The Star Valley Independent is a member of the Wyoming News Exchange. These stories come courtesy of the WNE.
Bill would set out-of-state tuition minimums
LARAMIE (WNE) — For the second consecutive year, Rep. Bill Henderson, R-Cheyenne, is bringing a bill to the legislative session that would statutorily prescribe a difference between the tuition rates paid by in-state and out-of-state students at the University of Wyoming.
Henderson brought a bill last year that would have required both UW and Wyoming’s community colleges to charge out-of-state students at least 10 percent more than they charge in-state students.
That bill failed its introductory vote, earning just 17 “aye” votes from the House’s 60 members.
This year, Henderson is trying again with House Bill 34, which would require out-of-state tuition to be at least 20 percent higher than in-state tuition.
Albany County’s own Rep. Bill Haley, R-Centennial, is one of three co-sponsors.
Meredith Asay, UW’s interim director of governmental relations, said the university isn’t currently taking a stance on the bill.
Henderson said the bill is intended to “underscore the principle that being from Wyoming should always count.”
If Henderson’s bill passed, it would have no near-term impact on the cost of higher education in the state.
The current out-of-state tuition rates for community colleges are already double their in-state counterparts.
UW charges in-state students $134 per credit hour. Out-of-state students are charged $537 per credit hour.
A 20 percent minimum difference written into statute, Henderson said, would be helpful in case a future Board of Trustees wanted to significantly limit the price differential of tuition rates.
Plague confirmed in Johnson County cat
WORLAND (WNE) — Laboratory testing at the University of Wyoming has recently confirmed a Johnson County cat was infected with plague, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.
No human cases have been identified.
The cat’s home is in Kaycee and the animal is known to wander outdoors.
The illness was confirmed by the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory in Laramie. This is the third plague-infected cat identified in Wyoming over the past six months; the others were in Sheridan and Campbell counties.
Only six human cases of plague have been exposed in Wyoming since 1978 with the last one investigated in 2008. There is an average of seven human plague cases each year in the United States.
“Plague is a serious bacterial infection that can be deadly for pets and people if not treated as soon as possible with antibiotics,” said Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH. “The disease can be passed to humans from ill animals and by fleas coming from infected animals. We are letting people know of the potential threat in the cat’s home area as well as across the state.”
“While the disease is rare in humans, plague occurs naturally in the western United States in areas where rodents and their fleas become infected,” Harrist added.
Balow to head national education group
SHERIDAN (WNE) — Education issues in Wyoming could have a more amplified voice on the national stage.
Jillian Balow, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, was recently voted president-elect for the Council of Chief State School Officers board of directors. The CCSSO is a national nonprofit organization composed of education officials from all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and several other U.S. territories. Balow is the first Wyoming official to serve as president-elect of the organization. She received the most votes in November 2018 from the CCSSO full membership, which is comprised of 59 people.
Balow said she was honored to be elected and is excited to serve in a more substantial role on the CCSSO.
“When I was elected (Wyoming superintendent in 2014), there were a lot of organizations that reached out to me and said, ‘We can help you with X or Y or Z,’” Balow said. “For about this first year, I really didn’t know how to discern which organizations would be be most helpful, but from the get-go it was really clear the Council of Chief State School Officers would be an excellent resource for me as the chief as well as our staff.”
Balow will spend one year as president-elect, one year as president and one year as past president.
Stephen Bowen, CCSSO deputy executive director, state leadership, said the three one-year terms allow for continuity among board leadership.
Riverton group won’t give up on public intoxication issue
RIVERTON (WNE) — The group that suggested an ordinance barring “habitually intoxicated” people from purchasing alcohol in Riverton is looking for other avenues to address public intoxication locally after city officials failed to approve the idea last month.
Councilman Lance Goede – who was defeated in last year’s election by write-in candidate Karla Borders and will no longer serve on the council in 2019 – said the Solutions Committee met a week after the ordinance was denied.
“We’re kind of regrouping and taking an opportunity to re-look at new directions and new opportunities in a variety of areas,” he said.
“I think we’re going to, hopefully, come forward with some new stuff in the not too distant future. … We’re not giving up. It’s still a problem.”
Councilman Mike Bailey said he met recently with city administrator Tony Tolstedt, Mayor-elect Richard Gard, members of the Volunteers of America – which runs the Center of Hope alcohol detoxification and rehabilitation facility in Riverton – and representatives of the Wind River Casino and the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes about substance abuse, vagrancy and related problems.
“It’s extremely concerning to me that we have this issue,” Bailey said. “Nobody has the perfect answer.”
After speaking with the above groups, however, Bailey said he believes part of the solution has to do with treatment, which isn’t funded currently at the level required.
“A lot of this is a symptom of less service being performed (because there’s) not enough capability to give treatment to those that need it,” he said. “It sounds like … the capacity for the treatment is there, it’s just the funding, of course from the state (and) federal government, has been cut back.”
Jackson teacher wins national award
JACKSON (WNE) — Students at Munger Mountain Elementary School waited in suspense for a secret assembly Friday morning. Hearing only that a “special guest” would arrive, students wondered who it could be: Recently spotted actress Jennifer Aniston? Former first lady Michelle Obama? The school’s mascot, a “real” wolf?
The celebrity, it turned out, came from closer to home — a teacher in their midst, Chris Bessonette, who won the Milken Educator Award with much fanfare.
The national award recognizes excellence in teaching. There are only 40 given out annually, and Bessonette is the only recipient in Wyoming. The award includes a $25,000 prize.
Bessonette is in his first year of teaching second grade at Munger Mountain, the only dual immersion school in the state. He previously taught kindergarten for six years in the Teton County School District No. 1 as well as at Journeys School of Teton Science Schools. His students affectionately call him Mr. Chris. To Karsten Bessonette, 9, his fourth-grade son at the school, he’s just Dad.
Students were heavily involved in the presentation of Bessonette’s award. They held up the numbers 2 and 5 and then kept adding zeros. With each additional number — $25, $250, $2,500 and finally $25,000 — their shrieks got louder. When Bessonette was announced as the winner, he was sitting on the floor of the gym trying to keep his class orderly. They immediately swarmed him for a big group hug.
“My advice to all of you lobos [the school mascot in Spanish] out there is to find what makes you the happiest in your life and go and do that,” Bessonette said. “As a teacher, that’s one of the things I’ve found in my life is I love teaching because I love working with you all.”