Committee Slips School Choice Bill Into Budget After House Killed It

A day after the House Education Committee killed a proposal to allow for another charter school in Wyoming, it was slipped into the budget bill, where it’s so far survived.

Clair McFarland

March 08, 20243 min read

The site of the future Cheyenne Classical Academy.
The site of the future Cheyenne Classical Academy. (Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily)

After a legislative committee shut down a proposed law allowing for one more charter school in Wyoming, a committee chosen to finalize the state’s budget patched it into the budget bill.

The House Education Committee voted down Senate File 128 on Monday. The state House of Representatives tried Tuesday to revive the bill, but that effort failed 35-26.

Later that day, a Joint Conference Committee tasked with reconciling budget disagreements inserted the bill’s provision into the upcoming biennial budget, and it passed with the rest of the budget Friday afternoon.

A state authorizing board can approve one charter school in the western half of Wyoming, in addition to the four charter schools (three now, one after July 1, 2026) already authorized for state approval by law, according to the budget amendment.

Sen. Mike Gierau, D-Jackson, made the motion Tuesday to add the provision.

“We’re going to let the western side of the state participate a little more?” asked conference chair Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander.

“Correct,” answered Senate President Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower. “And this is a great one. It’s going to pull some pressure off the elementary (school) too.”

Driskill was likely referencing an elementary school in Etna that has been teaching students from Alpine, a growing town that lacks a public school of its own.

Alpine children commute about five hours a week for school, proponents of the extra charter school told Cowboy State Daily this week.  

The committee approved Gierau’s motion.

They Killed It Because

The House Education Committee killed the bill in a 6-3 vote Monday because it wanted to take more time to see how the three state-authorized charter schools already approved are doing academically and financially, some nay-voters said.

Two of the three state-approved charter schools are operational. One has not yet opened.

The Wyoming Department of Education said it does not yet have a report on the schools’ performance.

Traditional public school lobbyists, the Wyoming School Boards Association and the Wyoming Education Association, opposed the bill, saying it speeds up what was meant to be a slower, contemplative adoption of school-choice measures.

“We’re still building this airplane while we’re flying it,” said Ken Decaria, director of government relations for the Wyoming School Boards Association.

Before hitting a brick wall on the House side, SF 128 had sailed through the state Senate. The upper chamber passed the bill with a resounding 29-2 approval vote. 

Clair McFarland can be reached at

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter