Education

KCUR 89.3 covers education issues across the Kansas City region and in Kansas and Missouri. 

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Olathe School District

The Olathe Public Schools issued a statement Thursday morning about racial incidents reported at Olathe North High School.

Principal Jason Herman informed parents Wednesday.

"I wanted to make you aware of some very concerning behavior recently occurring at North. We have had several incidents in which students were harassed based on their race and/or ethnicity," he said in a letter.

The University of Missouri should emphasize diversity in its recruitment, train professors in the importance of diversity in their courses and increase outreach to improve diversity among faculty and staff, a systemwide task force recommended on Wednesday.

Those proposals were among priority items included in the task force’s report. It was responding to a comprehensive audit of diversity, equity and inclusion practices at the university conducted by the consulting firm IBIS.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Electing a new president is usually not a cause for great alarm in schools.

But teachers say Donald Trump’s election is causing students to turn on one another and pitting teacher against teacher.

On Wednesday, Olathe North High School Principal Jason Herman sent a letter to parents saying, "We have had several incidents in which students were harassed based on their race and/or ethnicity."

Herman called the behavior "intolerable" and promised swift action by the administration.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Shawnee Mission School District board and its superintendent faced a packed room of very unhappy parents and teachers Monday night.

The district has come under fire for strongly suggesting to staff that they refrain from wearing safety pins. The pins are seen by many as a sign to students that they're in a safe place, but some see the pins as a protest of the election of Donald Trump.

Before the meeting even started, board President Sara Goodburn made it very clear: We'll listen to your concerns but we're not changing our minds.

iStock

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas has stepped into the battle over whether teachers in the Shawnee Mission School District can wear safety pins.

The district has strongly urged staff to refrain from wearing safety pins saying they have become a political symbol. Others have argued the pins simply tell students who feel threatened after the presidential election that they have a safe person to talk to about issues.

Courtesy Hickman Mills School District

School district performance reports matter. They can affect accreditation status, real estate dynamics -- even whether students get to go on field trips.

“We are in an era of testing,” Sabrina Winfrey, the principal of Ingels Elementary School, told a group of parents at her school in the Hickman Mills School District recently. “I would love for your kids to go on more field trips, but right now they need to be in this building learning to read.”

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Everyone knew what the judge was going to do Thursday in an 8th floor federal courtroom in downtown Kansas City when former St. Joseph School District superintendent Dan Colgan appeared for sentencing.

Still, there were a couple of surprises.

Kevin Collison / KCUR 89.3

Four years after opening a school for 190 elementary students in a former office building on Central Street, Crossroads Academy is planning to open a high school in downtown Kansas City in 2018. But first, it needs a building.

“It’s an exciting time for us to be able to grow and add more kids,” said Dean Johnson, executive director of the charter school. “Parents have asked about a high school and that’s always been part of our goals.”

Kansas State Department of Education

About 41 percent of Kansas students are meeting grade-level expectations in English language arts and 34 percent in math, the State Department of Education announced Wednesday.

The 2016 results are statistically comparable to 2015, the year Kansas switched to new tests aligned with more rigorous learning standards.

“We did not see – and we realized we will not see – any dramatic spikes in our state assessment scores, not like what we saw in the past under No Child Left Behind,” says KSDE spokeswoman Denise Kahler.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The results are in, and for the first time in years, Kansas City Public received an accountability score from the state that qualifies it for full accreditation.

But it won’t be enough to convince the State Board the urban school district is back on track.

“We have been very clear that you need to show at least two years,” says Margie Vandeven, Missouri Commissioner of Education.

Still, KCPS Superintendent Mark Bedell sees cause for celebration.

Emory Maiden / Flickr - CC

After two of sessions with a federal mediator, the union representing Shawnee Mission teachers says it's reached a deal with the district.

The two sides declared an impasse back in July and met with the mediator once last month and then finalized the tentative deal last Thursday.

Shawnee Mission will put 0.65 percent more into salaries in the new contract, says union president Linda Sieck. That will cost the district, she says, about $2.9 million dollars more this year.

Sieck says this is a modest increase but everyone is worried about the worsening Kansas budget.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Educators say students more than ever will need to continue their education past high school to have successful careers.

But as the cost of college continues to vastly outpace inflation, paying for a post-secondary education is becoming more difficult, if not impossible, for many families with a low or modest incomes.

The Kauffman Foundation hopes to ease that problem for 1,500 families in the Kansas City area with a $79 million investment over 10 years in a program it's calling KC Scholars.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

If Kansas is forced to reduce its budget by five percent over the next two fiscal years, higher education in the state could take a $56.4 million hit.

That's on top of $47.9 million in reductions the previous two years.

The data comes from budget documents submitted to the Governor's office by the six Kansas Board of Regents universities.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The State of Kansas is now searching for new leadership at its two biggest universities.

Bernadette Gray-Little announced Thursday that she will step down as Chancellor of the University of Kansas next summer. Gray-Little is the 17th KU chancellor and the first woman and first African-American to lead the university.

Her announcement comes as Kansas State University is in the middle of searching for a new president. Kirk Schulz left in June to take over Washington State University. Former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers is the interim K-State president.

Charles Riedel / AP

You couldn't have gotten a more different picture of school finance and student success in Kansas than we heard during two hours of oral arguments Wednesday in the state Supreme Court.

The state argued that every public school in Kansas is accredited and an analysis by the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) says Kansas schools rank 10th in the country.

Kansas Supreme Court

The Kansas Supreme Court will hear two hours of oral arguments Wednesday in the Gannon school funding case.

