Student newspapers and yearbooks aren't going away anytime soon in Kansas despite earlier fears that vocational funding changes would lead to their demise in some districts.
"We were able to work with those in the journalism field and post-secondary and develop something I think everyone is very comfortable with," said Kansas State Department of Education spokeswoman Kathy Toelkes.
Under the old system, schools got money to supplement the cost of teaching students a specific vocation. High school newspaper and yearbook programs currently are allowed a share of state and federal vocation funding. Last school year, that amounted to about $700,000 of the $30.6 million distributed statewide for vocational programs.
As part of a federal push to ensure students are ready for careers and college, the focus has shifted to helping students acquire skill sets that will prepare them for a variety of occupations within an industry sector.
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Starting in middle school, students will pick a career cluster that will guide their classes and work experience choices.
The problems arose because while one of the clusters focused on communications and technology, there was no specific mention of journalism. And the initial direction from the state was that no vocational funding would be provided for stand-alone journalism courses.
As a result, journalism teachers raised alarms last fall that money for salaries, training and equipment might go away when the switch to the new model took effect in the 2012-13 school year.
Teachers said it would be impossible to publish a student newspaper or produce a yearbook without a specific class devoted to the work. And without the vocational funding, districts in smaller communities feared they wouldn't be able to continue offering those courses.
A series of meetings involving journalism teachers, college professors and statewide press and broadcast associations were held, and now the Kansas State Department of Education says journalism classes can continue to get the extra vocational funding as long as they focus on a set of identified skills, such as media law, Web design and journalistic writing.
"Even though the yearbook wasn't recognized, we were looking for the skill set," said Gayla Randel, an educational program consultant for the state. "If schools decide to apply those skills in a product locally, that's their decision."