Aaron Schrank

Education Reporter

Phone: 307-766-5064
Email: aschran1@uwyo.edu

Before joining WPR, Aaron worked as a freelance reporter in Los Angeles, where he earned a master’s degree in audio journalism from the University of Southern California. His radio work has aired on programs including NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, American Public Media’s Marketplace and Public Radio International’s The World. Aaron has roots in Phoenix, Arizona, Southern Illinois and New Jersey. When not reporting, he spends time hiking, camping, traveling and exploring film, music and food.

Ways to Connect

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Wyoming ranks 12th in the nation in child well-being, according to data released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Wyoming rose four places from last year’s report—one of the biggest improvements in the nation.

But while Wyoming ranked first for economic well-being, it came in 48th place in health in this year’s Kids Count profile, which is based on 2014 data.

M&R Glasgow, Flickr Creative Commons

Listen to the full show here.

Wyoming Lawmakers Oppose New Gun Measures In Wake Of Orlando

In the wake of the tragic slayings in Orlando last weekend, gun-control unexpectedly dominated Congress this week. Matt Laslo reports from Washington on why Wyoming lawmakers think the debate is misguided. 

Aaron Schrank

As more schools make safety and security a priority, School Resource Officers—or SROs—have become the fastest growing job in law enforcement. External threats are rare—and most research suggests that putting cops in schools actually has a negative impact on education. But proponents say, the good officers do for schools and communities can’t always be measured. Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank spent a day with some SROs and has this report.

First Hattiesburg via Flickr Creative Commons

A report released this week by the U.S. Department of Education shows it doesn’t pay to be an early childhood teacher.

Wyoming is one of 13 states where preschool teachers earn, on average, less than half of the $56,000 annual salary earned by kindergarten teachers.

Wyoming Kids First executive director Becca Steinhoff says preschool teachers need more than $26,000 a year.  

Lucélia Ribeiro via Flickr Creative Commons

A legislative committee voted Tuesday to draft legislation that would change the way virtual education works in Wyoming.

The Wyoming Department of Education’s Distance Education Task Force met last year and came up with recommendations to expand and improve virtual or online learning in the state. The Joint Education Interim Committee voted to support those recommendations, specifically addressing those that require a change in state law.

Green River Representative John Freeman served on the task force. He says there’s a definite need for classes to be available online.


The Legislature’s Joint Education Committee met on Tuesday to discuss ways Wyoming can save money on K-12 education amid revenue decline.

Last year, lawmakers went through the school finance recalibration process, which happens every five years. They decided to continue funding education at the same levels they had been, instead of adopting a less costly model that would provide what consultants say are the basics needed to improve educational outcomes in Wyoming.

Wyoming Schools Chief Jillian Balow testified before a U.S. Congressional committee Tuesday in favor of a bill that would end the federal suspension on coal leases.

The Certainty for States and Tribes Act would also reinstate the Interior Department’s Royalty Policy Committee, which proponents say would ensure that states relying on revenue from federal land are treated fairly.

K-12 leaders from 28 different school districts are urging lawmakers to roll back recent cuts to education funding—and to follow Wyoming’s statutory school funding model.

They’ll meet with the Legislature’s Joint Education Committee this week and ask those lawmakers to sponsor legislation restoring $36 million dollars in cuts to school funding over the next two years.

But Committee Chairman Senator Hank Coe says that’s unlikely.

“We’ll be lucky if we’re able to fund K-12 at the levels we're funding it right now,” Coe says.

Aaron Schrank

In the 2011-2012 school year, Wyoming ranked fourth in the country for sending students to cops and courts. Cheyenne’s Johnson Junior High School referred students to law enforcement at a rate 15 times the national average.  

“I started at Johnson in the fall of 2011,” says Manny Fardella, a School Resource Officer, or SRO, with the Cheyenne Police Department. 

“Johnson was a busy school,” says Fardella. “They did have a lot disturbances and fights. There was some drug activity. There was a whole bunch of things going on.”

This weekend, a Wyoming homeschooling group will hold its annual conference in Powell.

Homeschoolers of Wyoming is a loose-knit, faith-based organization of homeschooling families in the state. There are more than 2,000 home-schooled students in the state, according to some estimates.

“We hold this event annually to encourage the parents who are doing this day-to-day at home, and also to help equip them and answer any questions that they might have,” says Homeschoolers of Wyoming co-president Heather Hager.  

An energy company has not yet found the source of a gas-like odor that shut down a school near its oil field in Natrona County.

Students and staff at Midwest School first smelled what they thought was natural gas last Wednesday. The school was closed on Thursday. Fleur De Lis Energy, which runs the nearby Salt Creek oil field, says employees have been working around the clock trying to find the source of the smell since.


Just one week before Laurie Nichols took over as the University of Wyoming’s new president, Governor Matt Mead cut UW’s budget by 8 percent. On Wednesday, Nichols announced her plan to cut $19 million for the 2017 fiscal year, beginning July 1.

“It’s not ideal,” said Nichols. “But is it doable? Yes, it is. And I think we’ve actually put together a pretty solid plan."

