Education

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

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There's another shakeup at the University of Missouri. On Monday afternoon, R. Bowen Loftin, the chancellor for the Columbia campus, announced he would move to a new role at the end of the year.

The day started with UM system President Tim Wolfe resigning. Members of the student activist group Concerned Student 1950 had been protesting Wolfe for weeks after a number of racially charged incidents on the Columbia campus.

After months of racial tension on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia and an escalation in faculty and student protests, including a hunger strike and a boycott by football players, Tim Wolfe, University of Missouri System president, resigned Monday morning.

University of Missouri

Updated, 11:23 a.m., with comments from Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.

University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe resigned Monday amid  criticism of his response to racial tension on the University of Missouri-Columbia campus.

His resignation is effective immediately.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

No matter how deep in the weeds you go on the current school funding case before the Kansas Supreme Court; whether you're talking assessed valuation per pupil (AVPP) or local option budget (LOB) the case seems to come back to block grant funding passed last session by the Legislature.

Kansas Supreme Court

On Friday morning, the Kansas Supreme Court hears arguments in a school funding case that's gone on for years and could lead to the Legislature being ordered to spend hundreds of millions of dollars more on public education.

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about the case, and some of the history.

I can't remember a time when there wasn't a school funding court case in Kansas. Why is that?

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

After 18 months of study Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) released its master plan Wednesday night in a long and contentious board meeting.

The plan covers which buildings will be closed, an overhaul of the transportation system, a plan for year-round class for low-performing elementary schools and the rejuvenation of high school extracurricular activities with an emphasis on sports.

The district says about 2,000 children, 15 percent of the district, would feel the change of school closing and the resulting boundary changes.

Kansas Board of Regents

In 18 months, almost anyone will be able to carry a concealed gun on a Kansas public university campus but the Board of Regents is already working on new safety procedures.

Later this month, the Regents Governance Committee will meet in Wichita to discuss a draft policy on weapons possession that was just released. Regents spokesperson Breeze Richardson says the Board hopes to vote on the new policy at its December meeting.

City of Kansas City, Missouri

Update, 4:10 pm. Kansas City Public Schools have now announced they will in fact be closed tomorrow. The administration had previously announced schools would be open.

Almost all metro schools will be closed Tuesday because of the Royals victory parade starting at noon.

The districts say they were more worried about absent teachers rather than absent students.

For many school districts, and many private schools, the lack of staff was one of the main reasons they are closing.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) is getting ready to release its master plan, and it will almost certainly call for closing some schools and possibly cutting jobs.

In a news release, the district says the goal of the master plan is to ensure that limited resources are being used as effectively as possible.

What that means is that there is a very good chance the some buildings will be closed, boundaries will be moved and that some jobs will be lost. Attrition is more likely than layoffs.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

For decades, cities in Johnson County have quietly used tax increment financing  — or TIF — to lure development.

And for decades, politically, that’s not been questioned.

But TIFs, it turns out, are becoming more contentious in Johnson County, especially in the Shawnee Mission School District. 

"... That dialog has entirely changed recently, in the last year and a half or so, as a result of the preponderance of TIFs,"  says Jim Hinson, the district's superintendent.

Hinson is worried about TIFs for a couple of reasons.

knittymarie / Flickr-CC

Educators behind two proposed elementary charter schools in midtown Kansas City are eagerly awaiting approval next week by the Missouri State Board of Education.

The Midtown Community School Initiative approached Citizens of the World Charter Schools last year in hopes of opening two schools in Kansas City. CWC operates charters in New York and Los Angeles. They hope to open the Kansas City schools next fall.

Cody Newill / KCUR

Updated 9:05 a.m. Monday:

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) representatives say school districts were given ample time to prepare for online science testing that caused big drops in annual performance points for the Hickman Mills School District.

Sarah Potter with DESE's communications department says the district had years to get students ready for the switch.

"Districts were notified in 2010 that all state assessments would go online by 2015," Potter said. "That gave districts time to direct budgets toward technology and also prepare students with 21st century computing skills. At the end of the day, it's up to districts to help students prepare for any state test."

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

In the stilted nomenclature of Topeka politics, it's called the Special Committee on K-12 Student Success. While that sounds innocuous enough, this panel of 15 lawmakers — meeting for the first time Friday — could prove to be a major force in the roiling battle over the future of school spending in the state. 

"We are the eyes and ears of the House and Senate," says Rep. Ron Highland, a Wamego Republican who serves as the committee chair. "We will go back to our respective chambers and tell them, 'These are the things we've found.'" 

Sam Zeff / KCUR

This story was updated at 9:35 pm

An email to faculty and staff in the Olathe School District has prompted a bitter back-and-forth between the state legislator who authored it and the board of education. It has also triggered suggestions of illegal use of email and a possible Kansas Open Meetings Act violation.

Crossroads Academy

One of the more successful charter schools in Kansas City says it plans to open a second campus in time for the next school year.

Crossroads Academy is on Central Street just around the corner from the main branch of the Kansas City Public Library.

It opened in 2012, has doubled in size since that time and now educates about 350 students.

Executive Director Dean Johnson says the school will look for a building to buy downtown that will eventually serve about 400 students in  kindergarten through eighth grades.

Missouri Auditor's Office

The social security numbers and other personal information of almost 1.5 million current and former Missouri public school students are in jeopardy, according to a state audit released Wednesday.

