Kansas ready to pull state funding for high school journalism

KANSAS — The fate of some Kansas high school journalismprograms is in doubt after the state’s department of education set up newfunding guidelines.

Currently, the state divvies out $30.6 million of vocational funding toschool programs across the state, including about $700,000 for journalismcourses.

Under the proposed new guidelines, journalism classes would no longerqualify for these funds, which help pay for computer software and teachersalaries. The change would go into effect in 2012 if the board of educationapproves the guidelines.

Kansas State Department of Education spokeswoman Kathy Toelkes said thevocation fund was intended to be supplemental and help improve programs, not bethe only source of funding.

Toelkes said individual school districts would now have to pick up thedifference.

But teachers from smaller school districts with limited resources likeKristy Dekat, Topeka West High School’s newspaper and yearbook adviser,rely on the vocational funding to keep the programs afloat.

The state funds help the ease the cost of expensive software such as AdobePhotoshop and InDesign that the students use to put publications together, Dekatsaid.

“There’s no way districts can pick up thousands of dollars fortheir budgets,” she said.

Dekat also said when state funding goes the matching federal funding goeswith it.

Toelkes said last year Kansas received about $6 million of federal fundingfrom the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act but was unsurehow much went toward journalism programs.

Toelkes said the state department of education wants to give the vocationalfunding to high-demand, high-skill and high-wage career paths, and after itlooked at U.S. Department of Labor statistics, it found journalism did not meetthe criteria.

Kansas journalism advisers disagree.

Dekat said other than learning basic reporting and editing skills, studentjournalists learn researching, problem solving, leadership, critical thinkingand communication skills — all things that can be helpful in any career.

Jim McCrossen, board president of the Kansas Scholastic Press Associationand adviser at Blue Valley Northwest High School, agreed.

“I know the value of what my students are learning,” he said.”They can draw direct correlations between their success in college fromjournalism classes, not AP courses and not SAT scores. For the state to be soshortsighted to not consider this as high-skill, high-demand, well that’sdisappointing.”