all students receive a high quality public education effectively preparing them to participate as citizens in a democratic society and as valued contributors to a robust economy. If this e-blast was forwarded to you, please sign up to receive regular ELC updates here.

Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications
973-624-1815, x 240