Speaking to more than 600 members of the campus community at a town hall, Nichols led with the good news.

Jennifer Becker

At a recent school board meeting, Laramie High School senior Rihanna Kelver showed up to tonight’s school board meeting with a call to action.

“I am asking that the Board take initiative now to protect these students,” Kelver says. “As soon as we lose a student by the 50 percent rate suicide that transgender youth face, the blood will be on our hands.”

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MDV via Flickr Creative Commons

The University of Wyoming Police Department reported 14 campus sexual assaults in 2015. That’s up from nine sexual assaults the year before.

Police Chief Mike Samp says this year’s number is just shy of a record 15 sexual assaults at the University in 2013.

“It’s consistent with some of our higher years that we’ve ever had reported,” says Samp. “We think the vast majority of those are possibly due to increased reporting options—making sure that students are aware it’s okay to come forward. We hope that we’re not seeing an increase in the actual number of sexual assaults.”

Courtesy Tall Truth

A few weeks back, an email landed in parent Annie Band’s inbox asking if she wanted to opt her child out of a presentation.

“My stomach kind of dropped,” Band says.

That’s because she’d heard the speaker’s name—Shelly Donahue—before, and knew she had a controversial way of talking about sex.  

“I’d already watched enough of her videos to know that her message contained a lot of misinformation, outright falsehoods, shaming, damaging language, gender stereotyping,” Band says.

Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution via Flickr Creative Commons

The remains of Northern Arapahoe children who died more than a century ago at a boarding school in Pennsylvania can finally return home. That’s what Army officials told tribal representatives at a meeting Tuesday in South Dakota.

More than 200 Native American children from various tribes—including at least three Northern Arapahoe—are buried at the Carlisle Indian Boarding School. Today, the land belongs to the U.S. Army War College.


The Board of Trustees at Northwest College in Powell voted Monday night to eliminate the college’s journalism program, along with two other programs.

Trustees voted 4 to 2 to cut the journalism program. Northwest President Stefani Hicswa had recommended the cut amid a $2 million budget shortfall.

A spokesperson for the college said the recommendation was made after a thorough cost-benefit analysis. 

Journalism professor Rob Breeding is disappointed that the decades-old program is going away.

Northwest College

As Northwest College in Powell faces a $2 million budget crunch, its president is recommending cutting a handful of programs to save some money. One is the school’s journalism program, which supports its student newspaper.

Professor Rob Breeding is the entire journalism department at Northwest, and advisor to The Northwest Trail student paper. He says the move to cut journalism is about more than cost-savings.

“There are ulterior motives,” says Breeding. “It relates to silencing the first amendment rights of this student newspaper.”


A group of Wyoming school districts is requesting to meet with lawmakers this summer to resolve concerns about funding.

In March, the Legislature passed a budget cutting $36 million in K-12 funding over the next two years. That’s a cut of more than one percent.

The decrease was taken out of an adjustment for inflation known as the ‘external cost adjustment.’

Campbell County Superintendent Boyd Brown is one of 28 superintendents who signed a letter asking to be allowed to make their case before the Joint Education Interim Committee.


Meet The Candidates 

Dr. Rex Rammell is a veterinarian from Gillette. In 2008 he was an Idaho candidate for the United States Senate and in 2010 a candidate for governor.  He is author of the book, "A Nation Divided: the War for America's Soul."  Dr. Rammell considers himself a firebrand constitutional conservative who believes the answer to many of Wyoming's problems can be solved with the Federal transfer of public lands.  


Nine candidates for Wyoming’s only U.S. House seat faced off in a debate Monday night at the University of Wyoming.

Republican Liz Cheney told the crowd that she’s the one candidate who can build a national coalition around fossil fuels and other important Wyoming issues.

But State Representative from Casper Tim Stubson said he’s the candidate with a proven track record representing Wyoming.

Wyoming is replacing its current statewide standardized test, and is cutting ties to a testing group in order to avoid a potential conflict of interest as it selects a new vendor. 

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is one of the main providers of multi-state tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Wyoming has been a member of the consortium since 2010. While it doesn't currently use the SBAC test, the state will likely consider it, among other options, in the coming months.  

Aaron Schrank

This story is part of the NPR reporting project School Money, a nationwide collaboration between NPR’s Ed Team and 20 member station reporters exploring how states pay for their public schools and why many are failing to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students.

Nine years ago, Mark Shrum moved his family to remote Gillette, Wyoming for two reasons: a coal mine job and good schools.

This March, Shrum was laid off from the Powder River Basin’s Buckskin coal mine, but he’s not leaving.

Park Elementary School via Facebook

The Natrona County School District is looking at student safety protocols after a man allegedly exposed himself to a third-grader walking home from school last week.

The girl’s mother, Amanda Huckabay, says the Casper Police Department had previously warned Park Elementary School’s principal about a possible predator in the neighborhood, but that information was not passed on to parents.

“The first responsibility of educators, beyond educating is to keep children safe,” Huckabay says.