Education

KCUR 89.3 covers education issues across the Kansas City region and in Kansas and Missouri. 

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Courtesy photo / Kansas City Public Schools

At first, there seemed to be nobody ready to run on the April 5 ballot for three open seats on the Kansas City Public Schools board. Now that's changed dramatically. 

A total of five people have publicly declared write-in candidacies, several coming in the past week. And now two of the races have multiple candidates, lending a sense of belated competition to a campaign that some had feared would be uncontested and, as a result, overlooked. 

A race in Sub-District 5 : Ajia Morris and Catina Taylor

Remember the water cycle? 

It's typically first learned in elementary school, around third grade. You know, precipitation, evaporation, condensation? Many readers may remember filling out a graphic organizer to help them memorize the steps. Others may recall having to answer a question about the water cycle on a standardized test. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR

After three hours of public comment and debate, after numerous parents and teachers fought it, a divided Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) Board of Education voted to make sweeping changes for next school year.

The KCPS plan was two-and-a-half years in the making and failed to get board approval when initially offered in November.

The master plan will move many school boundaries effecting up to 15 percent of the district's students.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Natalie Lewis is eligible to be a candidate for the Kansas City Public School Board. There is no doubt, she says, after a critical deadline was deleted sometime Friday from the district's election notice online. 

"Because of that information, I almost walked away twice. But I knew in the gut of guts and in talking to people that that information was not accurate," she says. 

Courtesy photo / Kansas City Public Schools

Natalie Lewis really wants to be on the Kansas City Public School board. How much? Last week she moved into the district to an apartment just off the Plaza for the express purpose of running for the open seat in Sub-District 1, which covers much of downtown. 

"Yes, it was drastic. But that fact that we had no one on the ballot required a drastic reaction," she says.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

An anti-Common Core bill that’s advanced out of the House Education Committee could have broad consequences for Kansas schools.

“This bill basically repeals all the standards in Kansas and directs the State Board of Education and local school districts to start over,” Mark Desetti of the Kansas National Education Association told KCUR’s Steve Kraske on Up To Date Thursday morning.

Blue Valley Schools

The new top person in the Blue Valley School District isn’t exactly new.

Todd White came to Blue Valley as an assistant superintendent last May after leading the North Kansas City School District for four years.

He replaces Tom Trigg who left for a suburban Dallas district last year. He was superintendent for 11 years.

“It was important for us to find a leader who shared our community’s values and goals,” Mike Seitz, Blue Valley Board of Education president, said in a statement. "He is the right choice to take us to the next level of achievement.”

Flickr/Adam_Procter400

For a small group of high school seniors in the metro, their college options are narrowing because of a law passed last year in Jefferson City. 

Once-affordable options like Metropolitan Community College now seem like iffy bets. UMKC and Northwest Missouri State are a stretch. Mizzou? Forget about it.  

Interim University of Missouri Chancellor Hank Foley issued a written statement Sunday night responding to newly released police body camera video of MU Communications Professor Melissa Click in a confrontation with police after a demonstration by the group Concerned Student 1950 at the MU Homecoming Parade.

Here is Foley's complete statement:

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The Kansas Supreme Court says the state is not funding public schools fairly and has given the legislature until the end of June to fix the problem. If lawmakers don’t comply, the high court threatens to close public schools.

Republican Sen. Jeff Melcher criticized Thursday’s ruling.

“It’s not unexpected. It’s essentially a temper tantrum by the courts to push their political will on the Legislature," Melcher said. "It’s one of those things where ‘give us the money or the kid gets it,’”

File photo

In a ruling that has Kansas educators cheering, the state Supreme Court has upheld a district court panel ruling that block grant school funding is unconstitutional.

In a near unanimous ruling, the justices said the state is not meeting its equity burden under the state Constitution, which mandates that Kansas children have a right to an equal education whether they live in a poor or rich district.

The justices, as they have historically done, did not order the Legislature to spend a specific amount to fix the equity issue.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

A modified master plan for Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) consolidates two east side schools and turns over one of the buildings to the district's charter school partner, a plan that packed parents from the targeted school into the board meeting Wednesday night.

The new plan still closes Southwest Early College Campus and moves its students to East High School. It also still closes Satchel Paige Elementary on east 75th Street.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

On a Saturday afternoon, four female students from Kansas City's Alta Vista Charter High School are making a three-hour trip in a rented minivan to Omaha. As they get closer, they each practice their pitches for why they deserve a full-ride scholarship to college. 

Brittany emphasizes the long hours she puts into extracurricular work making an electric car.

Anahi lays out how she wants to be a lawyer to better "serve my community" as an adult.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The consolidation of school districts in Kansas is off the table at least for now. The legislation would have cut in half the number of school districts in the state. 

