After compromise, Kansas to continue funding journalism classes

KANSAS — High school journalism courses in Kansas willcontinue to qualify for state funding after journalism teachers and stateofficials reached a compromise on new funding guidelines.

Jim McCrossen, board president of the Kansas ScholasticPress Association and adviser to the student newspaper at Blue Valley NorthwestHigh School, said teachers are glad the state listened to their input andacknowledged that journalism skills are still valuable.

“There were some concerns from the representative of the statethat basically journalism was kind of a dinosaur,” he said. “The fact is themedium may have changed, but journalism itself is not dead.”

Last fall’s proposed changes to the way the state awardsvocational funding would have eliminated that funding for journalism courses.Officials said at the time that journalism was not a high-demand, high-skill orhigh-wage career path.

McCrossen said journalism teachers wanted the state tounderstand that they would make necessary changes, but “to just say thatjournalism is dead is really very sad for the state. The state listened to ourconcerns and we’ve come up with something I think is pretty strong and verydoable.”

Kathy Toelkes, Kansas State Department of Educationspokeswoman, said about three years ago federal law shifted the focus fromvocational education, which Kansas’ curriculum supported at the time, to careertechnical education. In order to receive federal education funding through theCarl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act, the statechanged programs to identify 16 “career cluster pathways.”

“What we were saying, not only for journalism, but for anycareer technical education courses, they had to be courses that were inalignment with the identified skills and competencies in the new pathway inorder to receive that funding,” she said. “When they identified the pathwaysthey did not identify the ‘journalism broadcasting pathway’ and that wasinterpreted to mean that journalism wasn’t going to be offered, but that wasnot the intent.”

Toelkes said skills related to journalism will now becovered in the “web and digital communications pathway” and the “arts, AV, andcommunications pathway.”

She said those who were concerned that journalism would notqualify for funding expressed beliefs that the proposed career pathways weretoo broad.

“They did express a concern at that time that [the pathways]were too broad and perhaps those skills related to journalism would get lost inthere,” she said. “So we’ve been able to work with them and our industryrepresentatives to develop something that I think everybody is more comfortablewith.”

High school career technical education programs receivearound $30 million from the state, with $700,000 going to journalism courseslast year.

She said the state funding is reliant on schools applyingand being approved for it, and the journalism courses, like all other courses,would have “to meet the skills and competencies identified in the pathways inorder to qualify.”

McCrossen said local school districts may have to changetheir curriculum if they want to receive state funds, but overall the teachersare happy.

“We’re very excited the state listened to our concerns,” hesaid. “I’m really proud of the journalism teachers in the state for beingpatient and working toward something that’s going to benefit the students inKansas.”