Sam Zeff

Education Reporter

Sam covers education for KCUR and is co-host of the political podcast Statehouse Blend. Before joining the station in August 2014 he covered health and education for KCPT.

Sam began his career at KANU in Lawrence. He hosted Morning Edition at WHYY in Philadelphia where he also covered organized crime, politics and government corruption.

The Overland Park, Kansas native has won a National News and Documentary Emmy for investigative reporting, four Edward R. Murrow awards and four National Headliner Awards.  Sam was assistant news director at the ABC station in the Twin Cities, executive producer at the NBC station in St. Louis and executive producer of special projects at the CBS stations in Minneapolis and Kansas City.

Sam was educated at the University of Kansas.

Ways to Connect

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The massive hurricanes Harvey and Irma have people talking about how much, if at all, climate change adds to such storms’ destructiveness.

In a blog post authored by Paul Driessen, the conservative Heartland Institute disputes that global warming is worsening the weather or that it’s human-caused. And, Driessen writes, fossil fuels “bring rescue boats.”

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Despite the ongoing fight over how much Kansas should spend on schools, the Legislature did at least one thing this year that almost all educators were pleased with: For the first time, it included all-day kindergarten in the school funding formula.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

When you go to a University of Kansas football game this year, you'll notice some old things and some new things.

The old: KU seems to be heading toward another bad season. The Jayhawks were pounded Saturday by Central Michigan 45-27.

Kansas Department of Corrections

All is quiet Wednesday after a night of rioting at the Norton Correctional Facility about 320 miles west of Kansas City.

The Kansas Department of Corrections (DOC) has moved 100 inmates to other prisons around the state, according to spokesman Samir Arif. Fifty of those inmates were moved to Lansing.

Two staff members suffered minor injuries and were treated on site.

This is one of several uprisings the DOC has had to put down recently. The last disturbance was in July at the prison in El Dorado.

Joe Brusky / Flickr — CC

Many organizations and schools in Missouri and Kansas that serve Latino families blasted the announcement Tuesday from Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the Trump administration will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in six months if Congress fails to act.

Texas Military Department

Dozens of people from Kansas and Missouri are on their way to the Gulf Coast of Texas as Tropical Storm Harvey continues to batter Houston and other parts of southeastern Texas.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

People from all over the world gathered in the small northeast Kansas town of Sabetha during Monday's solar eclipse to experience two-and-a-half minutes of totality.

The parking lot of the Koch Motel just off US 75 was filled with cars from Arizona, Texas and Ohio.

There were families from Japan and Britain.

“I figured there wouldn’t be a ton of people in this little corner of Kansas,” said Dave Heim from Rock Island, Illinois.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

An online news site that says it "holds government and mainstream media accountable" attacked an instructor at Johnson County Community College Thursday, suggesting her six-figure salary was related to her gender and race.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Is high school too early to figure out what career path to follow?

The Olathe School District doesn’t think so.

When the new Olathe West High School opens for all students on Thursday, the district will have a total of 17 specialty academies in its five high schools.

For as long as most people can remember, the main mission of Johnson County schools has been preparing kids for college.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Two children died and four adults were injured in an early morning apartment fire in Overland Park.

The fire broke out around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday near 88th Street and Broadmoor, according to fire department spokesman Jason Rhodes. He says firefighters immediately called for a second alarm.

"Upon arrival they were met with heavy smoke and fire showing from two sides of a two-story apartment complex," Rhodes says.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

A decision on which company might build a new, single terminal at Kansas City International Airport, potentially a billion dollar project, is getting closer.

Kansas City councilmembers plan to pick one of four firms and must have ballot language approved by Aug. 24 if the issue is to make it on the November general election ballot.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

After four years of planning for concealed carry in Kansas government buildings, you might expect that officials would have the wrinkles ironed out -- that they would have considered all the possibilities. 

But there is still confusion, and it starts at Cedar Crest, the stately governor’s mansion on the west side of Topeka.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

When you walk into the new Olathe West High School, it doesn't at all feel like a high school. It could be on a college campus — or even the campus of Microsoft or Google.

There's an atrium when you walk in, along with a large commons area — and even a part of the library where students and teachers can congregate.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Update Aug. 4 5:38 p.m.

Mandi Hunter's lead over at-large incumbent Cindy Neighbor more than doubled Friday afternoon, from seven votes to 18 votes. 

The Johnson County Election updated the primary night vote totals after counting additional mail in ballots post marked by 7:00 Tuesday night and received in the office Friday.

The votes, including provisional ballots, will be canvassed Monday morning.

If Hunter's lead holds she will face Heather Ousley in the general election.

Original story starts here.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

You don't often see a school board election as contested as the one percolating in the Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) but that's exactly what's happening this year.

There is a primary election on Tuesday, August 1 for two of the three seats up this year.

