Tennessee Watson

Education Reporter

Phone: 307-766-5064
Email: twatso17@uwyo.edu

Tennessee -- despite what the name might make you think -- was born and raised in the Northeast. She most recently called Vermont home. For the last 15 years she's been making radio -- as a youth radio educator, documentary producer, and now reporter. Her work has aired on Reveal, The Heart, LatinoUSA, Across Women's Lives from PRI, and American RadioWorks. One of her ongoing creative projects is co-­producing Wage/Working (a jukebox­-based oral history project about workers and income inequality). When she's not reporting, Tennessee likes to go on exploratory running adventures with her mutt Murray.

Ways to Connect

Wyoming Afterschool Alliance

More than 100 people gathered in Riverton on Tuesday for the Statewide Summit on Juvenile Justice hosted by the Wyoming Afterschool Alliance. The summit brought together a diversity of stakeholders — from school staff to after school providers to social workers to prosecutors — to figure out how to keep kids engaged in school and out of the juvenile justice system.

Wyoming Department of Education

The Wyoming Department of Education is seeking public input on how the state should regulate and support school performance. A new federal policy called the Every Student Succeeds Act, which went into law in 2015 and goes into effect for the 2017-2018 school year, aims to ensure equity in education across the United States.

In contrast to No Child Left Behind, power in this act has shifted from the federal government to the states to decide how best to evaluate and improve school performance.

The Wyoming Department of Education is rapidly approaching the deadline to submit the state’s plan to carry out the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which takes full effect for the 2017-2018 school year.  

Signed into law in 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act shifted power from the federal government to the states to decide how best to evaluate and improve school performance.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and this year organizations across the country are focusing on the theme of “Engaging New Voices.” This is work the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault does year round. The coalition links organizations in every Wyoming county.

For example, the Community Safety Network, has for the last 35 years offered services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence. They operate a confidential helpline and a shelter, and they work with survivors to create safety plans.

Listen to the full show here. 

School Funding Is A Tricky Political Equation

Earlier this month, legislators met to take another look at the school funding model and possibly change it. That’s called recalibration. But changing school funding is a tricky business because politics is a big variable in the spending equation. 

Earlier this month, legislators met to take another look at the school funding model and possibly change it. That’s called recalibration. But changing school funding is a tricky business because politics is a big variable in the spending equation. At the April 3rd meeting of the Select Committee for School Finance Recalibration, there was only one thing that everyone could agree on.

While the legislature and the school system continue to work on the state’s $400 million deficit, Wyoming Public Radio’s education reporter, Tennessee Watson, sat down with Brian Farmer from the Wyoming School Boards Association. Farmer says local school boards offer a critical perspective on spending and educational outcomes, because it’s a conversation they are constantly having on the local level.

Craig A. Miller

Governor Matt Mead is hosting the Second Annual Symposium on Suicide Prevention on May 10 in Cheyenne at the Little America Hotel. The event will present a variety of perspectives, from lived experience to prevention to treatment, and it’ll focus on solutions to an issue that touches the lives of far too many in Wyoming.

Central Wyoming College has a new Jackson center in the works, and it’s designed to support more students and fill gaps in the local workforce.

Currently, courses are offered in buildings across town, but if Teton County voters support a special excise tax ballot measure in May, plans for the proposed center will move forward. That funding would then go toward the projected $3.82 million needed to purchase land and produce architectural and engineering plans.

pixabay.com

Lawmakers, district administrators, and concerned citizens gathered this week for the first meeting of the Legislature's Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration. 

Recalibration is the process of evaluating and adjusting the school funding model. They are intended to happen every 5 years as mandated by a 2005 Wyoming Supreme Court decision. The next one was scheduled for 2020, but in response to the $400 million deficit in the education budget, legislators bumped up the schedule. 

Tennessee Watson

Every superintendent will tell you the goal is to keep cuts far away from the classroom and to hang on to as many teachers as possible. During the last legislative session, Wyoming educators asked the legislature to use reserves to cover the deficit, but instead, they stuck them with a $34 million funding reduction. Meanwhile, contracts to teachers are due April 15th, so district school boards are in the midst of figuring out what else in their budgets can go.

Wyoming’s U.S. Senator Mike Enzi has introduced legislation to address his concerns about the information college students receive when deciding to borrow federal loans. 

The Transparency in Student Lending Act would require disclosure of the annual percentage rate -- or APR -- for federal student loans. The APR is something that lenders of private student loans already provide.  The APR helps borrowers grasp the total cost of obtaining a loan by simplifying it down to one number that includes the interest rate as well as additional fees and costs.

The Campbell County District School Board passed a resolution authorizing a lawsuit against the state at their meeting Tuesday evening. While no legal action has been taken yet, the resolution gives the district the right to sue if budget cuts limit the district’s ability to provide a quality education to their students as guaranteed by the Wyoming Constitution. 

