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

wikimedia commons

Of all the possible plans for Kemper Arena, the one that changes the building the least is also the least viable for the city.

"Doing nothing doesn't seem to work for anybody," Kansas City Councilman Ed Ford told members of the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee Thursday morning, kicking off a series of meetings to discuss Kemper's future.

Missouri parents and educators will take a closer look at academic standards as a result of legislation Gov. Jay Nixon signed Monday in what could be the state's first step away from Common Core.

An earlier version of the bill would have barred Missouri schools from implementing the Common Core. But now the state will use the nationally-crafted math and English language arts standards for at least two more years.

Cle0patra / Flickr-CC

The Douglas County clerk says his office will offer financial assistance to residents who need an out-of-state birth certificate to prove their citizenship and comply with Kansas' voter identification law.

County Clerk Jamie Shew says the current law creates two classes of Kansans: Those who were born in-state and can get a free birth certificate, and those who were born out-of-state and must pay to get a birth certificate.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

There are roughly 2,300 child care providers in Missouri that don't have to follow any kind of health and safety regulations – a huge problem for parents trying to find suitable day care for their children.

"There are some folks out there who, either through negligence or circumstance, should not be in the business of providing child care," says Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, "and there's very little to stop them from setting up a sign,  throwing a swing set out back and calling themselves a childcare provider."

Neighborhood Centers Inc. / Flickr--CC

The Missouri Department of Higher Education is opening up a community college scholarship program to young adults who were brought to the United States illegally as children.

That means students who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, will be able to trade tutoring hours for two years of tuition reimbursement through the A+ Scholarship Program. 

The deferred action program is tied to an Obama administration initiative that started in 2012. 

biologycorner / Flickr--CC

The Kansas State Board of Education agreed Tuesday to throw out data from this year's math and reading exams after hackers disrupted the spring standardized tests.

The decision means the state won't be issuing school report cards this fall.

"We just didn't have faith that the data were going to give an accurate picture of where the students in Kansas are in relation to the new cognitive standards," says Mariane Perie, director of the Center for Education Testing and Evaluation at the University of Kansas. 

Neerav Bhatt / Flickr--CC

The Overland Park City Council will vote Monday night on a pair of plans to bring Google Fiber to the Kansas suburb, months after striking a preliminary deal.

Google Fiber walked away from that discussion after several council members asked about liability for city-owned utilities such as light poles, even though they ultimately wanted to approve the plan. 

That shouldn't be a problem moving forward, says Councilman Paul Lyons.

Anthony Cramp / Wikimedia--CC

For municipalities that allow fireworks sales, July 4 is a way to rake in the revenue.

Let's start with the cost of doing business.

"The permit fee for a fireworks tent is $1,000," says Spring Hill, Kan., city administrator Jonathan Roberts.

Fireworks are banned in most of Johnson County. But in recent years, Spring Hill, De Soto and Edgerton have decided to allow fireworks within city limits.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

If current forecasts hold, the Missouri River should fall below flood stage late Friday.

For weeks, the Army Corps of Engineers has been monitoring a stretch of the Missouri between Rulo, Nebraska, and Leavenworth, Kansas, after heavy rains fell upstream in South Dakota and Iowa.

On Thursday, though the river remained above flood stage in St. Joseph, Kansas City District Chief of Emergency Management Jud Kneuvean says the metro has been relatively fortunate.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Missouri lawmakers want to put a stop to economic incentives for businesses who move across the state line from Kansas.

But the legislation Gov. Jay Nixon signed into law Tuesday only goes into effect if Kansas agrees to a similar measure to end what's commonly known as the "Border War."

brains the head / Flickr-CC

A construction company based in Kansas City, Mo., plans to limit the contraceptive coverage it offers employees in the wake of Monday's Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

A rusted metal "No Trespassing" sign hangs on a post outside the boarded-up Thacher School in the Historic Northeast in Kansas City, Mo.

On the other side of the tall fence, the grass is neatly trimmed and the empty parking lot is litter-free. The brick exterior, once a popular canvas for graffiti artists, has been scrubbed mostly clean. A single blue doodle is the only evidence of vandalism neighbors say was once common at the vacant school.

City officials in St. Louis mounted a challenge to the state's same-sex marriage ban on Wednesday when they allowed four gay couples to wed at City Hall.

But on the other side of the state, it's unlikely Kansas City Mayor Sly James will follow suit. James tweeted Thursday that due to differences in the two cities' charters, he is unable to issue marriage licenses: 

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Temperatures are rising, but a shortage of lifeguards in some communities is keeping pools closed. 

Once a stereotypical way to make some summer cash, fewer teens are willing to go through expensive training for a minimum wage job.

And while the problem here isn't as pronounced as in Austin, Texas, which had to delay opening half its pools, there are still cities scrambling to recruit the needed lifeguards to keep swimmers safe.

It takes a lot of lifeguards to keep one pool safe

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Ensuring human rights for women and girls can have a stabilizing effect impact on countries and economies, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Kansas City audience Sunday night.

"Of course I promoted women and girls as an integrated priority within our diplomacy," says Clinton, who was in town as part of a book tour. "But I could tell people's eyes would roll in many places when I said that."