It's hard to imagine an educator, lawmaker or legislative candidate not sitting on the edge of their seat looking for a clue as to how the justices will rule.

Here are some FAQs on the hearing:

So you're telling me the case is still going? Didn't we just have a big Gannon story not long ago?

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Two weeks ago Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said the state needed a new school funding formula and called on educators to email him their suggestions.

At his Statehouse news conference Brownback offered no specific ideas.

On Thursday, the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) talked about what should be in a new formula next year. But, like the governor, the organization offered few details. KASB did urge everyone to email.

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

The St. Joseph School District, smarting from the federal wire fraud conviction of a former superintendent, has asked the federal court to hike the fine to cover the district's financial loss.

Gustavo Castillo / Wikimedia Commons

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Kansas City Public Schools after a school resource officer handcuffed a second grader.

The incident happened in 2014, says ACLU of Missouri Executive Director Jeffrey Mittman, after 7-year-old Kalyb Wiley Primm began to cry in class.

Mittman says Primm had been bullied.

“He didn’t want to go with the officer, who was being scary,” Mittman says. “Instead of calming the child, instead of reassuring him, instead of finding out what was wrong, the officer yelled at him, told him to stop crying and then handcuffed him.”

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

It has taken six years, but Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback finally reached out to educators and others on Wednesday to ask for ideas on how to fund public education.

The plea comes after many of Brownback's conservative legislative allies were ousted in the August primaries, and it appears more conservatives may lose their seats in November. It also comes in the final year of the block grant funding scheme passed when lawmakers scrapped the previous formula, which was popular with most school districts.

Flickr/Adam_Procter400

Missouri has been crowing about how the state has kept down tuition increases for undergraduate, in-state students. In April, Gov. Jay Nixon came to UMKC to sign a budget that he said keeps college affordable in Missouri and "within reach for more families."

Turns out, college costs in Missouri are more expensive than advertised, according to a report released Tuesday by  Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway.

Maria Carter / KCUR 89.3

At Frank Rushton Elementary, students aren’t just getting new boxes of pencils and crayons. They’re getting a whole new school.

"Compared to the other building, it’s really nice,” says parent Ayesha Marks. “I like the library upgrade with the computer and books and everything.”

“It’s awesome,” says third-grader Gianni Ramos of the school. “It’s much bigger and has more space.”

A lot more space. The old building, near the intersection of 43rd and Rainbow Ave., was jam-packed.

One of the school funding lawsuits that has been hanging over the head of Kansas has been dismissed.         

The lawsuit is called Petrella and was filed in federal court by a group of Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) parents.

They argued that the district, one of the wealthiest in Kansas, should be able to raise and spend as much local tax money as it wants.

Kansas law caps how much local money a district can spend.

 Julia Szabo
KCUR 89.3

The number of teachers leaving Kansas or simply quitting the profession has dramatically increased over the last four years.

The annual Licensed Personnel Report was released Tuesday by the Kansas Department of Education. While it was provided to the Board of Education meeting in Topeka Tuesday, the report was buried in board documents and not addressed by either staff or the board.

The report shows that 1,075 teachers left the profession last year, up from 669 four years ago. That's a 61 percent increase.

Brad Wilson / Flickr-CC

It only took a few minutes for the Kansas State Board of Education to approve $7.2 million in extraordinary needs funding for school districts across the state. The extra money will go to 34 school districts. Three districts didn't get any money.

The six local districts who applied for the additional state aid didn't get all they wanted but still did well.

Liz / Wikimedia Commons

Schools around Kansas are just a couple of weeks from opening for the new school year, but about three dozen districts say they need more state aid and have applied for extraordinary needs funding.

In all, 37 districts are asking for about $8.4 million from the state Board of Education. There is about $15 million in the pool. All districts contribute a small portion of their state aid to the pool.

Two of the biggest requests come from the two of the smaller districts in this area: Spring Hill in Johnson County and Basehor-Linwood in Leavenworth County. 

The Shawnee Mission School District and its teachers were unable Wednesday to reach a deal on compensation, so the talks will now go to a federal mediator, according to the teachers union.

The negotiations fell apart when the union asked for a $1,350 stipend for teachers who won't get a raise next year as they progress through the salary schedule.

“Most people who go to work and work hard like to see some sort of increase to keep up, in the very least, with the cost of living,” says union president Linda Sieck.

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

This week I did a story on a group of Democrats and moderate Republicans who are already working on a new school finance formula in advance of the 2017 session which will gavel in come January.

The story was based on an interview I did with Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly from Topeka on KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend. Kelly is the senate minority whip.

Anna Sturla / KCUR 89.3

The Kauffman Foundation and the Hall Family foundation will donate more than $1.5 million over two years to the Kansas City Neighborhood Academy, a new charter school serving East Kansas City.

The Kauffman Foundation is donating $1 million while the Hall Family Foundation is donating $600,000.

“This is a tremendous vote of confidence for our new school,” says Urban Neighborhood Initiative Executive Director Dianne Cleaver. UNI was created by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce in order to revitalize Kansas City neighborhoods.

KHI News Service

While most Kansas educators are still breathing a sigh of relief that the school funding equity issue was solved in a special session and public schools could remain open, some lawmaker are already looking ahead to the new session in January.

Sen. Laura Kelly, the minority whip from Topeka, says a small bipartisan group has already begun meeting to draft a new school funding formula to replace block grants, which expire at the end of this fiscal year.

The plan, drafted by Democrats and moderate Republicans, is based a great deal on the old formula.

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