The public schools enroll 93,000 students: 79% White, 13% Latino, and 3% American Indian, with 38% living in poverty and 3% learning English. The State spends $15,815 per pupil. (Most recent NCES data)
"The right of the citizens to opportunities for education should have practical recognition. The legislature shall suitably encourage means and agencies calculated to advance the sciences and liberal arts," and require the Legislature to "provide for the establishment and maintenance of a complete and uniform system of public instruction, embracing free elementary schools of every needed kind and grade, a university with such technical and professional departments as the public good may require and the means of the state allow, and such other institutions as may be necessary." Wyo. Const. art. 1, §23 and art. 7, §1.
In 1980, in the equity case, Washakie County School District v. Herschler, the Wyoming Supreme Court held that the State’s system of financing public education, based primarily on local property taxes and resulting in low-wealth school districts receiving less revenue per student than high-wealth districts, violated the Wyoming Constitution.
The Court declared public education a fundamental right: "…the matter of education involves a fundamental interest of great public importance." Therefore, the Court wrote, education should be provided on an equal basis, and "until equality of financing is achieved, there is no practicable method of achieving equality of quality."
In 1995, in Campbell County School District v. State, the Wyoming Supreme Court held that the State’s school funding system, which resulted in funding disparities among local districts, failed to satisfy the State’s obligation under the education article to provide equal educational opportunity. The Court also interpreted the education article by articulating what a constitutionally compliant education will look like:
"…a quality education will include:
- Small schools, small class size, low student/teacher ratios, textbooks, low student/personal computer ratios.
- Integrated, substantially uniform substantive curriculum decided by the legislature through the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education with input from local school boards.
- Ample, appropriate provision for at-risk students, special problem students, talented students.
- Setting of meaningful standards for course content and knowledge attainment intended to achieve the legislative goal of equipping all students for entry to the University of Wyoming and Wyoming Community Colleges or which will achieve the other purposes of education.
- Timely and meaningful assessment of all students’ progress in core curriculum and core skills regardless of whether those students intend to pursue college or vocational training."
In Campbell IV in 2008, the Court ordered the Legislature to make certain remaining funding system adjustments and closed the case.