Education

Education News.

Lauren Manning / Flickr--CC

A third Kansas school district plans to end the school year early because state aid has been cut for the fiscal year ending June 30.

The Smoky Valley School District in Lindsborg, just south of Salina, which serves about 1,000 students, says it will close three days early due to a $162,000 budget cut.

Ending the school year early, the district says, will save about $10,000.

The Concordia district, with about 1,100 students, has said it will close six days early.  The Twin Valley district, with about 600 children, has said it will lose seven days.

St. Joesph School District

The St. Joseph School District, wrapped up in scandals and criminal investigations, has put at least one legal headache behind it.

The district has settled a slander lawsuit with CFO Beau Musser for $450,000. Far less than many expected.

The lawsuit named former superintendent Fred Czerwonka, former HR director Doug Flowers and current school board member Dennis Snethen. Czerwonka has been fired and Flowers demoted. Snethen remains on the board.

In the eight page agreement, nobody admits any wrongdoing.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

While it doesn’t get talked about much, one of the most important predicators for academic success is wealth.

Students who come from families with some means and comfort generally do better than kids who live below or near the poverty line.

One of the easiest places to see the contrast is along County Line Road which divides Johnson and Wyandotte Counties in Kansas.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

For the past few years, when we talked about education in Kansas it was all about money.

Is the state spending too much or too little? Are districts efficient? Is the school funding formula flawed And what does this have to do with student outcomes?

Turns out, not as much as you think.

"The most important factor is the education of the parents," says Professor John Rury from the University of Kansas School of Education.

For decades, his research shows, parents in Johnson County have generally been way more educated than parents in other parts of the metro.

Rama / Wikimedia Commons

Updated Wednesday, 9:21 a.m.:

According to the Jackson County Election Board's unofficial results for Tuesday's municipal election, Independence's levy increase passed with 64 percent approval and Lee's Summit's bond issue passed with nearly 80 percent approval.

The original post begins here:

Cody Newill / KCUR

More than a dozen education activists are marching 60 miles from Merriam, Kansas to Topeka for the third year in a row to protest how the state funds public schools.

The walkers from Game On for Kansas Schools were greeted by hundreds of supporters in Lawrence Saturday. The group takes issue with the state legislature's decisions to fund schools through block grants and replace the old funding formula with an outcome based method.

St. Joseph School District

The embattled St. Joseph Board of Education Thursday night appears to have put one of its many legal problems behind it.

The board voted 5-0 to settle a lawsuit filed by CFO Beau Musser after he was falsely accused of sexual misconduct.

"We are relieved that we are at this point," said board member Chris Danford.

The amount of the settlement was not released. But it appears there are still a few details to work out.

Musser was one of the whistle-blowers on $270,000 in stipends secretly given to 54 top administrations last spring by former superintendent Fred Czerwonka.

According to his lawsuit, Musser was worried that the board was kept in the dark about the stipends and concerned it may violate Missouri law.

When he brought those concerns to Czerwonka and HR director Doug Flowers he was accused of misconduct. According to the lawsuit, Czerwonka and Flowers offered to buy out Musser's contract in return for his silence on the stipends.

Brad Wilson / Flickr-CC

Not 12 hours after Gov. Sam Brownback signed legislation that would fund public schools in Kansas with block grants, the law has been challenged in court.

The motion was filed in Shawnee County District Court by several schools districts, including Kansas City, Kan., which have sued the state claiming it is under funding K-12 public education.

The motion alleges the block grant law violates the Kansas Constitution because it freezes funding for the next two years. A three-judge panel has ruled that the state failed to provide enough money to adequately educate students. 

The federal investigation into the St. Joseph School District has widened to include another district in the state.

The West Plains School District in south-central Missouri has been served with a subpoena from a federal grand jury sitting in Kansas City.

The subpoena in West Plains came at the same time that the grand jury issued a fourth subpoena for documents from the St. Joseph district.

Sources say the latest subpoena in St. Joseph demands expense reports and time sheets for some top administrators and contracts from certain district vendors.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The legal woes of the St. Joseph School District continue after a fourth federal grand jury subpoena was issued to the district.

This latest subpoena, according to sources, demands documents ranging from expense reports and time sheets of some top district administrators to contracts with district vendors.

The FBI and the U.S. attorney in Kansas City have been investigating the district for almost a year.

Previous subpoenas have sought records of district maintenance workers after allegations that some employees were doing work for administrators at their homes during school hours.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

It's hard to keep up with how schools in Kansas might be funded.

First it was a debate over block grants. Now it's a new plan that's mostly based on graduate outcomes.

The new funding formula legislation is a result of months of meetings between Sen. Steve Abrams of Arkansas City, chairman of the senate Education Committee, and educators from around the state.

It would base funding on student population and factors such as poverty, something superintendents and school board members stressed was important.

Now that it appears block grants will replace the current school funding formula in Kansas, work has already begun on a new formula.

The block grants, which moved swiftly through the Legislature, were always meant to be a bridge between the current formula and a new one set to go into effect in two years.

This week a bill from Senate Education Committee chairman Steve Abrams, a Republican from Arkansas City, will start to be worked on.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

The Kansas City school district may be getting into the charter school business.

The district says it received the OK from the state board of education on Tuesday to become a charter school sponsor.

Kansas City Superintendent Steve Green says if the charter schools are going to continue to play a bigger role in education, the district should be part of that discussion.

"This gets us to the table and allows us to be an active and equal participant in the conversation about charter schools in our community," Green said in a statement.

Cody Newill / KCUR

The University of Missouri-Kansas City's graduating medical students gathered in the School of Medicine's courtyard Friday to find out what hospital they'll be paired with to complete their residencies.

