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Exploring Student Achievement as it Relates to Education Funding

A recently published article in the Jackson Hole News and Guide points to a study conducted by, stating: “While teacher salaries are directly affected by school funding, the correlation between student performance and education funding is more complex. Looking at data from fiscal year 2017, states that spend more per student aren’t more likely to have better outcomes.”

Wyoming's experience runs contrary to the overall findings of this report. Because of Wyoming's rural nature, our state doesn't benefit from the economy of scale seen in more populous states. So, naturally, our per pupil spending is higher than the national average. However, properly funding education in Wyoming has preceded a major uptick in overall education quality and student achievement. As evidenced by the 2019 NAEP and Education Week's 2019 Quality Counts reports, Wyoming students are outperforming peers across the nation, and leading the entire Mountain West region in academic achievement.

It's also important to note that Wyoming’s average teacher salary in 2017 was $58,650, which is $300 below the national average.

Prior to the Campbell decisions mandating full funding of an adequate, equitable education for Wyoming students, Wyoming ranked near the bottom of all 50 states in overall education quality. Wyoming's poor rankings in the past lie in stark contrast to the exemplary achievement of contemporary Wyoming students reflected by the NAEP and Quality Counts reports for 2019.

Wyoming also differs from other states across the nation in that all students—regardless of their district—receive a high-quality education. Wyoming does something that no other states are doing in ensuring that each student receives an equitable education regardless of his or her zip code. Equality in education increases Wyoming’s per pupil spending. But, educational opportunity and student achievement in rural districts in Wyoming surpass those in states in which funding varies drastically by district—a model in which students in districts lacking in economic prosperity ultimately suffer.

“When considering per pupil spending in Wyoming, it’s essential to recognize two things,” said WEA President Kathy Vetter, “one being that because of the rural nature of our state, Wyoming does not benefit from the ‘economy of scale’ enjoyed by more populous states. Additionally, education funding in Wyoming is constitutionally mandated and we are to not only fund education equally and provide equal opportunity for all communities—no matter how large or small—but we are mandated to do so not at a bare minimum level, rather as best that we can. We are doing something no other state is doing.”

“This study is limiting in that it draws a direct correlation between spending and test scores, but completely fails to account for the multi-faceted socioeconomic factors concurrent with sufficient education funding,” said WEA Government Relations Director, Tate Mullen. “The goal of education should be to increase educational access and attainment, provide a track for jobs and careers that pay a sustainable wage and reduce the occurrence of poverty,” continues Mullen, “all of which increased educational funding accomplishes.”

Learn more about student achievement in Wyoming (including the full NAEP and Quality Counts reports):

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