And while Clinton says she sees the rights of women in developing companies as a moral issue, she used a different sales pitch on foreign leaders.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Kansas City Public Schools is partnering with French immersion charter Academie Lafayette to open a new high school at the Southwest Early College Campus.

The new school will be both a public charter and a "signature" school, the designation KCPS gives to buildings with selective enrollment criteria. The district will provide the facility, and Academie Lafayette will run the school.

Shawn Kincaide / Flickr--CC

The Kansas City Zoo is rolling out a new system for free visits after more than 20,000 people overwhelmed the zoo during a free admission day in March.

Some guests became unruly – and shots were fired in a parking lot as people left the zoo.

"We want everybody to come to the zoo, but what wasn't working was everybody coming on that one day we designated free day," says Kansas City Zoo executive director Randy Wisthoff.

Elle / KCUR

It'll be at least two more months before city officials learn if Kansas City has impressed the right people and secured a bid for the 2016 Republican National Convention.

The RNC site selection committee wrapped up its tour of top contenders last week – Cleveland, Dallas and Denver are also still in the running – and is giving the cities a chance to respond to any questions that came up during the visits.

Charles Barsotti

Kansas City-based cartoonist Charles Barsotti died Monday, according to The Kansas City Star.

Barsotti, 80, was a regular contributor to The New Yorker, The Atlantic and USA Today. He published more than 1,300 cartoons during his career.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

The University of Missouri athletics department announced Monday the men's basketball team will play Oklahoma State on Dec. 30 at the Sprint Center.

The match-up demonstrates the university's commitment to play in Kansas City and recruit from the metro area, says MU athletics director Mike Alden. He praised head coach Kim Anderson's willingness to put a tough non-conference team on the schedule.

If figuring out how to fix education in Kansas City is a puzzle, then the founders of The Lean Lab say their fellowships should provide the pieces.

"Each fellow has to commit to impacting 500 students over the course of five years," says Carrie Markel, the group's chief operating officer. "If we incubate 20 fellows a year, in less than 20 years we would impact all 70,000 students in the Kansas City city limits."

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Transit advocate Clay Chastain got his day in court Thursday, but it's still unclear if his plan to build a light-rail system will go before voters.

For three years, Chastain has been locked in a battle with city officials who say the 3/8-cent sales tax increase he's proposed isn't enough to pay for light-rail. The Missouri Supreme Court weighed in earlier this year, ruling that even if voters approved the plan, the city wouldn't have to build it.

Bob Nichols / United States Department of Agriculture

Two years ago, sweeping changes to federal school lunch guidelines put more fruits, vegetables and whole grains on cafeteria trays.

But the healthful options haven't been popular with students (you might remember the catchy video some Kansas kids made blasting the changes). And for the first time in 30 years, the number of meals purchased in school cafeterias is in decline.

Poverty in suburban Johnson County doesn't look like it does in urban Kansas City, Kan., or rural parts of the state. 

And that makes it harder to address a growing problem in a part of the metro seen as affluent, says County Manager Hannes Zacharias.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

For months, Kansas City resident Cherie Fishback has been writing letters to the Department of Veterans Affairs on behalf of her boyfriend, Lee Murphy, who last year had to have emergency gallbladder surgery.

Clay Chastain
Video frame courtesy of TV-9

Kansas City transit advocate Clay Chastain is in town this week to promote his light-rail proposal ahead of hearing that could put the issue before voters.

Chastain, a former Kansas City resident who now lives in Virginia, has for years pressured the city to build an interconnected transit system with a hub at Union Station. His idea has a lot of moving parts – light rail line to the airport, commuter rail to the southeast and streetcars to the Kansas City Zoo. And in 2011, he gathered enough signatures to put a 3/8-cent sales tax on the ballot to help pay for it.

File / U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Update, 4:45 p.m.:

The Kansas City Veterans Affairs Medical Center says its cardiology clinic never kept a secret waiting list, but "a serious clerical mistake" delayed several veterans waiting for follow-up care.

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt flagged the facility Thursday in a growing scandal over long wait times for veterans. He told reporters he planned to press the hospital for more information "based on my firm belief the Kansas City Medical Center is likely to be found to be one of those hospitals that has a secret waiting list."

Elle Moxley / KCUR

City leaders spent Thursday courting a delegation from the Republican National Committee in hopes of a securing a bid for the 2016 convention.

So far, the RNC is impressed.

"We've had children out to lead us in the pledge of allegiance. We had the high school band out on the tarmac to greet us. We had another young lady who just sang beautifully for us," says former Utah Congresswoman Enid Mickelson, the chairwoman of the site selection committee. "Those are the kind of traditional values clearly you have in Kansas City, and we think are important to spotlight."

Elle Moxley / KCUR

It’s a lofty goal for any charter – be the premiere public school in Missouri and a model for the rest of the country.

And for a new school, it’s especially bold. Yet that’s been the vision of the Kauffman School since before it opened.

This week while other metro-area kids were enjoying that first taste of summer, sixth graders at the Kauffman School were sitting in science class. It's quiet except for the scratch of pencil on paper.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Kansas Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder and Missouri Democratic Congressman Emanuel Cleaver were in Kansas City, Mo., Wednesday to promote a new political discussion group.

The group – called the Village Square – encourages people to meet across party lines to talk about political topics with civility and respect.

Pages