Jane McQueeny, Director of the Office of Institutional Opportunity & Access (IOA) at the University of Kansas, has resigned.

McQueeny has been the face of the university’s response to an increase in the number of sexual assault and discrimination complaints under the federal Title IX law. The increase does not necessarily mean an increase in the incidence of cases, but an increase in reporting. In the past, McQueeny has said higher numbers of complaints is a good thing because it means more people are coming forward.

“Jane was first person to head the newly-created Title IX office in 2012,” said Erin Barcomb-Peterson, with the KU Office of Public Affairs. “She spearheaded the role of the university’s response to sex discrimination complaints.”

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Most people know by now that it's pretty hard for women to land a high-tech job.

In fact, while 57 percent of all professional jobs are held by women in the United States, only 26 percent of computing jobs go to women, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

But, it turns out, landing that high paying tech job is even harder for women who go to Midwestern universities.

bigstock.com

Missouri is in the process of rewriting the learning standards that govern the academic expectations for students in the state. Later this month, the Missouri State Board of Education will meet to review the drafts of revised standards that were submitted to the state by working groups made up of educators and parents.

"We’re  optimistic that we’re going to have some very good standards, better than the ones we’ve had before," says Sarah Potter with the Missouri State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

Emory Maiden / Flickr--CC

You might be surprised to hear it, but the Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) says it's in a funding crisis that has had a "crippling" effect on everything from class size to property values in the district.

The surprising admission comes in a friend-of-the- court brief the district filed with the Kansas Supreme Court in the pending school finance case.

AFGE / Flickr--CC

For the past seven years, Randi Weingarten has led the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers' unions in the United States. 

In an interview with KCUR, she discussed what may be behind the persistent teacher shortages in Kansas, the politically tinged process to rewrite Missouri's learning standards and a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court that could forever alter how unions like hers do business. 

Rough Tough, Real Stuff / Flickr--CC

 

The University of Kansas has received an $8.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help low-income and first-generation students finish college.

KU is just one of 11 universities that are part of the grant, aimed at increasing college retention.

The money will be used for research.

“The end game is to ensure the students by the end of the study, are on track to complete a degree in four years," says Randall Brumfield, director of KU’s undergraduate advising center. 

  MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announced Thursday that the University of Missouri will soon require faculty and new students to go through diversity and inclusion training.

His announcement came following an incident of racism that occurred during the early hours of the morning on October 5. The Legion of Black Collegians homecoming royalty court was practicing a performance at Traditions Plaza when a racial slur was yelled at them.

Liz / Wikimedia Commons

Kansas has an unusually high number of teacher vacancies this year.

Some 317 teacher vacancies were reported across the state last month, according to a Kansas State Department of Education report.

Officials said that’s at least 100 more than normal for this time of year.

Special education teachers are needed most, according to the report. There are 46 openings around the state, with many in southwest Kansas where teachers with special language skills are needed for a large population of Spanish speakers, which are always difficult to fill.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

At an unusual early morning meeting Wednesday, the Shawnee Mission School District board decided to allow a tax increment financing (TIF) project to move forward.

The school board could have vetoed the plan to redevelop the old Meadowbrook County Club at 91st Street and Nall Avenue in Prairie Village. Most of the 133-acre property, about two-thirds, would be turned into a park operated by Johnson County. The rest would be redeveloped into single family homes, a senior living center and a small hotel.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The Kansas State Department of Education is moving full speed ahead towards its goal of perhaps drastically changing what is taught in public schools.

The department's top two officials brought their case to Johnson County educators and a few lawmakers Tuesday at the Olathe School District headquarters.

"Can we reinvent ourselves and hold on to what we have always done," asked Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson who took over KSDE in July.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

What should a successful 24-year-old know?

That’s the question top Kansas education officials are debating after a tour of the state this summer.

But asking is the easy part. The difficulty comes in figuring out how to actually teach some of the skills.

It's a discussion that could forever change education in Kansas and that conversation comes to Olathe Tuesday morning.

First, know this: the discussion in Kansas is far loftier than how to teach math or reading. It’s at the 50,000 foot level — maybe even 100,000.

Liz / Wikimedia Commons

We’re a month away from a Kansas Supreme Court showdown on whether the state is providing enough money for public schools.

The final briefs in this part of the case were filed Friday.

The arguments from the school districts and the state haven’t changed much over the years.

The school district plaintiffs, including the Kansas City, Kansas School District, say the state needs to provide more money to make sure all Kansas kids get an equal education.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

The University of Missouri-Kansas City has exceeded a $250 million fundraising goal, a year early.

“Ladies and gentleman, we are already there,” Chancellor Leo Morton announced Thursday. “The campaign for UMKC has exceeded its goal and has done so a full year of schedule.”

But Morton added the university wouldn’t be calling it quits.

“Just because the goal has been reached, the campaign is not over,” Morton said. “We’re not done yet.”

Sam Zeff / KCUR

In a few weeks, Kansas City Public Schools will have a brand new and unusual educational partner.

The district expects to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Mexican Consulate in Kansas City to provide an array of services to Mexican students and their families in the district. 

About 25 percent of the district’s students are Spanish speakers and most of them have Mexican roots.

"We have children here who have come to this country at no choice of their own. This was a parent choice," says Luis Cordoba who runs the district’s Office of Student Interventions.

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