Allocating the Resources: Developing a Vocational Cost Adjustment to the Wyoming Education Resource Block Grant Model
State funding is delivered to Wyoming school districts through a cost-based block grant model that provides districts with sufficient resources to deliver a legislatively specified “basket” of education services. Although the model accounts for costs associated with various instructional strategies, it does not include a specific component for vocational education. Instead, costs for all programs are averaged statewide— including academic and vocational curricula—and incorporated into a base, per- ADM (average daily membership) student allocation that compensates districts for the cost of educating students, adjusted for student and district characteristics. Ruling that the block grant model could penalize schools with extensive vocational programs, in February 2001 the Wyoming Supreme Court, reversing earlier trial court rulings, directed the state to modify its school finance formula to account for the actual cost districts face in providing vocational teachers and equipment.
To comply with this ruling, in the spring of 2001 the state contracted with MPR Associates, Inc., an education research and policy firm based in Berkeley California, to collect and analyze statewide data on district expenditures for vocational education. Analysis revealed that, although vocational teachers are no more expensive to employ than other types of instructors, the smaller class sizes associated with vocational education and the costs of equipping and supplying vocational classrooms can drive up the price of vocational services.