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

File Photo / KCUR 89.3

Just because Kansas had an election a few months ago doesn’t mean people aren’t already thinking about 2018 legislative campaigns.

Grassroots organizations in Johnson County are multiplying and starting to plot how they will elect more moderate Republicans and Democrats to the Kansas Legislature.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Outgoing Shawnee Mission School Superintendent Jim Hinson was absent from Monday night's board meeting but he was the subject of much discussion.

The board officially accepted Hinson's resignation and started to lay out plans to search for his successor.

Hinson, who has headed the district for the past four years, unexpectedly announced his retirement last week. His last day is June 30.

Several members of the public asked the school board to hold off on hiring a new superintendent until after the November elections. Three board positions will be on the ballot.

Amy Jeffries / KCUR 89.3

When a number of moderate Republicans joined the Kansas Legislature after the 2016 election, many were talking about a possible coalition with the Democrats. As the 2017 legislative session starts to near its end, we explore whether that coalition ever became a reality. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Starting in August, KU Athletics will ban all purses from football, men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball games and other major sporting events.

If it’s larger than a typical clutch bag and opaque, it won’t be allowed into big games.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

This story has been updated at 4:10 p.m. on April 19.

The University of Kansas, Kansas State and Wichita State all want to prevent fans from carrying concealed weapons into major sporting events.

The three schools asked a Kansas Board of Regents committee Wednesday for permission to use metal detectors and armed security to screen fans. The committee agreed.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

One employee was killed and four more were injured by an explosion at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence, Missouri.

The Joint Munitions Command says the explosion occurred at approximately 1 p.m. Tuesday in a primer mixing cell. The injured workers were evaluated on scene and refused further treatment.

Kansas lawmakers have a plan for school funding, but they still have to pass it. And they have to agree on some mix of spending cuts and revenue increases to close the giant budget gaps projected for the next two years. Kansas News Service editors Amy Jeffries and Jim McLean joined Statehouse Blend host Sam Zeff to talk about how lawmakers might ultimately solve the state’s budget problems.

Kansas lawmakers have a plan for school funding, but they still have to pass it, and agree on some mix of spending cuts and revenue increases to close the giant budget gaps projected for the next two years. Kansas News Service editors Amy Jeffries and Jim McLean joined Statehouse Blend host Sam Zeff to talk about how lawmakers might ultimately solve the state’s budget problems.

Kansas News Service

Kansas legislators hit adjournment Friday with some big tasks left for their wrap-up session that starts May 1.

At the top of the list is a tax and budget plan, which largely will be influenced by the amount of school funding that legislators decide to add in light of the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling last month. In the health policy arena, Medicaid expansion supporters are regrouping after the governor’s veto — and holding out hope for another shot this session.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The crowd filling the old Supreme Court room at the Kansas Statehouse expected a bit of a showdown Wednesday when the House K-12 Budget Committee discussed how much money to put into public education.

In the end, that debate lasted about 10 minutes and the committee stood pat on adding $150 million a year for five years for a total package of $750 million.

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

The chairman of the K-12 Budget Committee in the Kansas House promised that a new funding formula would be approved Monday and sent to the floor so the measure would be considered before lawmakers leave for a three-week break.

Turns out, politics got in the way.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

David Howard, Superintendent of the Basehor-Linwood school district, and David Smith, Chief of Public Affairs for Kansas City Kansas Public Schools, react to a school funding formula that has been proposed in the Kansas Legislature.   

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

A Kansas legislative committee worked eight hours Thursday night and didn't come up with a new school funding formula.

But we now know the goal for how much new money will be added to try and satisfy the state Supreme Court which has ruled school funding in Kansas is inadequate.

“Our target was a $150 million over a period of five years, to escalate up slowly to a more constitutionally appropriate number,” says Rep. Melissa Rooker, a Republican from Fairway and a driving force to find more money for public education.

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

Kansas legislative leaders took a couple of days to try to persuade some members of the House K-12 Budget Committee to accept $75 million more in school funding, according to legislators on both sides of the aisle.

