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Ding Dong the Yearbook is Dead
After 13 years teaching journalism I have come to expect a call from a reporter in the fall. One year the question was “Is Facebook replacing the high school yearbook?” Another it was “Is the economy causing orders for yearbooks to dwindle?” Basically the questions translate into “Is the high school yearbook dead?”
I have always scoffed at the notion that the newest social fad (whether VHS/DVD yearbooks, Facebook, etc) will replace a tangible piece of journalistic history. However for the first time in all of these years I find myself changing my answer...
Quite possibly the high school yearbook maybe dead in Kansas.
However if it dies it won’t be because of social media or the lack of yearbook sales. Instead, the greatest threat to the high school yearbook and newspaper is the Kansas Department of Education that in 2012 will eliminate career and tech education funding for journalism classes (also broadcast and printing classes).
This state CTE funding helps support the increased cost of technology used by and lower enrollment in j-classes. This is the same funding given to auto-tech, home ec, photography, business, drafting, etc. While most high school newspaper and yearbook staffs raise the money for publishing (in Free State High School’s case ~$60,000), state CTE funding pays for the technology used to create the publications: computers, software, cameras, etc.
According to KSDE, journalism funding has been cut because they don’t see journalism as a viable career. In short, the way the state sees it journalism courses do not meet new standards of preparing students for “high demand,” “high skill,” and “high wage” careers.
While these standards seem laudable, in actuality (the way the terms have been defined) the bar has not been set very high for two of the three criteria and too high for the other.
“High skill” has been defined in Kansas as any occupation that requires advanced certification or higher education beyond high school. Journalism meets this requirement. “High wage,” while sounding like a high standard, is actually defined as 200% of the federal poverty level or approximately $20,000 or $13.75/ hour. Journalism meets this requirement as well.
The rub comes in how KSDE has chosen to define “high demand.” “High demand” in Kansas is an occupation projected to grow more than 14%. In a down economy many Kansans would be happy to see their occupations not lose ground. In New York state, “high demand” is defined as any occupation that is projected to add more workers than those needed to replace current workers.
Paradoxically some occupations with less than 14% projected growth will remain funded by KSDE because of their strong connections to Kansas culture (farming) or their integral role they play in other occupations (photography and education).
Journalism educators have been told “The lack of state funding for [journalism] courses ... does not mean they cannot be offered” in Kansas high schools. This statement comes off as a pat on the head. Some schools will be able to afford to continue their journalism programs without CTE funding. However many schools will not, and those are often times the schools with the least resources to replace journalism with other electives.
When it comes to trying to save money, it would seem that journalism is an efficient way to expose and train students in more than eight future occupations. When we are talking about spending our Kansas CTE dollars better, eliminating these courses is short-sighted and shows a disregard for the current challenges districts face in preparing students for a 21st Century workforce. Kansas high school journalism alumni have found employment in all of the following careers, but that does not seem to matter to KSDE. • Writers & Authors (15% growth) • Broadcast & Sound Techs (8% growth) • Audio & Video Techs (13% growth) • Photographers (12% growth) • Public Relations (24% growth) • Technical Writers (18% growth) • Graphic Designers (13% growth) • Advertising Sales Agents (7% growth) *according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics
State officials have presented this decision as a “done deal” by saying the move is a requirement of the 2006 federal Perkins funding legislation (Perkins IV outlines what requirements states have to meet in order to receive federal career and tech ed funding). However Perkins just doesn't say any such thing.
Interesting other states aren’t discontinuing career and tech ed funding for journalism courses (ie Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Nebraska, Tennessee). It appears that other states haven’t been told about this “requirement” by the federal government.
Unfortunately for Kansas journalism programs the KSDE doesn't truly know what is going on in modern journalism classrooms. The journalism classroom of today is a beehive of various technical activity. Students are taught hard skills via audio/ video editing, design, photography, advertising sales, and use of professional grade software like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. In addition, students learn the soft skills business and industry leaders have identified as essential in a 21st century work environment.
The KSDE’s webpage on CTE refers to a 2006 study which asked business and industry leaders what are the most important skills for job success when hiring a high school graduate. Overwhelmingly the response was: work ethic, collaboration, communication, social responsibility, and critical thinking & problem solving skills. In addition, to advanced technical skills, journalism students learn these five skills in spades by creating something tangible with meaning to their lives.
If you disagree with the KSDE’s decision to eliminate funding for journalism and broadcast, please contact your elected officials. Let them know that Kansas students learn valuable career and technical skills for the 21st century workplace and KSDE should include journalism courses in their redesign of CTE.
Kansas Board of Education Members
State Board District 1
(913) 620-5062 (c)
State Board District 2
State Board District 3
(913) 660-0392 (h)
State Board District 4
(785) 266-3798 (h)
State Board District 5
(620) 624-6677 (h)
Kathy Martin State Board District 6 (785) 463-5463 (h) email@example.com
Kenneth Willard State Board District 7 (620) 669-0498 (home) firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Walt Chappell State Board District 8 (316) 838-7900(w) email@example.com
Jana Shaver State Board District 9 (620) 331-1452 (home) firstname.lastname@example.org
David Dennis State Board District 10 (316) 650-0152 (c) email@example.com