Education

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

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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.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

An interim joint Kansas legislative committee has issued a report short on specifics but long on suggestions that could fundamentally change how education is funded and delivered in the state.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Teacher pay in Missouri continues to fall short of the national average, according to a report the Missouri State Teachers Association released Monday.

“For yet another year, we’re still lagging behind 41 states,” says MSTA spokeswoman Aurora Meyer. “Missouri is ranked 42nd nationwide for average classroom teacher salary. That translates to $8,896 less dollars than the national average per year in teacher’s pockets.”

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

A special joint interim legislative committee has been holding hearings on it, and many Kansas educators would say for the New Year all they want is a new school funding formula.

But the chairman of the state House Education Committee says he doesn't see a replacement for the current block grant funding scheme passing this legislative session. "But in reality, does anyone really think it'll be done by the end of session this year? I don't think so," says Rep. Ron Highland, a conservative Republican from Wamego.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Parents will soon meet the two finalists for the top job in the Kansas City Public Schools.

The district late Friday announced two forums scheduled for Jan. 14 at Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts. Each candidate will be available for an hour to the public and the media.

The names of the finalists have not been released, but both are from out of town. The district's  interim superintendent, Al Tunis, is not in the running. The district says the names will be released 48 hours before the public forums.

Courtesy Robert DePalma

While the Tyrannosaurus rex was at the top of the food chain 66 million years ago, a team of researchers linked to the University of Kansas discovered a giant, fearsome raptor that may have given T. rex a run for its money.

Dakotaraptor, as it’s called, was 17-feet long, six-feet tall at the hips and weighed hundreds of pounds. With a 9.5-inch razor-sharp retractable claw likely used to gut or latch onto prey, it was an unbeatable hunter.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The Kansas City Public School District has narrowed its list of superintendent candidates and we may find out more about the search at Wednesday's meeting.

Board Chairman Jon Hile would not say exactly how many finalists are in the running but many believe there are only two – and current interim Superintendent Al Tunis is not among them. Both candidates are believed to be from out of town.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The Kansas legislative session is still a few weeks away and already lawmakers are grappling with what to do about school funding.

A special committee set up to make recommendations on a new formula wanted to know if spending more money leads to better classroom achievement.

At a hearing Wednesday lawmakers heard yes from Mark Tallman, associate executive director of the Kansas Association of School Boards. He said KASB research not only shows the more you spend the better the outcomes, but Kansas is one of the most efficient states in the country.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

We talk a lot about community and neighborhoods here at KCUR 89.3, so when it came to our attention that some Kansas City third-graders were investigating the same subjects, it piqued our interest. 

Miss Allie Heemstra and Mrs. Valerie Diebel’s classes at the Crossroads Academy (a public charter school in downtown Kansas City, Missouri) have studied history, visited 10 neighborhoods from Waldo to Pendleton Heights, talked to “change-makers” and read about community movements.

Credit Patrick McKay / Flickr -- CC

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday refused to hear the appeal of a group of Shawnee Mission parents who want limits lifted on how much local school districts can raise in local taxes.

However, this is not the end of the court case.

The high court refused the case, called Petrella, without comment.

The parents sued the state five years ago arguing that if patrons want to tax themselves more to pay for schools, the state shouldn’t be allowed to stop them. Kansas law caps how much local school districts can spend in local property taxes.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR 89.3

Public schools often go to great lengths to account for their students.

For RosaLinda Aviles, an attendance and dropout specialist for Kansas City Public Schools, it’s her primary duty.

Based at Northeast High School, she helps oversee a nine-school zone. If a student has been absent for several days, teachers will notify her. She and a district social worker then will try to intervene.

"Often the teachers will know a lot more about what's going, so that's helpful," Aviles says. "We then can call, send a letter, or do a home visit."

A state audit charges the now-closed Hope Academy charter school in Kansas City of grossly overstating its attendance and receiving millions of dollars in excess state aid.

The audit says attendance data submitted to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2012-13 and 2013-14 "was incomplete and inaccurate and significantly overstated actual attendance." That finding wasn't a surprise. DESE did a surprise visit to the school on Paseo in November 2013 and quickly discovered the attendance problem.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

It's been relatively quiet recently in the scandal plagued St. Joseph School District. But that changed Thursday when the district got word from the state that many of its federal grants will be audited.

The district says it received the notice from the Department of Elementary and Secondary (DESE).

"Your district has been identified due to possible fiscal compliance issues with federal grants," according to the letter from DESE sent to Superintendent Robert Newhart.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Just 49 percent of third graders in Kansas City are reading proficiently.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that’s a dramatic improvement from just a few years ago, when only a third of them were reading at or above grade level. As research mounts that third grade is a benchmark for future success, literacy has become a rally cry for elected leaders and community groups trying to turn around Kansas City’s public schools.

