Sam Zeff

Metro Reporter

Sam is KCUR's Metro Reporter, focusing on Jackson County government, Kansas City and the KCPD. Before that, he covered education for KCUR and is co-host of the political podcast Statehouse Blend Kansas. 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.

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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.

St. Joseph School District

The St. Joseph School Board member at the center of a stipend scandal, which rocked the district and eventually led to a former superintendent going to federal prison, has resigned. 

"It was an agonizing decision to make," Chris Danford says. "I don't want to be a quitter, but it's better to split ways (with the district).

On this week's Statehouse Blend Kansas, Sen. Barbara Bollier (R-Mission Hills) talks about the various tax plans making their way through the Kansas Senate.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The fight is raging on in Topeka over whether to roll back a law that would let almost anyone carry a concealed gun on a college campus or in a library or public hospital.

The debate has mostly been around whether guns enhance or detract from people’s safety.

Less talked about is just how much allowing guns on campuses could cost.

For one Kansas City area institution it could run into the millions.

Most Kansas Board of Regents institutions have said they have little choice but to let people carry concealed weapons on university or community college campuses.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

On this week's Statehouse Blend Kansas, Sen. Barbara Bollier (R-Mission Hills) talks about the various tax plans making their way through the Kansas Senate, KanCare, and the possibility of getting primaried in the future.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas Legislature is entering its fifth week of work and already some members are being threatened with a primary and negative postcards are being dropped in mailboxes.

“They told me all this money from the Koch brothers, millions of dollars to attack me in a campaign,” Sen. Barbara Bollier, a moderate Republican from Mission Hills, said on KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend Kansas. “I’m not here  to be threatened. I’m here to get it fixed. And whatever it takes. And if I do the right thing I will be re-elected because that’s what my constituents want.”

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

When people started to file into the Kansas Senate chamber on Thursday morning, it was clear the legislation that leadership was pushing was dead.

New, moderate Republican legislators elected in November seemed to take a firm stand: The budget bills on the calendar for debate didn’t raise taxes enough and cut too much from public education.

Susie Fagan / Kansas News Service

One of the cornerstones of Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to balance the budget is anticipated savings from a statewide health insurance pool for Kansas teachers.

The governor said that could save $40 million in the fiscal year that starts July 1 and $80 million a year after that.

But that’s not what the Legislative Post Audit Division discovered in its evaluation.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

It took many by surprise, but the Kansas Senate Ways and Means Committee passed out a bill Tuesday that would cut $154 million out of the budget by July 1, the vast majority coming from education.

Of the proposed cuts, education shoulders 98 percent of the total. More than $127 million of the cuts would come from K-12 and another $23 million from higher education. 

In Johnson County, the plan would result in millions of dollars in cuts:

On this week's Statehouse Blend Kansas, Rep. Joy Koesten (R-Leawood) talks about co-sponsoring a bill to abolish capital punishment.

Guests:

  • Joy Koesten, Representative (R-Leawood), Kansas Legislature

Brad Wilson / Flickr — CC

In the basket of thorny issues facing Kansas lawmakers how to fund public education is certainly among the thorniest.

Led by Gov. Sam Brownback and conservative Republicans, the old funding formula was scrapped two years ago in favor of a block grant scheme that expires July 1.

Starting Monday morning the House K-12 Budget Committee starts discussions on a new formula.

And with that comes some questions: 

What is this K-12 Budget Committee?

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

  On this week's Statehouse Blend Kansas, Rep. Joy Koesten (R-Leawood) talks about mental health, school funding, and taxes.

Guests:

  • Joy Koesten, Representative (R-Leawood), Kansas Legislature

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

One critical part of Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget-balancing plan is creation of a statewide health insurance pool that Kansas public school teachers would have to join.

The governor’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year counts on $80 million a year in health care savings based on an efficiency study by Alvarez & Marsal consulting firm.

But some legislators, including Republicans, are skeptical.

“There’s a big difference between theory and practicality,” says Rep. Larry Campbell of Olathe, chairman of the K-12 Education Budget Committee.

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