But the hardball tactics apparently failed.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

As the K-12 Budget Committee in the Kansas Legislature holds hearings on a proposed school funding formula, Rep. Melissa Rooker (R-Fairway) is uncertain the plan puts enough money back into schools.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

A proposed school funding bill in Kansas would add $75 million to the public education system but many educators say that’s far less than they expected and may not be enough to satisfy the state Supreme Court.

Stephanie Clayton, a moderate Republican from Overland Park, says lawmakers in both parties “believe it will take a significantly larger amount” to satisfy their constituents, educators and the court.

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers have waited for half the session to get a look at what will probably be the basis for a new school funding formula.

Rep. Larry Campbell, the chairman of the House K-12 Education Budget Committee, released an outline of the measure Tuesday.

It looks a lot like the formula scrapped two years ago for block grants, a funding scheme ruled unconstitutional earlier this month by the Kansas Supreme Court.

UMKC

This story has been updated to reflect some comments made by UMKC officials.

The 92-82 win Wednesday night by the UMKC men's basketball team over Green Bay was its first post-season appearance and victory in the 30 years the Kangaroos have played in Division I.

Sam / Zeff

The Kansas Regents have given every state run university and community college in Kansas a tall order: vastly increase the number of degrees and certificates they award.

Every Regents school has to graduate 20 percent more students in the next three years and then maintain that level.

That’s 13,000 more associate degrees, four year degrees and certificates a year across the system.

A Medicaid expansion bill is awaiting a vote in the Kansas Senate as congressional Republicans have put forward a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. That plan would leave a window open for states to expand Medicaid eligibility until January 2020, but Congress may be looking to roll back federal support beyond that. And, as she told KCUR’s Jim McLean, that gives Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle pause.

 

Stephen Koranda / KPR

The president of the Kansas Senate says a new school funding formula needs to focus on the quarter of students who are at-risk and not meeting state standards. And simply adding money to a funding formula won’t solve the problem, she says.

Sen. Susan Wagle, a Republican from Wichita, says the federal Head Start program is a good model on how to help at-risk children.

Morgan Said / KCUR 89.3

As a source says that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback could be leaving the statehouse, Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) talks about how a new Governor could change this legislative session.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The Missouri state auditor Monday issued a highly critical report of executive compensation in the University of Missouri System, calling some $2 million paid to top leaders over the last two years "hidden bonus pay."

Much of Auditor Nicole Galloway's fire was focused on how the UM System handled the resignation of former University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.

But she also highlighted additional compensation paid to other top system executives, including UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton.

University of Missouri

In a very critical report, the Missouri auditor called into question incentive payments made to top executives of the University of Missouri System. In a report released Monday, Auditor Nicole Galloway also questioned how much the system paid to the former chancellor of the Columbia campus after his resignation and how much the system spends on car allowances for UM System executives.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning (R-Overland Park) lays out why a veto override of major tax legislation failed in the Senate and how he expects the Supreme Court's Gannon ruling to affect the rest of the session.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

There’s been an awful lot of discussion on what Kansas’s new school funding formula will look like and whether the Legislature will still make cuts to public schools mid-year.

Nothing has been decided, which has educators in the state both a little optimistic and a little scared.

On a recent morning Allison Theno was combining math and penguins to teach her 18 kindergartners at Basehor Elementary to subtract.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

A major data breach is being investigated in the Independence School District.

The school district employees were alerted to the scam in an email sent last Thursday.

In it, the business office says “the names, social security numbers, addresses and earnings” of every employee was stolen in a phishing scam, where the crooks use fake emails or websites to steal personal information.

The information was used to file fraudulent income tax returns, according to the email.

A fraud investigation is underway by the FBI and the Independence Police Department.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

On this week's Statehouse Blend Kansas, Rep. Susan Concannon (R-Beloit) talks about passing Medicaid Expansion out of the Kansas House and its prospects both in the Senate and on the Governor's desk.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

 

On this week's Statehouse Blend Kansas, Rep. Jim Ward (D-Wichita) and Rep. Stephanie Clayton (R-Overland Park) talk about the future of a recently passed tax increase bill, school funding, and legislation on concealed carry at hospitals and college campuses. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Public Schools and the Mexican Consulate have partnered to offer educational opportunities to Latinos in the district.

The partnership comes at a time when many are worried about raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The partnership is housed at East High School, where the ribbon was cut Thursday.

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