Education

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

Wyoming State Legislature

As the budget session comes to a close, there’s still no conclusion on how to fund education. The House wants to use sales tax from online purchases and other new sources of revenue, while the Senate prefers to dip into reserve funding and reduce spending on education.

 

Wyoming Legislature

The Senate Education Committee stripped out innovative school funding amendments out of a bill after committee members declared the ideas move not germane to the original bill. They also amended the bill so that it resembled a measure that died in a house committee earlier this year.   

Speaker of the House Steve Harshman and House Education Chairman David Northrup were frustrated with the move. They disagreed that the funding proposals didn’t belong in the bill. Northrup says new revenue for education is needed.

Tennessee Watson

A senate bill proposing over $40 million in cuts to education over the next several years died in the House Education Committee Friday.

 

Committee members raised concerns about proposed increases in class sizes, as well as, a change to how the state adjusts funding when districts have declining enrollment. Currently, if districts lose students, their funding decreases based on a three-year rolling average. The proposed legislation wanted decreases to take effect within one year.

 

istockphoto.com

Representatives from the University of Wyoming and the state’s community colleges testified before the Senate Education Committee Friday asking lawmakers to approve a bill that would create a common transcript.

 

Currently, UW and the community colleges use separate systems for awarding course credits. Casper Senator Bill Landen said that means students end up losing credits and having to retake classes. He said his own daughter brought this issue to his attention.

 

A school classroom with desks and a chalkboard
CC0 Creative Commons

When school shootings occur, the country collectively asks: what needs to happen to keep students safe? What does it take to identify students who are struggling and get them support? Wyoming Public Radio’s education reporter Tennessee Watson sat down with University of Wyoming Professor of Counseling's Mary Alice Bruce and graduate student Ken Hilton to talk about how school counselors fit into the conversation about safe schools.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/lupuca/8720604364

If the Wyoming Department of Education has its way, kids across the state will be guaranteed access to computer science education. Bills have passed in both the House and Senate, which would require districts to offer computer science courses.

 

But those bills differ slightly. Dicky Shanor, Chief of Staff for the Wyoming Department of Education, said the Senate’s version of the bill is stronger because it treats computer science has a stand-alone knowledge area, where as the House places it under career and technical education.

DACA Symposium At UW

Feb 22, 2018
Dreamers at UW: A DACA Symposium's Facebook page

On Saturday, the University of Wyoming will host a symposium on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The event comes as the date March 5th looms over the immigration debate—that’s the deadline President Donald Trump gave Congress to find a solution for the almost 700,000 undocumented immigrants covered by the program.  

 

 

Tennessee Watson

Legislation to further cut education funding is making its way through the Wyoming legislature. Wednesday a bill sponsored by Senator Ray Peterson proposing approximately $140 million in cuts was discussed in committee.

 

Those reductions would be achieved through increased state control over district expenditures. Currently school districts have block grants, which they spend how they see fit. State accountability measures are in place to guarantee that spending benefits the educational needs of kids.

 

 

graphic elements from erinslaw.org with modifications by Tennessee Watson

Survivors of child sexual abuse and advocates testified before the Senate Education Committee Wednesday. They urged lawmakers to support the implementation of Erin’s Law in Wyoming. The legislation first passed in Illinois following the advocacy of survivor Erin Merryn, and has now passed in a total of 31 states.

 

school board meeting
Kamila Kudelska

Park County District #6 school board in Cody approved a policy allowing employees to carry firearms to the second reading. By a 5-2 vote, trustees are moving closer to implementation.

During a meeting Tuesday night, over 20 members of the community spoke to the board. The majority were against the policy expressing that guns should stay in the hands of law enforcement.

CC0 Creative Commons

An effort to better coordinate early childhood education is underway in the Wyoming legislature. It’s part of policymakers’ efforts to streamline funding for education.

 

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code.org

Wyoming is poised to be the first state in the country to require its schools to offer computer science education. Friday, the State Senate passed a bill to add computer science to the basket of goods as a common core knowledge area.

 

Tennessee Watson

The Wyoming House of Representatives wrapped up week one of the 2018 Budget Session on Friday shortly before 3:30 p.m., which has some policymakers disappointed.

 

The last day to introduce bills, the early adjournment meant there were over 15 bills that got the ax without even being discussed. House Minority Leader Cathy Connolly said the House never got to discuss a tobacco tax, a sales and use tax rate and changes to a real estate tax, among others.

 

Wyoming Department of Education

In his State of the State address, Governor Matt Mead urged the legislature to find ways to stabilize education funding, which relies heavily on revenues from the energy industry. But attempts to diversify the tax base — to protect school finance from booms and busts — have gone nowhere. Lawmakers who oppose generating new revenue sources say school finance is too opaque. They want more time to settle their uncertainty.