At Garfield Elementary in the Historic Northeast, AmeriCorps volunteers meet daily with reluctant third grade readers.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The Missouri State Board of Education acted Tuesday on two major pieces of education business in the Kansas City.

First, the Board decided to keep the Kansas City district and the Hickman Mills School District provisionally accredited. Both districts had lobbied the state hard to move up to full accreditation, but both fell below expectations on the last round the state standardized tests. Because the test and the way it was given changed from the previous year, the state had already decided to "hold harmless" districts that did not meet standards.

Kansas City Public Schools

What should you do if you're caught in an 'active shooter' situation? That question has received a lot of attention in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks this month that killed 130 people.

Prominent security officials like New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton have said organizations like his are undergoing a 'very significant change' in how they approach such situations, trying to more actively fight such shooters instead of negotiating. 

It is still unknown what the impact of the landmark Gannon school finance case will be, since the Kansas Supreme Court won't ultimately decide on it until sometime next year. 

What is clearer now, though, is the state's stance on what role the Court should play in determining funding for Kansas public education. In short, the state thinks the Court has no role. Briefs filed in Gannon Monday by the state essentially tell the Court to stay out of its legislative business. 

Patrick McKay / Flickr -- CC

While the Gannon school funding case now before the Kansas Supreme Court has garnered most of the attention, there's another school finance case out there and that one has gone all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case, known as Petrella, was filed by parents in the Shawnee Mission School District in 2010 against the state. The parents argue the district should be able to raise unlimited local tax money to pay for education. The state right now caps how much money can be spent locally as a way to equalize education for all Kansas kids.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Kansas City Public Schools says its making plans to move its headquarters from downtown. 

Moving the district headquarters from 12th Street and McGee was something called for in the master plan released two weeks ago.

In an email sent to parents and staff, the district says its entered into a sales contract with the Nazarene Publishing House to buy several buildings at 29th and Troost.

Here's the email:

In a time when the internet and computers have drastically changed the way the world works, many classrooms look just as they did 25 years ago. But that is changing as artificially intelligent software that adapts to a student's learning level begins to appear in schools.

Guests:

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Leaders of the Student Senate at the University of Kansas made the case to keep their jobs Wednesday night, but the impeachment process is now underway.

The turmoil is in response to claims of racism and discrimination at KU. The Executive Committee of the Senate called for the president, vice president and chief of staff to resign or face possible impeachment.

Student Body President Jessie Pringle told the Senate that she would stay in her post.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Just a week after being served with a sixth federal grand jury subpoena, the embattled St. Joseph School District gave interim Superintendent Robert Newhart a vote of confidence by tacking two years onto his contract Monday night.

In addition to a little more job security and more money, the board of education also decided to drop interim from his title.

Newhart will continue to make his current salary of $174,500 through June 2017. His pay could then go as high as $181,480 for the 2017-2018 school year depending on how big a raise the board wants to give him.

The governing body that represents all University of Kansas faculty, staff and students will be considering how to respond to claims of racism and discrimination at KU. The University Senate Executive Committee will look at changes to make the campus more inclusive.

Michael Williams is a journalism professor at KU and president of the University Senate. He says they take the concerns over racism and discrimination seriously. At the meeting, they’ll be ready to hear suggestions from student and faculty, and they’re going to be making some suggestions of their own.

Alyson Raletz / KCUR

These days, it’s hard to find someone who has stayed at one job longer than a decade. For many, exciting opportunities draw them to different companies and new careers.

But for Wendy Guillies, the last 15 years with the Kauffman Foundation have been anything but boring.

Kansas Supreme Court

While public schools in Kansas deal with frozen budgets and lawmakers prepare for another session dominated by fights over school funding, there is a small group of people profiting: lawyers representing the state and school districts in the case now before thes Kansas Supreme Court.

The Gannon case was filed in 2010 and since then both sides have incurred a total of more than $5.5 million in attorney fees, as well as travel, expert witness and lobbying costs.

Courtesy photo / Kauffman School

Education insiders in Kansas City have been closely watching the Ewing Marion Kauffman School  ever since it started in 2011.

Now, the rest of Missouri may perk up. 

This week, the Missouri Charter Public School Association named Kauffman its Missouri Charter School of the Year, citing its "strong academic performance," "innovative professional development" and "daily efforts to build community and engage parents." 

University of Missouri System

The University of Missouri Board of Curators announced Thursday that Michael Middleton will serve as interim president of the UM System.

Middleton served as the deputy chancellor of MU for 17 years before retiring in August. He was appointed by the Missouri Supreme Court last month to co-chair the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in state courts. He also served as a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.

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