Elle Moxley

Missouri Schools Reporter

Elle joined KCUR in 2014 as a general assignment reporter. She covered the 2016 election in Kansas as part of a political reporting partnership with NPR. Today, she covers Missouri schools and politics.

Before coming to KCUR, Elle covered Indiana education policy for NPR’s StateImpact project. Her work covering Indiana’s exit from the Common Core was nationally recognized with an Edward R. Murrow award.

Elle has also reported for The Examiner in Independence, Missouri, and KBIA-FM in Columbia, Missouri. She is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

Ways to Connect

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Updated, 4:56 p.m. Tuesday: There won't be a decision this week on a new terminal proposed for Kansas City International Airport.

Instead, the four teams that submitted proposals to build a single terminal KCI are being asked to answer four additional questions by Friday, when the airport selection committee reconvenes.

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

The Missouri State Board of Education on Tuesday advanced what’s been characterized as a “skinny” plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

Better known as ESSA, the Obama-era reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act replaces the controversial No Child Left Behind Act as the law governing school accountability. Among other things, ESSA outlines how federal Title I dollars should be distributed to schools with large populations of students living in poverty.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

At 8:55 a.m., five minutes before school was supposed to start Monday, the line of parents trying to enroll their kids at Banneker Elementary was out the front door.

“We’re 140 students over our enrollment, which is a good problem to have,” Principal Harrison Neal says, walking a preschooler to her classroom. “We were projected at 333 students. We’re currently at 462.”

Then he’s back on his walkie-talkie to ask how many students are still at breakfast.

Pixabay - CC

From a targeted shooting in Olathe to the president's so-called "travel ban," tensions over race, culture and religion are high. Today, we delve into two experiences in the Muslim community and learn what living in Trump's America has been like for Islamic people.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Public Schools will need community-wide support to improve student achievement – that’s the crux of a strategic plan the Board of Education approved Wednesday night.

Unlike the district’s controversial master plan, which divided the school board and angered parents and teachers before it ultimately passed in 2016, the strategic plan doesn’t change boundaries or close buildings.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

As they carry donated food out of Great Western Bank in Shawnee, Kansas, five teenage boys boast about whose load is heaviest.

One flexes. “Them’s cannons right there!”

Another snorts. “I’m stronger than – ”

“Yeah, right,” interrupts Will Anderson, their mentor. On this last day of an intensive two-week summer program, he’s driven junior members of the Urban Ranger Corps across town to pick up donations for the food pantry at Covenant Presbyterian Church. Anderson jiggles the van keys. “Let’s go.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Outgoing University of Missouri-Kansas City Chancellor Leo Morton will be leaving earlier than expected, UM System President Mun Choi announced Wednesday.

In May, Morton, who has led UMKC since 2008, announced his intention to retire in spring 2018. But on Tuesday, Morton told Choi he would leave in October. Morton has been offered a job as chief operating officer at Kansas City-based DeBruce Companies.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Burns & McDonnell will employ the first ten graduates of a new career and technical education program on the Kansas City International Airport project – if the city council selects their proposal, that is.

At a symposium for minority-owned businesses on Tuesday, the local engineering firm announced a new partnership with Kansas City Public Schools’ Manual Career and Technical Center to overhaul the construction trades curriculum to focus on commercial rather than residential building.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Ladarius Long is checking out the new eighth grade area at KIPP Endeavor Academy, the East Side charter school he has attended for the last two years.

“We’re looking real good today,” he says approvingly. “We’ve got more room. We’ve got tables, lockers – ” Ladarius points to the one he wants “ – but anyway, I just like the setup now.”

Elle Moxley / 89.3

The halls of DeLaSalle Education Center are quiet – for now.

“It’s a silence that will go away in about two weeks – and that’s a good thing,” Mark Williamson, the school’s executive director, says.

DeLaSalle, a charter school at 3737 Troost Avenue, only serves kids at risk of dropping out.

“If you’re on grade level, if you’re well-adjusted – or as well-adjusted as a teenager can be – this isn’t the place for you,” Williamson says bluntly.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

A new constitutional amendment requires Missourians show photo ID when they cast a ballot.

That means if you want to vote in Tuesday’s special election, you’ll need to take your ID into your polling place.

Here’s what you need to know.

I’m registered to vote, and I have a current driver’s license.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

The morning he was due in federal court to give a deposition in an ongoing voter registration case, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach tweeted his support for President Trump’s proposal to curb legal immigration.

Trump announced Tuesday a plan to limit legal immigration to highly skilled workers able to pay their own way. Kobach, who is the vice chair of a White House commission on election integrity, praised the president for placing the interests of Americans ahead of “the aliens.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Public Schools Board of Education is preparing to take a public stance on the rapid expansion of charters. 

"We recognize as a board the need to create one voice around schools of choice or charters in Kansas City," said Jennifer Wolfsie, kicking off the conversation at the board’s executive session Wednesday evening.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Missouri Department of Transportation engineers are warning policymakers that inadequate infrastructure funding could close bridges and snarl traffic in the Kansas City area.

“If a road degrades slightly, you can still drive on it. If a bridge is weight-posted, you can’t drive a heavy load on it,” says MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna. “That really disconnects communities all across the state.”

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

A 35-year-old man died overnight Thursday after being restrained to a chair at the Jackson County Detention Center.

