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

Photo courtesy of the JO

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority will take over management of the JO in early 2015, the Johnson County Commissioners agreed Thursday.

Dick Jarrold, vice president of regional planning for KCATA, says the consolidation shouldn't impact riders because routes and schedules won't change.

"Johnson County will still be making all policy and budget decisions, so for the customer, they won't see an immediate change," says Jarrold.

A 28-year-old Kansas City man has been charged in connection with the vandalism of Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II's Kansas City office earlier this month.

The U.S. Attorney' Office for the Western District of Missouri filed criminal charges against Eric G. King Wednesday. King allegedly threw a hammer through the window of the congressman's office and attempted to throw two Molotov cocktails through the broken window in the early morning hours of Sept. 11.

No fire damage was reported, and no one was in the office at the time.

Brandon Burke / Flickr--CC

A three-member panel of the National Labor Relations Board says Kansas City-based Gates & Sons Barbeque engaged in an unfair labor practice after workers participated in strike last summer.

According to the complaint, which was filed by the Workers' Organizing Committee on the employees' behalf, about a quarter of the Main Street restaurant's workforce informed their supervisor they planned to strike on July 30, 2013, and return to work the next day. The strike was part of an organized effort among Kansas City fast-food workers to ask for higher wages.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

A group of Kansas City women clergy called for healing in Ferguson, Mo., during an interfaith service and prayer vigil Tuesday night.

Volunteers with the faith-based Communities Creating Opportunity went to Ferguson last month after the fatal police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown to help register voters and train community leaders.

"The African Methodist Episcopal Church has as a part of its motto that we are a liberating and reconciling church," says Rev. Betty Hanna-Witherspoon, whose church hosted the service. "So we are more involved in justice activities."

State of Missouri

Updated, 3:45 p.m. Monday:

Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro is retiring at the end of the year, according to a statement out Monday from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Nicastro has led DESE since 2009. During her tenure, the department oversaw the first transfers under a Missouri law that allows students from unaccredited school districts to leave for neighboring accredited districts.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

How do you get 18 tigers, 20 horses, 16 poodles and a half-dozen Asian elephants to downtown Kansas City, Mo.?

By circus train, of course.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Assistant Animal Superintendent Ryan Henning says the logistics of bringing so many animals to town are almost as interesting as the show itself.

Henning answered a few of our questions while showing us around the temporary horse enclosures at the Sprint Center.

How do you get that many animals to town?

Elle Moxley / KCUR

City officials hope nine new soccer fields in Kansas City's urban core can make Swope Park a destination for youth sports.

"So many of these venues are out in the suburban areas as you get over in western Wyandotte County or Overland Park or southeast of here, but you're in the heart of the city right here," says Parks Director Mark McHenry.

Ground crews spent Thursday putting the finishing touches on the new Swope Soccer Village at 63rd Street and Lewis Road. McHenry reaches down and scoops little rubber pieces from the synthetic grass.

Law enforcement officials are investigating after someone threw two bottles through a window at Rep. Emanuel Cleaver's Kansas City, Mo., office early Thursday morning.

The bottles resembled Molotov cocktails, but they did not ignite and did not cause damage other than the broken window.

John Jones, Cleaver's chief of staff, said in a statement it's the second time something like this has happened in the past three years.

J.S. Clark / Flickr--CC

The developer who wants to rehab Kemper Arena and turn it into a youth sports complex made a pitch for his company's plan to a downtown lunch club Wednesday afternoon.

Steve Foutch told the Kansas City Downtowners it's possible city council members could move forward with a plan that both preserves Kemper and gives the American Royal the new arena it wants.

"Our designs show both buildings can co-exist in the location," Foutch says. "It's all about the logistics of the operation."

Elle Moxley / KCUR

If your morning commute takes you through Merriam, Kan., expect delays Wednesday as IKEA opens and draws additional traffic to the area.

Merriam Police will be routing customers in along Johnson Drive and out on Shawnee Mission Parkway for the next several days, which will likely slow traffic along both roads and Interstate 35.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Swedish furniture retailer IKEA opens in Merriam, Kan., at 9 a.m. Wednesday, and a line has been forming outside of the store since Monday.

IKEA's promotion for the grand opening includes giving away free furniture to people who start standing in line up to 48 hours in advance of the opening. The first 40 people in line will get a free couch worth $399, the next 100 people will get a $69 chair. On Thursday, the second day the store will be open to the public, IKEA will give the first 40 people a $299 mattress and the next 100 people $59 towards home delivery.

Updated, 2:03 p.m. Tuesday:

The Kansas City Police Department says two more people have died after last week's crime spree in South Kansas City, Mo., bringing the total number of victims to five.

The police department tweeted that Ann Taylor, 86, and George Taylor, 80, died Tuesday of injuries allegedly sustained when Brandon B. Howell, 34, broke into their home.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Sly James and other city officials gathered near 44th Street and Montgall Avenue Tuesday morning to blast gun legislation state lawmakers will consider in Jefferson City on Wednesday.

Missouri legislators already approved a package of gun law changes that would let 19-year-olds obtain concealed carry permits, bar cities from enacting open carry ordinances and allow school districts to arm designated classroom teachers.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

This year on Central Standard, we'll be following three teenagers through their senior year of high school, from the beginning of the year through graduation in May, 2015.

Harold Burgos: High school and college at the same time

Age: 17

School: Ruskin High School, Hickman Mills School District, Kansas City, Mo.

Updated, 6:01 p.m. Thursday: 

Police began releasing occupants of buildings at Johnson County Community College one by one Thursday evening after a campus-wide lockdown.

The original post continues below.

Overland Park Police Department officers helped search the campus after JCCC police received reports of a suspicious person with a weapon.

At 4:30 p.m., the Kansas college tweeted that police had ordered a full campus lockdown.

