A Constitutional Check
In a recent op-ed Representative Jennings says he has “been delighted to impart my knowledge of conservatism.” Is it a conservative principle to mislead the public?
Let’s have a constitutional check regarding Rep. Jennings recent opinion piece on the Education Savings Account bill, House Bill 19, titled “Lessons in Conservatism,” in Cowboy State Daily.
In his piece, Rep. Jennings cites the Wyoming Constitution, Article 3, section 36, “No appropriation shall be made for charitable, industrial, educational, or benevolent purposes to any person, corporation or community not under the absolute control of the state,” as a reason to chide supporters of HB19 and to not support the bill.
However, the Wyoming Constitution also states in Article 16, Section 6 there is an exception for supporting the poor.
The courts have allowed broad interpretation of the term “necessary support of the poor,” and HB19 would allow all Wyoming families at or below two and half times the Federal Poverty Level (an income of $78,000 for a family of four) to be eligible for these funds.
But despite his previous “yes” votes, he now calls both of these bills unconstitutional. That’s the definition of hypocrisy, although this is no surprise coming from a member of the Freedom Caucus.
During the interim committee the Joint Education Committee amended and passed HB 19, which provides funding to early childhood programs, safeguards accountability of state dollars, and funds underprivileged children while remaining constitutionally sound. This ESA bill allows eligible families to utilize $5000/year of state dollars to help fund their child’s private school education from age 3 through 12th Grade.
In Wyoming, the state already helps fund both Child Development Centers and other pre-school programs all over the state; however, many of the programs have long waitlists.
And counter to what Rep. Jennings and others in Freedom Caucus would have you believe, HB19 does not create state sponsored pre-schools, but instead provides some state funding to low-income parents to put their child in a pre-school and K-12 private school of their choice.
Ultimately, education, whether it is public or private, is a public good that protects our democracy.
House Bill 19 is a Wyoming solution to two diverse Wyoming concerns: how to constitutionally fund early childhood and private K-12 school options for children.
In this way, HB 19 maintains constitutional integrity, while providing for the needs of Wyoming residents.
David Northrup lives in Powell and is a Republican who previously served House District 50 from 2013 -2020 and currently serves House District 25 in Park County.