The man was brought in on a parole violation around 11 p.m. According to Jackson County spokeswoman Marshanna Hester, he was evaluated by a nurse at intake.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

There are fewer high school age students enrolled in public schools in Kansas City than there are in the elementary grades.

But while charter operators say there aren’t enough high school options, Kansas City Public Schools officials argue there are too many.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Public Schools is pushing hard to get students enrolled before school starts Aug. 14.

Director of Enrollment Garrett Webster says that in the past, some schools have had 100 kids just show up on the first day.

But an email announcing the enrollment fairs suggests that their purpose is not simply to welcome new students to the district.

“We're encouraging families to do the right thing for their children's education by coming back to KCPS,” it reads.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Public Schools is considering reopening Lincoln Middle School in an ongoing effort to attract families back to the district.

The middle school closed in 2010, but as Lincoln College Preparatory Academy consistently tops U.S. News and World Report’s list of best high schools, it has become a destination for middle-class families whose kids attended West Side charters for elementary school.

Courtesy of Port KC

As 410 luxury apartments go up along the riverfront, Port KC wants to rebrand Berkley Park.

CEO Michael Collins says Port KC wants the south bank of the Missouri River to be all of Kansas City’s front yard, not just those who move into the mixed-use development when it opens next year.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

“Let’s go divas, let’s go!” the girls chant, before dissolving into giggles.

On the last day of a Kansas City Public Schools-sponsored summer camp, students cheer on their friends in an engineering challenge.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Growing up, Kansas City Mayor Sly James had to wait for his younger brothers to go to bed before he could read.

“I would sit on the attic steps with a flashlight and read Doc Savage books,” James said Tuesday as he accepted an All-American City Award for his efforts to promote reading. “It was my ritual.”

The mayor was appalled to learn in 2011 that only 33.8 percent of Kansas City students could read proficiently by third grade.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

A few years ago, Missouri’s suspension rate was the highest in the nation for young black students – an unfortunate distinction that forced Kansas City Public Schools to rethink discipline.

The district did away with automatic suspensions for a lot of less serious violations. This year, KCPS issued 31 percent fewer out of school suspensions to kids in kindergarten through third grade.

Courtesy Graves Garrett

Late Monday night, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens withdrew the names of two individuals he’d appointed to the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners.

There are currently three vacancies on the board. Nathan Garrett and Bishop Mark Tolbert were to be sworn in Tuesday to replace Commissioners Angela Wasson-Hunt and Michael Rader. Al Brooks, a longtime police commissioner, resigned last month because he did not think the governor would reappoint him.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft is confident the state's new voter ID law won’t disenfranchise anyone.

“I’ve spent over 70,000 miles traveling the state over the last two years, and I’ve challenged anyone to point to someone that can’t vote under this law that would’ve been able to vote under the prior law,” says Ashcroft, who was in Blue Springs Tuesday morning to explain how the law has changed. “No one’s been able to find someone.”

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Longtime civil rights activist Alvin Brooks is stepping down as a Kansas City Police Commissioner so he can serve on the Hickman Mills Board of Education.  

Brooks, 85, says it was time. His term is about to expire, and he doesn’t think Republican Gov. Eric Greitens will reappoint him.

Missouri Department of Transportation / Flickr--CC

Harrisonville, Missouri, has too many special taxing districts – and according to Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway, they’re not generating enough revenue to pay for the projects they were created to fund.

“Overall, my team found a city that has overextended itself and overcommitted on a number of special taxing district projects across the city,” Galloway says.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Starting in the 1990s, Hickman Mills became a forgotten community. Middle-income families moved out. Blight moved in. Drive through the neighborhoods today and the symbols of disinvestment are everywhere – gutters falling off houses, trash in yards, payday loan shops where stores used to be.

“It’s just strictly rental there now and nobody takes care of the yards. Nobody trims the trees. Nobody looks out for the other person,” says Jerry Porterfield, a longtime landlord in the area.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Brenda Thomas and her husband bought their house in Marlborough the 1990s because they wanted to send their daughter to a magnet program in Kansas City Public Schools.

“We’re a well-kept secret,” Thomas says matter-of-factly. “We’re south town, but not all the way to 95th Street or Bannister. We have quite a few historic homes here in our area.”

But after Thomas’ daughter graduated from high school, the neighborhood began to change. As older homeowners died, investors bought the properties – and renters moved in.  

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Principal Anthony Madry stands in a noisy hallway at Central Academy of Excellence, greeting students.

“Good morning, good morning, good morning,” Madry says, fist bumping students as they pass. “Hey are we good?”

The student nods. “Yeah.”

Madry points to a young woman. “That’s Emily. Emily’s one of the best kids I have in this school. She’s one of my favorites. Don’t blush, please don’t blush.

“You try to learn most of the kids’ names, the reason being that’s the most honorable thing you can do,” Madry says.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Whenever she takes people out on her boat, Vicki Richmond from the Healthy Rivers Partnership likes to ask if they know where their drinking water comes from.

“You’d be amazed how many people don’t know it’s the Missouri River,” says Richmond as members of the media clamber aboard. For Drinking Water Week, the Kansas City Water Department arranged to have Richmond show us the Missouri River.

(This reporter would like to state, for the record, she knew before today where our drinking water came from.)

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