Nearly every one of the more than 100 graduating students was crying, laughing or a combination of the two when they got to open the envelopes containing their assignments.

As their names were read off, faculty members stuck colored pins on a map of America to represent where the class of 2015 will be going. Graduate Chiazotam Ekekezie ended up getting her first choice of school: Rhode Island Hospital at Brown University.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

It was a year ago that the first crack appeared in what many in the St. Joseph School District called the "friends and family plan."

If you were connected, you cashed in.

On March 24 of last year a routine school board meeting took a sudden and drastic twist.

School board member Chris Danford, to the surprise of everyone in the room, blew the whistle on a stipend program that would open up the district to investigations by the FBI, a grand jury and the Missouri State Auditor.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

Why is the Kansas school funding formula so complicated? Or is it, really? Get a lesson on school funding, how the formula works, and why it will likely soon be replaced by block grants.

(Try and solve the formula yourself, here.)

Guests:

  • Sam Zeff, KCUR education reporter
  • Brad Tennant, math teacher, Shawnee Mission West
Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

On the same day the Kansas House passed legislation that would drastically change the way schools are funded in the state, a three judge district court panel in Shawnee County issued a ruling which could complicate the issue.

By the narrowest of margins, the house passed a block grant funding bill backed by Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican legislative leaders.

Lawyers involved in the school funding case say the order late Friday afternoon is a shot across the Legislature’s bow.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

For two years, the Kansas City Public Schools and Academie Lafayette tried to come to a deal to merge schools at the Southwest Early College Campus.

On Tuesday that partnership fell apart.

When it was announced, it was billed as the next thing in education, a partnership between a very successful charter school and a somewhat struggling public high school.

But in the end, leaders from both sides say, it was too difficult to merge the academic programs and to figure out where to house the joint program.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The battle lines were clear as Kansas legislators began hearings on the most radical change in school funding in the state in a generation.

Republican leadership in the Statehouse wants to scrap the current school funding formula and replace it, for two years, with block grants while they work on a new formula.

At a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee, the state's business interests lined up on one side of the bill and educators, from superintendents to the state PTA, lined up on the other.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Educators say they’re more concerned than ever about legislation that would drastically change the way Kansas schools are funded.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican leaders in the Legislature want to scrap the current school funding formula. They say it’s too complicated.

While that formula is rewritten, they want to temporarily fund schools through block grants.

The Kansas Supreme Court on Thursday issued an order that may speed up the appeals process in the ongoing court battle over school funding in the state.

In December a three-judge panel of Shawnee County District Court ruled that the state's school funding formula is constitutional but underfunded. 

While the panel did not say how much more money is needed, it suggested it could be as much as $522 million.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

In a surprise move, a St. Joseph School District board member resigned Thursday morning.

Dr. Dan Colgan is a former board president and was superintendent for 14 years in the district before retiring in 2006 and getting elected to the school board.

Brad Wilson / Flickr-CC

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is not planning to back off budget cuts to public schools even though tax collections were better than expected last month.

As those reductions approach, districts are trying to figure out where to cut. 

There was some hope that the governor would back away from $28 million in K-12 cuts he announced in early February if revenue rebounded a bit.

After revenues fell short of expectations in December and January, the state collected $22 million more in taxes than expected in February.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Most educators believe that American students aren’t in school enough.

Ask teachers what would improve academics and most would say more time with their kids — and there’s plenty of research to back that up.

Starting in June students in two metro elementary schools will be seeing their teachers a whole lot more and summer a whole lot less.

Winnwood and Crestview elementary schools in the North Kansas City School District will be adding 31 days to their academic calendars. They are the first two schools in Missouri to, essentially, go year-round. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR

It’s time to rethink summer.

At least that’s what educators are now telling parents and students. And academics, it turns out, is just one part of the new plan.

Here’s what’s true about summer, especially in the Kansas City, Mo., public schools: Students slip academically, they eat awful food and they often get in trouble.

But there’s a solution, says Kansas City Superintendent Steve Green. Just keep kids in school.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

In a move long anticipated by many in St. Joseph, Mo., the Board of Education voted in closed session Thursday night to fire its chief operating officer and demote its human resources director.

The vote was announced in a statement issued early Friday afternoon.

Gone is COO Rick Hartigan who's been on paid administrative leave for about five weeks. Hartigan has been with the district for 26 years, first as communications director. He was promoted to COO ten years ago. He's a former newspaper reporter in St. Joseph.

The House Social Services Budget Committee changed its mind Wednesday, voting to shelve an earlier recommendation that could have led to the Parents as Teachers program being cut from the state budget.

“We’re going to have another hearing,” said Rep. Will Carpenter, a Republican from El Dorado and chairman of the committee.

The Civil Rights Project / UCLA

Missouri suspends black elementary school students at a higher rate than any other state in the nation, according to a new report out Monday from the Civil Right Project at the UCLA.

The Kansas City, Mo., public school district is one of four Missouri districts singled out.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Almost two years to the day that he signed his contract with the St. Joseph School District, Superintendent Fred Czerwonka has been fired.

The action was announced in a statement Saturday morning from the district. The board voted 6-0 to fire Czerwonka. Former district superintendent and board president Dan Colgan was absent.

No other personnel actions were taken, according to the statement.

Sources say the district has already created a list of potential interim superintendents if or when Czerwonka exits.

John Norton, another professor involved in the scandal surrounding the Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, is stepping down. 

Earlier this month, the University of Missouri Board of Curators released the results of an independent audit. It found UMKC submitted false data to the Princeton Review.

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