Wyoming Department of Education

The results of a survey by the Wyoming Department of Education on post-secondary preparation indicate that career readiness ranks just above college readiness for most respondents. People also say that problem solving and oral and written communication, are essential skills.

The survey was sent out to stakeholders last month as part of the WDE’s work on a new accountability plan as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

University of Wyoming

K-12 education in Wyoming is facing immediate cuts on the state level and President Trump’s federal budget proposes cuts to education too. There’s even talk in Washington of dismantling the U.S. Department of Education. This got me wondering how University of Wyoming education students were feeling about their future in teaching. 

The question prompted a nice spring stroll across the University of Wyoming’s campus. Our studios are just across Prexy’s Pasture from the College of Education.

by Max Klingensmith / Flickr

The Wyoming Department of Education is shrinking the data reporting burden on schools in response to changes at the federal level, but school equity advocates caution against shedding too much of the load.  

Photo by Arundathi Nair

With the fossil fuel industry in a decline, policy makers, industry executives, and environmental activists are faced with some hard questions about Wyoming's energy future. The topic captured the attention of Arundathi Nair, a 9th grader at Laramie High School. She recently won C-Span's StudentCam 2017 competition for her film "Fossil Fuels to Renewables," which promotes seeking solutions through discussion rather than debate.

Nair's film can be viewed here.

 

Wyoming Afterschool Alliance

14,000 kids in Wyoming participate in after-school programs, according to the Wyoming Afterschool Alliance. But if President Trump’s proposed budget is passed, up to 65 programs serving those students would be put at risk of closing unless they can find other sources of funding.  

Wikimedia Commons

The Wyoming Department of Education is looking for people to participate in the Math Standards Review Committee.

The math standards are short written descriptions that detail what students should know and be able to do at the end of each grade level, and by the time they graduate.

Laurie Hernandez, the Wyoming Department of Education’s Supervisor of Standards, said anyone who is interested is encouraged to apply, as long as you can commit to meeting several times this upcoming summer. 

Student Loan Hero

A new study ranking states by the average cost of a credit at public colleges found that Wyoming is the third most affordable state. The study by Student Loan Hero, a for-profit company that creates tools to help students manage debt, looked at Department of Education data from 2014 and 2015.

Elyssa Kirkham, who conducted the study, said she started with the price of in-state tuition for a 12 credit semester, which may include enrollment fees, registration fees and program fees depending on the school, and broke it down to the per-credit cost from there.

The U.S. Senate voted Thursday to roll back Department of Education regulations issued last November by the Obama administration. The regulations laid out how states and districts should measure school performance under the Every Student Succeeds Act — or ESSA — which replaced No Child Left Behind.

The U.S. House used the Congressional Review act to overturn the executive branch regulations. That resolution of disapproval passed the Senate and is now on its way to the president to be signed into law.

Wyoming Legislature

March 8 is International Women’s Day. All over the country women skipped work and participated in marches and rallies to spotlight women’s economic contributions as a part of an action called "A Day Without a Woman."

Senator Mike Enzi (R)

U.S. Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming is calling for the Department of Education to audit the data it maintains on all student loan-related programs. Enzi, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, wrote a letter on February 23rd to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, drawing her attention to a coding error in the College Scorecard, a tool the feds created to help students explore college options.

University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming has begun using a new data reporting system called WyoCloud. The intent of the cloud-based system is to enhance campus leaders’ decision-making capabilities.

Provost Kate Miller said the university is migrating all of its business information, student information, faculty information and human resources information to the system, where all of the data will be interlinked. The system will provide the ability to do advanced data analytics, which she said will move the university to cutting edge systems over the next several years.

Office of Governor Matt Mead

Now that the Wyoming Legislature has passed House Bill 236, school districts are standing by to see if Governor Matt Mead will sign onto the $34 million in cuts to education funding for the upcoming school year. The House and Senate reached a compromise on the bill Friday in the final hours of the 2017 Legislative Session.

If Mead signs it, the hard work of figuring out what and who to cut will begin immediately for district school boards, administrators and business managers.

Listen to the full show here. 

In Review: Wyoming's Legislative Session 2017

The Wyoming legislative session is wrapping up today and Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck joins Caroline Ballard to discuss this year’s work. 

Tennessee Watson

Across the United States, mobile and manufactured home owners are without the same access to the American Dream as their neighbors with site-built homes. That’s because mobile homes are often classified as personal property, like a car or a boat. And converting them to real property — like a house — can be complicated. But in Wyoming, one feisty homeowner decided to take action.  

Melodie Edwards

The State Legislature, Thursday, was still in the process of passing a bill intended to better help social studies teachers in Wyoming include the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone in their curriculum.

The bill passed the Senate, but with amended language that caused concern for Lander Representative Jim Allen who sponsored the bill.

Sheridan Senator Bruce Burns, whose district neighbors the Crow and Cheyenne reservations, pushed the Senate to strike Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone, and replace it with “tribes of the region.” 

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