When the bill had a hearing in the House Education Committee, it was clear opposition was mounting from all over the state. The room was packed, many educators driving hours to testify against the bill.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

There seems to be a growing tenseness over the future of education in Kansas.

The fight last year over block grant funding was hardball and, at times, ugly.

Teachers felt under the gun and many decided to leave the state.

But educators say the attacks this legislative session feel particularly bitter and contentious

You could feel it in room 112 North in the Kansas Statehouse where the House Education Committee meets.

A student advocacy group wants to reform how Missouri awards scholarships to top-performing students.

Right now any student who scores a 31 or higher on the ACT and stays in-state for college is eligible for a Bright Flight Scholarship worth about $3,000.

But Faith Sandler with St. Louis Graduates says these scholarships are being disproportionately awarded to students whose families can afford to pay for college.

Shawnee Mission North

It seems Kansas always manages to resurrect an education controversy from its past.

School finance is always a battle, but another old issue that many thought was settled — district consolidation — is back.

The House Education Committee Wednesday will debate a plan that would cut the number of school districts in Kansas in half — from 286 to 132.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Three hugely controversial bills will dominate the Kansas House Education Committee starting Monday afternoon with the crescendo building to Wednesday. That's when legislators will debate a measure that would consolidate school districts in the state, cutting the number by more than half.

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

Tackling some of the biggest problems in Kansas City area schools is no easy task, but that's exactly what more than 100 participants with the Lean Lab's "ReversED" event set out to do this weekend.

The Lean Lab started in October 2013, acting as an incubator for community members to pitch educational solutions to area schools.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is asking for an additional $2.5 million for the A+ Scholarship Program, which lets students attend community college for free.

Nixon visited Metropolitan Community College’s Penn Valley campus Wednesday to meet with students who are using the scholarships to pay for school.

“I won’t even have to work a year to pay off my debt,” Marshall Morris, a student in the electric utility lineman program, said.

He told the governor he probably wouldn’t have gone to college without the A+ program.

Crossroads Academy

Dean Johnson, the executive director of the successful K-8 charter school, Crossroads Academy, in downtown Kansas City, says the most common question he gets from parents is: when are you going to open a high school?

Now, he has an answer. 

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is suing shuttered Kansas City charter school Hope Academy to the tune of $3.7 million.

An audit released last month found the school grossly overstated its daily attendance, resulting in millions of dollars in overpayments from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Hope Academy claimed 97 percent attendance. But only about a third of students ever showed up for class.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Kansas City Public Schools officials announced the district's new superintendent Wednesday.

Mark Bedell has been an assistant superintendent in the Baltimore County District for the past four years. He began his career in Houston.

He beat out Ron Taylor, the superintendent in the Willingboro, New Jersey, district.

Kansas Board of Regents

Although some tried to stop it and many don’t like the idea, the Kansas Board of Regents is expected to approve a new conceal-and-carry weapons policy at its regular meeting Wednesday.

As it now stands, come July 1, 2017 anyone will be able to carry a gun on a public school campus in Kansas.

But the vast majority of faculty and staff oppose the change.

Courtesy photo / Kansas City Public Schools

Kansas City Public Schools is one step closer  to picking a new superintendent.

KCPS board chairman Jon Hile says the board met behind closed doors for 90 minutes Monday and reviewed feedback from last week’s forum where the two finalists each answered questions for an hour.

Hile says to expect an announcement no later than Wednesday.

"I expect to have something more in the next 24 to 48 hours," he says.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Kansas City Public Schools didn't know what kind of crowd would come out to meet the two finalists for the top job in the district. Just how much interest would there be?

Kansas Supreme Court

As the Kansas Legislature begins work, there was a 90-page document filed with the state Supreme Court Tuesday that reminds lawmakers just how difficult their task will be in formulating a new budget.

Courtesy photos

Kansas City Public Schools have reached to the East Coast for the two finalists for its top job.

Both are men, both are African American and both have urban district administrative experience.

Ronald Taylor is the superintendent in the Willingboro, New Jersey, district in the Philadelphia suburbs. Willingboro is a small district, just 4,300 students and seven schools.

Before Willingboro, Taylor also worked in Washington D.C., Boston and Newark, New Jersey.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

By next school year, dozens of students in the North Kansas City School District will finally have a somewhat safer way to walk to school.

Students who live within blocks of Maplewood Elementary School on North Freemont Avenue have been bused to school for years because the district deemed the walk too dangerous.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The hearing room in the Kansas Statehouse was packed with educators, lawmakers and lobbyists, all gathered to watch the fight over an interim committee report that surprised even the closest watchers of the process.

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