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.

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Wyoming is facing difficult economic times. Last year, the state lost 6,500 jobs, mostly in oil and gas, and things haven’t much better this year. The state government is making major reductions and even Wyoming Medical Center in Casper cut 58 positions. For that reason, right now is a tough time for University of Wyoming’s graduates to enter the job force, particularly if they want to stay in the state.

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.

The Wyoming State Board of Education reviewed and approved new science standards at their meeting in Laramie last week. The vote was unanimous. The standards will be sent to Governor Matt Mead for a 10-day review. 

The last time the Wyoming State Board of Education revised science standards was in 2003. Board Chairman, Pete Gosar, says since the standards haven't been revised in so long, Wyoming is behind, but he imagines that the new standards will help Wyoming students better compete with others.

Caroline Ballard


At the Women in STEM conference, more than 500 middle and high school girls descended on the University of Wyoming campus to learn more about STEM careers. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.  

The girls get to attend three workshops out of a possible 25 options, and choices range from animal husbandry to chemistry and robotics.

Holly Ramseier is a senior in Chemical Engineering at UW, and is helping out today. She says the conference is all about getting your feet wet and seeing what you like. 

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.”

CC0 Public Domain, Pixabay

The University of Wyoming will host a two-day symposium on drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs, this Tuesday and Wednesday.

Jeff Hamerlinck is the director of UW’s Geographic Information Science Center. He says the symposium will be the first of its kind and he is hoping it will be an opportunity to raise awareness in the state about drones. Hamerlinck says drones’ data-collecting abilities are unmatched. The data collection is timelier, the quality of the data is much higher, and the cost of drones is relatively affordable.

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.”

Caroline Ballard

When University of Wyoming Computer Science Freshman Catherine Clennan sent an email to her professor explaining what she hoped to get out of an upcoming internship, she didn’t think much of it.

“It took about 20 minutes. I sat down and just, you know, word vomited onto the page and I sent it to him. And he was so moved by it that he responded to me saying we should do a blog for the internship, and I was like yeah ok let’s do it. And so I set it up and published it and it just went viral,” says Clennan.

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.

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.

A viral essay written by a University of Wyoming computer science student is inspiring real change at the university.


The Teton County School District canceled presentations by a Christian abstinence speaker this week after some in the community objected. Shelly Donahue was scheduled to speak with 8th to 12th graders in Jackson. Donahue identifies as Christian and promotes abstinence in her approach to sex education. That upset some students and parents.

Turning Point Pregnancy Resource Center in Jackson approached the school district with the opportunity to have Donahue speak with students.

Aaron Schrank

University of Wyoming senior Ashlee Enos is in a crowded campus ballroom, watching a hip-hop artist from the Crow Nation who goes by the name ‘Supaman’ do his thing.

“I think it’s awesome that we have someone who’s so into the culture, and wants to give cultural awareness to the public,” Enos says.

Enos is a member of the Eastern Shoshone tribe. She says there aren’t many others at UW.

“It’s a very small number,” she says. “Maybe less than five.”

Less than one percent of total students here identify solely as American Indian—just 91 of more than 13,000.



There’s a lot going on at Wyoming’s 7 community colleges. Tuition hikes, a new funding formula, and a budget crunch. The colleges are also poised to play a big role in the state’s economic recovery. Wyoming lost more than 2 percent of its jobs last year. And just last week, nearly 500 coal workers were laid off in the Powder River Basin.

Jim Rose is the executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission. Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank sat down with Dr. Rose—and started by asking how community colleges will help retrain workers amid the downturn. 

via Clear Creek Facebook

A substitute teacher in Johnson County School District claims administrators at Buffalo’s Clear Creek Middle School mishandled an offensive student project.

According to a news release written by teacher John Egan and published on social media this week, the 7th grade social studies project was a cereal box decorated with a picture of a stereotyped Mexican man with a cardboard knife sticking into him. The box was captioned “Can you pin the knife in the Mexican?”