2020 Midwest graduation. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming Superintendent Jillian Balow says that the Biden administration’s temporary ban on new oil and gas leasing and permits will decrease funding for Wyoming schools.

“I was taken aback by swift orders executed by the Biden Administration last week after months of rhetoric around bringing unity to our nation,” Balow said in a Monday press release. “Funding for public education in Wyoming and other states has been eviscerated by an order issued by Acting U.S. Interior Secretary de le Vega.”

That order issued last Wednesday halts new oil and gas leasing and drilling on federal lands for 60 days.

“A federal ban on oil and gas leases will defund schools,” Balow said. “Wyoming depends on some $150 million a year in oil and gas federal mineral royalties to fund our K-12 schools.”

“Shockingly, this move hurts the students in soon to be Interior Secretary Haaland’s home state of New Mexico substantially worse. A University of Wyoming study estimates that Wyoming and seven other top federal oil and gas producing states stand to lose hundreds of millions in revenue for their schools and governments due to this moratorium. There are also Native American reservations negatively impacted by this moratorium and speaking out.

Balow said the decision is “unconscionable” given that 2020 was “the worst economic year we’ve all experienced in modern history.”

The superintendent said she plans to call superintendents in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, North Dakota, Montana, California and Alaska to discuss ways to advocate with de la Vega regarding the oil and gas ban.

“I understand there may be further, similar orders coming in the near future that need to be stopped,” she said. “I hope that K-12 advocates across both parties will join me in speaking out against defunding our schools. Our students, teachers, and communities simply cannot afford this draconian executive order.”