Fremont County’s eight-district school system still under scrutiny

Fremont County’s eight public school districts continue to be a point of discussion for state legislators who want to make Wyoming’s K-12 system more efficient.

“It is a huge elephant in the room,” Wyoming Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, said Wednesday during a Joint Revenue Committee meeting in Lander. “It is something we talk about all the time.”

Most of Wyoming’s other counties only have one or two school districts, with a few hosting three or four.

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Impact Aid

Fremont County has so many school districts partly because Tribal land on the Wind River Indian Reservation is tax-exempt.

Because of that tax exemption, school districts on the reservation don’t generate as much property tax revenue.

The federal government provides Impact Aid to make up for the loss.

The three school districts on the reservation receive “substantial funding” through Impact Aid, senior school finance analyst Matt Willmarth said.

If those districts are consolidated into one, Case said Impact Aid decreases, “reducing the amount of total resources to the schools.”

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“You must maintain those separate districts to maximize the Impact Aid flow,” he said. “It is a driver in this situation that we can’t quite get our arms around.”

Wyoming Rep. Pat Sweeney, R-Casper, speculated that there could be a single “federal” school district in Fremont County, with three others covering off-reservation schools. But Case said the situation is more “complicated” than that, pointing out that there are two sovereign Tribal nations on the reservation and that many Native students attend schools in Fremont County’s other districts.

“This is a tough one,” he said. “I definitely encourage (us to) keep trying to find a solution. … It’s definitely a ripe topic, always, for analysis. Every time I’ve dug into it, I’ve hit this Impact Aid wall.”

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