Wikimedia Commons -- CC

A Wednesday shake-up in Kansas politics even has seasoned pundits amazed. 

Chad Taylor, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate, has withdrawn from the race, leaving Kansas Republican Pat Roberts facing his toughest political test in decades.

Steve Kraske, host of Up To Date on KCUR and Kansas City Star political commentator, says the change spells bad news for the incumbent.

"Pat Roberts is suddenly in very deep trouble in Kansas," Kraske says. "His polling numbers have not been good. He was ahead only because he was in a three-way contest."

Elle Moxley / KCur

Update, 3:24 p.m. Wednesday: 

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has announced three first degree murder charges against Brandon B. Howell, 34, in Tuesday's triple homicide.

Peters Baker also charged Howell with two counts of assault in the first degree for causing serious injury to George and Anna Taylor.

Howell faces four additional counts of armed criminal action, one count of burglary in the first degree, one count of stealing a motor vehicle and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Kansas City faith leaders are calling on Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to halt an execution scheduled for next week.

A dozen religious leaders met Tuesday to deliver a letter to Nixon's downtown Kansas City office asking for a meeting with the governor to discuss a moratorium on the death penalty in Missouri.

"Each time the state of Missouri executes, whether the person is guilty or innocent, I am made a murderer, just like any other, and my faith convicts me to say no," says retired United Church of Christ minister Jane Fisler Hoffman, the organizer of the event.

John Reiger / FC Kansas City

Move over, Royals – there's another local team that's hot right now.

Women's soccer club FC Kansas City will play the Seattle Reign at 2 p.m. CST Sunday in the National Women's Soccer League championship after beating the Portland Thorns last weekend in the semi-finals.

"We got knocked out early last year in the semi-finals at home against Portland, so we avenged that loss," says Scott Levinson, vice president of business operations. "The whole goal and mission for the team this year was to finish what we started last year, which is win a championship."

Elle Moxley / KCUR

About 150 University of Missouri-Kansas City students marched across campus Thursday evening chanting "hands up, don't shoot" to show support for the unarmed teenager killed by police in Ferguson, Mo., earlier this month.

Seniors Danielle McFadden and Carly Jones organized the event, called "I am Michael Brown," to start a conversation at UMKC about police militarization and racially-motivated violence.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill says after what happened in Ferguson, Mo., more law enforcement agencies should be equipped with body-mounted cameras.

"I believe with today's technology, body cams on police officers not only protect members of the community from somebody who might be overreacting, but it really protects police officers, also," says McCaskill, who was in town Wednesday visiting a Kansas City manufacturing company.

McCaskill says she would support legislation requiring the cameras for all police departments that receive federal funding.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill toured a Kansas City manufacturing company Wednesday before calling on Congress to reauthorize the United States Export-Import Bank.

The bank helps finance and insure overseas purchases of American-made goods.

According to McCaskill, 96 Missouri companies currently use the Export-Import Bank, including Western Forms. The Kansas City company sells aluminum molds to pour concrete houses and does about half of its business abroad.

Fewer violent crimes were reported in Kansas City, Mo., in the first half of 2014, down 7 percent compared to the same time last year.

"For example, homicides, we've had 42 this year, which is way too many," says Kansas City Police Captain Tye Grant. "But year-to-date, that's in comparison to 67 last year."

Mayor Sly James tweeted a copy of the police department's monthly crime summary Tuesday, calling the drop "good news" for Kansas City.

Kansas students' scores on the ACT edged up slightly this year, with the statewide average outpacing scores nationally by about a point.

Missouri ACT scores also went up in 2014.

But even though the number of high school graduates who are ready for college has increased in recent years, less than a third of students in either state reached college benchmarks in the four subjects measured by the test.

Elle Moxley
KCUR

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran on Tuesday helped celebrate the opening of a new patient tower and emergency department at Overland Park Regional Medical Center.

The Kansas Republican, from Manhattan, Kan., praised local leaders for coming together to complete the project. He then took a jab at Congress' inability to do the same.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

A popular frozen custard shop in Kansas City, Mo., could close after an outside real estate company didn't renew its lease for its Brookside location.

Foo's Fabulous Frozen Custard has been in the same storefront on Brookside Plaza for more than two decades. But owner Betty Bremser learned last week that First Washington Realty Inc. in Bethesda, Md., the company that owns much of the neighborhood shopping district, didn't plan to renew her lease at the end of this month.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Hundreds of Kansas Citians gathered at the J.C. Nichols fountain on the Country Club Plaza Thursday night to protest the shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old near St. Louis over the weekend.

The rally was one of dozens scheduled as part of the National Moment of Silence, a movement encouraging people to assemble peacefully to protest police brutality against Mike Brown and others.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

For years, district schools, charter schools and private schools have all competed for students in Kansas City, Mo.

This fragmented education system is a result of years of mistrust between district residents and the struggling Kansas City Public Schools.

Now the district is provisionally accredited and pushing back against its reputation. It's launching new initiatives in hopes of winning families back.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

This spring Kansas students will take a new standardized test aligned to the nationally crafted Common Core standards.

The test is for Kansas children only – last year state education officials dropped a plan to use the same test as 20 other states. Instead, Kansas is using a new exam, in development now at the University of Kansas.

"So ksassessments.org is where you’re going to find everything we’re working on," says Marianne Perie, director of the Center for Education Testing and Evaluation.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

This week, as most metro-area students head back to class, there's a fair amount of uncertainty for Missouri teachers who aren't sure what changes, if any, are coming to the Common Core academic standards they've been using for the past four years.

Elected officials have until October to name their picks for committees to review the state's academic standards. And depending on those committees' feedback, Missouri could have all-new standards in two years.

Or, schools could be given very similar expectations to the Common Core.

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