Education

WPM is committed to covering education issues in Wyoming in a thoughtful and thorough way. This main page captures all education-related stories we've aired, and updates you on broad issues.

Check out our Strengthening Education Reporting page for stories focused primarily on graduation rates and how to encourage an upward trend in education.

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.But states still have to submit accountability plans to the federal government, which are due in late summer.

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.

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.

Kunio Yamamoto facing Heart Mountain, 1944.” George and Frank C. Hirahara Photograph Collection, 1932-2016 (SC14). Courtesy Manuscripts, Archives & Special Collections,Washington State University, Pullman.

Next week the University Of Wyoming College Of Law will host “Heart Mountain Week.”

In a mock trial Monday, law students will debate the draft of incarcerated Japanese Americans at the Heart Mountain Internment Camp. Throughout the rest of the week, there will be panel discussions on the experiences of people affected by Heart Mountain, executive orders, and the impacts of current immigration orders, as well as a workshop on the rights of international and undocumented students.

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.  

Last week, Governor Matt Mead signed the Indian Education For All Act that requires the Wyoming Department of Education to teach the history and culture of Wyoming’s two tribes, the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho.

University of Wyoming

Earlier this month, University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols made a second visit to the Wind River Reservation to continue discussions about how to improve Native American enrollment at UW.

During Nichols’ previous tenure as University of South Dakota provost she set a goal of increasing Native American enrollment to better reflect the percentage of the state’s native population. Now, she’s set a similar goal at UW.

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.

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.

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.

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.” 

University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming has announced a plan to recruit, retain and graduate more undergraduates over the next five years. The plan is in response to a flat line in student enrollment numbers. Provost Kate Miller said becoming more student-centered is key to the plan’s vision. 

That means thinking about how non-academic factors like student wellness, financial literacy and sense of belonging play into a student’s overall academic success.

Bob Beck

No conclusive action was taken Thursday on House Bill 236 – the last standing piece of legislation, which addresses the $400 million education budget deficit.

Legislators and lobbyists expected the bill to come up for a concurrence vote on Thursday, but Speaker of the House Steve Harshman said he delayed action on the bill because he wanted one more day to work on it.  

“I’m going to actually sleep on it, and I’m gonna' keep working tonight on it,” said Harshman. “We’re still working. Working like dogs.” He added a few barks as he walked off down the hall.

University of Wyoming

  

A bill to allow individuals with concealed carry permits to carry guns on the University of Wyoming’s campus and community colleges was defeated this week by the State Senate. Those in support of the legislation say it would have made campuses safer, while those opposed to it worried about potential dangers.

A Youth Radio Investigation Of Wyoming's Role In Climate Change

Feb 24, 2017
Melodie Edwards

Now that Wyoming’s Science Standards are encouraging kids to make up their own minds about climate change, a group of Laramie middle schoolers tackled the issue of the environmental impacts of energy development in Wyoming. We handed off the microphone to young reporters Zeren Homer and Sam Alexander.

 

Hagerty Ryan, USFWS

In 2014, Wyoming's science standards hadn't been updated in ten years and it was time to adopt new ones. Like most other states at the time, Wyoming was poised to pass the Next Generation Science Standards. Laramie Senator Chris Rothfuss was a big fan of Next Generation, but he remembered a lot of grumbling from his fellow lawmakers.

“There’s generally been a concern with national standards that the feds are trying to tell us what to learn,” Rothfuss said. “And so there was a general backlash I think towards that.”

Wyoming Department of Education

February 23rd is Digital Learning Day. It’s appropriate then that on Thursday, the House took up Senate File 35 on virtual education. The bill, which updates guidelines for student enrollment in online classes, passed Committee of the Whole in the House, but not without being amended. An appropriation for $250,000 to establish a centralized statewide management system was removed.

Wyoming Education Association

The Wyoming Senate Education Committee voted to remove a tax measure from a comprehensive education bill and added some more cuts.

The bill is the House solution to a projected $400 million shortfall in education funding. It originally imposed a half percent sales tax after the legislature’s reserve account dropped below $500 million.

Wyoming State Historical Society

In 1969, fourteen African-American football players were dismissed from the University of Wyoming team because they wanted to wear black armbands as a sign of protest in their upcoming game against the Mormon owned and operated Brigham Young University.

At the time the Mormon Church barred black men from the priesthood. The incident divided the UW community and broke the Cowboys winning streak that year. Education reporter Tennessee Watson talks to River Gayton, a high school student circulating a petition to increase awareness of the Black 14, and their decision to take a stand.

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