Yellowstone Students Funding - KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

Yellowstone Students Funding

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CODY, WYOMING - Park County Wyoming wants reassurance from the federal government that state education laws will be honored in Yellowstone. So, they delayed a decision that would allow Wyoming to pay for Yellowstone Park students’ education.

At issue is 37 students, who live in Mammoth, Yellowstone. The Park used to pay Gardiner Montana’s school district to educate them. But, the Department of the Interior now says it can’t legally pay for students who live in a county that receives payment in lieu of taxes.

Mammoth is in Park County, Wyoming which receives PILT money. Wyoming’s constitution says the state must provide a school district, and educational funding for all children in the state.

Park County’s boundary board was asked to extend Powell’s district boundaries to include Mammoth. Powell is ready.

Powell School Board Chair Rob McRay said, “We believe they’re Park County kids, Wyoming kids, and we’d certainly welcome the opportunity to get them that education.”

A lawyer representing the state said the funding would come from Wyoming, not Park County.

Wyoming’s Counsel for School Funding, Michael O’Donnel said, “The federal government holds no right nor obligation to educating kids in Yellowstone National Park.”

Mammoth parents spoke. Wade Vagias told the panel, “It is my daughter Brook’s right to have an education, and to have that education provided by the state”

But, Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric says Yellowstone was established before the state of Wyoming. Skoric said it has, “In the year 1872, federal exclusive legislative jurisdiction.”

He’s concerned Wyoming educational laws couldn't be enforced in the park. So, the county board delayed a decision, while Skoric plans to ask the governor to get what he calls jurisdictional relinquishment from the Department of the Interior.

The board has not scheduled the next meeting yet. They hope to have it by early June.

The Mammoth representative on the Gardiner school board, Dan Rhodes, said he understands it’s a complex issue, but he hopes it comes down to doing what’s best to educate the children of Wyoming.

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