 

Cqfx at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Jennet Nedirmammedova a senior at the University of Wyoming invited me into her apartment, a couple of blocks from campus. It, is cozy – a couple of rooms with paintings on every wall. She cooks was cooking pasta, and offers me some as we sit down at a wooden table edging her kitchen and the stairway. Nedirmammedova came to Wyoming from Turkmenistan to study environmental science, and she has since added a second major in religious studies, plus two minors. She also works two jobs.

Kamila Kudelska

There are over 500 open computing jobs in Wyoming, amounting to roughly $30 million in wages not flowing into the state. That’s according to Code.org, a non-profit that has partnered with the Wyoming Department of Education to expand access to computer science in schools.

 

Sheridan.edu

Tribal leaders, national policymakers and educators came together last week at Sheridan College to talk about how to decrease racial tensions on their campus. Back in September, racial slurs were written on a whiteboard on the dorm door of two Native American students there, prompting a series of discussions about how to prevent future attacks.

Northern Arapaho Chairman Roy Brown participated in the roundtable and said he commends the college for taking action.

Ten months and $800,000 later, the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration has completed its in-depth look at how Wyoming finances education. Members of APA Consulting, who were tasked with examining the equity and adequacy of the school funding model, told lawmakers the state’s current approach works but pointed out areas for improvement. Despite a recommendation to spend more, lawmakers are opting to spend less.

Adelphi University

In the world of Paleontology, there’s debate whether or not dinosaurs were warm or cold blooded, and just how quickly they grew up. Dr. Michael D’Emic is a Paleontologist at Adelphi University in New York. He spoke with Wyoming Public Radio’s Maggie Mullen in anticipation of a talk he will give on the University of Wyoming’s campus about his research and some of the contentious debates surrounding dinosaurs.

Dr. D’Emic’s talk is February 6 at 5:30 p.m. on the University of Wyoming’s Campus in room 216 of the S.H. Knight Geology Building.

Kamila Kudelska

As lawmakers are discussing whether to add computer science and computational thinking to the state educational curriculum, they are looking to Powell as an example. Powell is one of only five school districts teaching computer science. Wyoming Public Radio’s Kamila Kudelska takes a deeper dive into how their curriculum has developed and persisted throughout the years.

Tennessee Watson

Despite 10 months of work, a legislative committee has rejected changes to the school funding model. After examination, APA Consulting produced a similar price tag for funding K-12 education as what the state was spending before the last round of cuts.

 

In its last meeting before the legislative session, the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration refused to adopt the new model suggested by APA.

 

Tennessee Watson

During the upcoming budget session, lawmakers want to take a closer look at transportation and special education funding, as a part of a larger effort to reform and possibly reduce spending in the K-12 finance model.

 

Most of what school districts spend on education is covered in a block grant they receive from the state. But transportation and special education are outside that model, and districts instead bill the state for a 100 percent reimbursement.

 

APA Consulting

Small changes in enrollment can mean big changes in funding for Wyoming’s smaller K-12 schools.

 

The difference in funding resulting from the loss of one student has the biggest impact on middle and high schools. Currently, a drop in enrollment from 50 down to 49 students, means a school can lose funding for an entire teacher and a reduction in resources. Instead of using fixed cut-offs, state-hired consultants are recommending using a mathematical curve to smooth out funding.

 

Huron Consulting

The University of Wyoming wants to increase its student body. To do that, the trustees are looking at attracting more out-of-state students by decreasing their tuition. But does that mean the university has exhausted efforts to get more students from Wyoming to enroll?

Wyoming Department of Education

Top heavy school districts are a concern for lawmakers looking for improved efficiencies in school finance. According to the latest data from the Wyoming Department of Education, in 2015-2016, there were more administrators statewide than what’s recommended in the school funding model, but that’s not a reflection of all districts’ employment practices.

 

David Joyce / Flickr.com

As more and more students across Wyoming enroll in classes online, it can make calculating attendance at a public school a little more tricky. And homeschool students may come to school for just a portion of the day, while other students might leave school early.

In 2017 the legislature passed a policy changing how the school finance model calculates attendance — or what’s called average daily membership.

The amount of time students spend in school impacts the amount of money districts get in their block grant from the state.

Wyoming Department of Education

Wyoming high school graduation rates saw a slight increase in 2017 from the previous year, according to data released by the Wyoming Department of Education. That continues a four-year trend of improvement, bringing the statewide rate up to 80.2 percent.

 

As policymakers head into the 2018 Budget Session, education is a topic many will be watching. Wyoming Public Radio's Tennessee Watson joined Morning Edition Host Caroline Ballard to examine what might be in store after education consultants hired by the state recommended giving more money to education instead of implementing cuts.

APA Consulting

Education is underfunded in Wyoming, according to a new report from consultants contracted by the Select Committee on School Finance to take an in-depth look at the state’s educational program.

 

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