Orlin Wagner / Associated Press

If you weren’t paying really close attention to the oral arguments in the Gannon v. Kansas school funding case before the Kansas Supreme Court on Tuesday, you probably missed a little question from Justice Dan Biles about a provision of the new school funding formula that exclusively benefits two Johnson County districts.

Kansas State University

The starting left tackle for the Kansas State football team came out as gay Thursday during an interview on ESPN.

Sophomore Scott Frantz says he revealed his sexual orientation to his teammates last year after listening to a motivational speaker brought in by Head Coach Bill Snyder.

“I’ve never felt so loved and so accepted ever in my life than when I did that and ever since then it’s been great. I’ve grown so much closer to my teammates since then, so it’s been an amazing experience,” Frantz told ESPN's Holly Rowe.

Kansas State University

What's the best college campus in Kansas for LBGTQ students?

Many might guess the University of Kansas in Lawrence, long considered a progressive bastion.

But according to CollegeChoice.net, the best bet for LGBTQ students in Kansas is in Manhattan, at Kansas State University. K-State ranked as the 45th best choice in the country.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens made a rare stop in Kansas City Wednesday to sign four bills into law.

One measure would start the process of creating four adult high schools around the state to help Missourians over the age of 21 get a high school diploma and job training.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

About 100 firefighters are battling a three-alarm fire at a warehouse on Southwest Boulevard.

Kansas City Fire Chief Paul Berardi says they received calls reporting the fire at Friday’s Only Furniture Outlet at 29th and Southwest Boulevard around 2:30 Tuesday afternoon.

He says by the time crews arrived on scene, the blaze was heavily involved. 

"I arrived on the scene just about seven or eight minutes after it was here, and it was already through the roof. So they knew that it was a defensive fire immediately," Berardi says.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, with the victim's grieving mother at her side, said Monday that a man has been charged with the murder of a 24-year-old east Kansas City woman.

Ashley Geddes was discovered dead in her bedroom by her mother on June 1.

The suspect is 25-year-old Cedrick Russell, who lived next door to the victim on east 45th Place. Russell is also charged with sodomy, burglary, stealing and other offenses.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

For a while, it seemed as though it would be a long time before Kansas lawmakers came up with a tax plan that could pass. Just when it seemed the impasse was at its worst, the Women's Caucus stepped up with a plan that led to a compromise.

Guests:

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

It took 113 days instead of the scheduled 100, but Kansas lawmakers finally ended their 2017 session Saturday.

Their final act was to approve a two-year budget plan that supporters say will start the process of repairing damage done by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts. But the session’s climatic moment occurred a week earlier when lawmakers overrode Brownback’s veto of a bill that largely reversed those cuts. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Olathe School Board meeting Thursday night was decidely more upbeat than about this time two years ago. At that time,the board was facing a $2 million deficit and had laid off 80 people to fill budget hole.

But last night, the board heard the district will probably be able to spend about $14.5 million more in the 2017-2018 school under the school funding plan passed this week by the Kansas Legislature.

Dan Margolies / Kansas News Service

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who catapulted to national prominence on the strength of his anti-immigration views, announced his candidacy for Kansas governor Thursday.

Kobach made the announcement two days after Kansas lawmakers voted to override Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of a tax package that would raise $1.2 billion over the next two years — a rejection of Brownback’s signature 2012 tax cuts.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

School districts across Kansas are breathing a bit easier after the Legislature passed a school funding plan and a tax law that provides the money for it.

Ideally, districts would want to have most of their budgets done by now so school boards could approve them and publish in August.

But not this year, as lawmakers have struggled to agree on a plan to adequately fund schools in the face of a June 30 deadline from the state Supreme Court. 

Conservative Republicans have joined with moderates and Democrats to override Gov. Sam Brownback's veto of a $1.2 billion tax increase. This brings to a close many of the tax cuts pushed by the Brownback in 2012.  

Subscribe to Statehouse Blend Kansas, and stay up to date with the latest news from the Kansas Legislature: iTunesGoogle Play, and on the NPR One app.

Kansas lawmakers have gotten down to business, passing a school funding bill that adds nearly $300 million over two years for public education and a $1.2 billion tax plan. But just minutes after the vote, Gov. Sam Brownback said he would veto the package.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

On Day 108 of the Kansas Legislature’s session, lawmakers got down to business. They passed a school funding bill that adds nearly $300 million over two years for public education, then they approved a $1.2 billion tax plan.

But minutes after the Senate’s 26-14 tax plan vote, Gov. Sam Brownback said he would veto the package, which would put more than 300,00 small businesses and farmers back on the tax rolls, add a third income tax bracket and restore a number of tax deductions and credits.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

There are two college tuition stories in Kansas right now.

The first is a good news story. Johnson County Community College says it will hold the line on tuition. The JCCC Board of Trustees voted last month to maintain the current cost for students. A credit hour is $93 for Johnson County residents and $110 for all other Kansas residents.

“JCCC is a place where every student has the opportunity for success.  By not raising tuition, that opportunity for success is now more achievable for more students,” president Joe Sopcich said in a statement.

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