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Wyoming schools now reassured on American Resue Plan money

RIVERTON (WNE) — Wyoming’s unique school funding system should not affect its use of emergency educational funding through the American Rescue Plan Act, state staffers said this week. 

Last month, officials said Wyoming had received its third round of ARPA funding for education but had not yet distributed it because of an associated requirement to maintain state funding levels at a certain rate. 

The question was whether that federal funding guarantee includes local as well as state money – both of which are used to pay for education in Wyoming. 

This week, school finance analyst Matt Willmarth told the Joint Appropriations Committee that the U.S. Department of Education has been “favorable towards Wyoming” in allowing the state’s educational funding guarantee to include both state and local revenues. 

“Utilizing the state guarantee amount equalizes that calculation across years,” he said. 

According to the Wyoming Department of Education, the Wyoming School Foundation Program provides a guaranteed level of funding to every Wyoming public school districts; districts whose local revenues amount to less than the guarantee get money from the state to make up the difference, while districts with access to more local revenues than their state guarantee give the excess back to the state in a process known as “recapture.” 

In previous reports, WDE chief academic officer Shelley Hamel said Wyoming is slated to receive more than $300 million in emergency education funding through ARPA, with $273 million of that money going out to local districts to respond to needs that have arisen due to COVID-19, or needs that have been exacerbated due to COVID-19. Hamell added that 20 percent of the money must go toward addressing potential learning loss due to COVID-19.