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

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees oversaw reductions in both staff and degree programs during its May meeting.

President Laurie Nichols announced to the Board of Trustees on Thursday that 37 university staff will lose their jobs heading into fiscal year 2018. Specific departments facing staff reductions have not been publicly announced, but Nichols told the trustees that notifications will go out next week.

UW Foundation

University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols is working with the UW Foundation to grow the number of scholarships available in an effort to recruit students.

According to UW Foundation president Ben Blalock there is a multitude of scholarships available for declared majors, but not as many dollars available for incoming freshmen that have yet to declare. Blalock said, “this new focus with the president is going to really provide a broader discretion to recruit the best and brightest, but also students who have financial need.”

University of Wyoming

University of Wyoming trustee meetings this week have many on campus awaiting a mixture of bad news and clarity. While a plan for a $10 million budget reduction for fiscal year 2018 was released in November, the details have been murky. To meet the proposed cuts, close to 50 layoffs are on the table, according to UW spokesperson Chad Baldwin.

A report prepared for this week’s meetings has brought more budget cut details to the surface. It shows The Outreach School and Athletics department will see the largest percentage of funding cuts, but no program is left untouched.

Listen to the full show here. 

Wyoming Lawmakers Still Working On Trumpcare

Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney helped her party pass a historic bill to unwind Obamacare this week, but its chances of passage in the Senate remain far from certain. Matt Laslo has the story from Washington.

Tennessee Watson

Wyoming Senator Anthony Bouchard has had his share of media attention over the last month for a tense exchange with three University of Wyoming students and a professor. The controversy revolves around a class project about how African-American males are stereotyped as dangerous, which Bouchard said was anti-gun and an example of the one-sided approach to the issue he says is pervasive on campus.  

University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming is on the verge of its first round of layoffs due to state funding reductions. This comes after the Wyoming State Legislature voted to cut the university’s biennial budget by $41 million last year.

The first round of budget reductions eliminated close to 300 positions, but according to Chad Baldwin, Associate Vice President for Communications and Marketing, those were not layoffs. He said the university has so far accomplished reductions by not filling vacated positions and by offering early retirement incentives.

Tennessee Watson

Wyoming’s K-12 math standards are up for review, and the Wyoming Department of Education is hosting regional meetings to get community input. You don’t need to be a math wiz to weigh in.

Each meeting will begin with a presentation covering how the review process works and will go over the goals and objectives of the standards. And then participants will be asked to respond to a couple of basic questions about why math standards are important, and what the math standards review committee should know as they start the process.

Wyoming Indian High School

This past week, the Wyoming Department of Education held listening sessions at tribal schools to see how the state can better serve Native American families. Rob Black, social studies consultant with the WDE and liaison to the Native American community, said students on the reservation are a vulnerable population. Graduation rates and achievement levels there lag behind non-native communities.

Black said before addressing specific issues the WDE wanted to open up dialogue.

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

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.

Pages