January 2021 will mark the Wyoming Cowboy Challenge Academy’s 15th year as part of the Wyoming community — and it might be its last thanks to the state’s ongoing …
January 2021 will mark the Wyoming Cowboy Challenge Academy’s 15th year as part of the Wyoming community — and it might be its last thanks to the state’s ongoing budget struggles.
On Nov. 16, Gov. Mark Gordon proposed permanently shuttering the school as part of sweeping cuts made to decrease the state’s $500 million deficit.
I support cutting budgets during tough economic times to maintain balance until things improve. In this case, though, the state would save only $1 million per year up front. That’s because WCCA gets 75% of its funding from the Defense Department — in WCCA’s case — $3 million annually.
The governor’s Supplemental Budget indicated the state would “save” $9,594,465 by cutting the program. I’m here to tell you that’s a stretch. If the state doesn’t pay the 25%, the feds don’t match the 75% resulting in a $3 million loss to the Wyoming economy.
The challenge program’s mission is to “intervene in and reclaim the lives of 16- to 18-year-old high school dropouts, producing graduates with the values, life skills, education and self-discipline to succeed as productive citizens.”
In short, at-risk teens from all over the state — including Powell and Cody — enroll in the school to get back on track. They take classes and do daily physical training, weekly community service projects and much more in a quasi-military environment that instills discipline, leadership and teamwork. They graduate with their high school education, job skills and a renewed sense of purpose. They go on to enroll in college, enter the workforce, join the military or even start their own businesses.
Studies conducted by the Rand Corporation found that for every dollar invested in a youth challenge program, $1.60 returns to the economy within two years of a student graduating. Studies also concluded that people who failed high school were twice as likely to enter the correctional system, costing states millions.
The $3 million federal contribution funds staff salaries. On top of saving a paltry $1 million and foregoing the opportunity value the program brings to the state, it’s also looking to slash 45 jobs in the Platte/Goshen County communities.
Cutting WCCA is like stepping over dollars to pick up dimes.