Without approval from the Legislature, Wyoming Department of Education officials have diverted funds intended for specific groups of students and programs to a new teacher professional development program.
Top department officials will defend their 2013-14 budget a second time on Monday and were asked to present a budget and description of the “Teacher 2 Teacher” program initiated under Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill, who took office in January 2011.
The department has paid more than $218,000 from at least eight budgets to sustain the program, according to a Star-Tribune analysis of budget expenditures obtained from the department. Most has been spent from budgets directly related to instruction, but money was also spent from the budgets for court-ordered placement of students and juvenile detention and federal vocational education. In some instances, salaries were paid with state money while travel was paid for with federal money.
Sen. Phil Nicholas, R-Laramie, questioned the department’s creative budgeting during Joint Appropriations Committee hearings this month. The Teacher 2 Teacher program is mentioned in one sentence of the department’s 177-page request, under “School Improvement.” Nicholas said department officials were “sidestepping” the appropriations process and the $580,000 program should be listed as a separate budget request.
“The process is: If you want to start a new initiative, you create the initiative, you vet it, you provide for a budget, we vet it, joint education vets it, and it goes up or down in the process,” Nicholas said.