Education

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

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Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

“Let’s go divas, let’s go!” the girls chant, before dissolving into giggles.

On the last day of a Kansas City Public Schools-sponsored summer camp, students cheer on their friends in an engineering challenge.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.
Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

In his 26 years at Meade Unified School District 226, a 400-student district southwest of Dodge City, Superintendent Kenneth Harshberger has watched the educational landscape change.

Teachers are harder to recruit — even for elementary jobs, which were traditionally easier to fill.

“The first time I tried to hire an elementary teacher 25, 26 years ago, we had over 100 applicants,” he recalled. “Now I can’t get five applicants.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Growing up, Kansas City Mayor Sly James had to wait for his younger brothers to go to bed before he could read.

“I would sit on the attic steps with a flashlight and read Doc Savage books,” James said Tuesday as he accepted an All-American City Award for his efforts to promote reading. “It was my ritual.”

The mayor was appalled to learn in 2011 that only 33.8 percent of Kansas City students could read proficiently by third grade.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

The cost of higher education in Kansas continued to swell this week, carrying on a long-running trend in which universities rely increasingly on tuition and fees to operate.

This fall, a full-time semester at the University of Kansas will cost nearly $2,000 more than a decade earlier. The increase at Kansas State University has been similar.

Also over the last decade, the state’s spending per student at Kansas Board of Regents universities has slid.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

A few years ago, Missouri’s suspension rate was the highest in the nation for young black students – an unfortunate distinction that forced Kansas City Public Schools to rethink discipline.

The district did away with automatic suspensions for a lot of less serious violations. This year, KCPS issued 31 percent fewer out of school suspensions to kids in kindergarten through third grade.

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.

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.

University of Missouri

University of Missouri System President Mun Choi on Friday outlined plans for addressing $94 million in potential budget cuts over the next two years.

Besides a $19.6 million reduction in its state allocation, Choi said, the university system's budget problems have been "compounded by the dramatically lower enrollments we're facing especially here at the Columbia campus."

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Legislature isn’t close to coming up with a school funding formula. 

However, lawmakers are working with a bill that looks a lot like the formula they scrapped in 2015 for block grants.

That bill, and the struggle this session to write it, is not just back to the future, but back 25 years to the future. That’s when another school funding suit bogged down the session.

When the history of Kansas school finance lawsuits is written — whenever that may be — two names will loom large. And they’re not governors, attorneys general or legislative bigwigs.

Shawnee Mission School District / YouTube

The ACLU of Kansas says a new policy adopted by the Shawnee Mission School Board may violate the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment. It has sent a letter to Board President Sarah Goodburn, urging the board to rescind the policy. 

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The Kansas Board of Regents on Thursday named Doug Girod to be the next chancellor of the University of Kansas.

Girod served as executive vice chancellor of the KU Medical Center for the last four years.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Longtime civil rights activist Alvin Brooks is stepping down as a Kansas City Police Commissioner so he can serve on the Hickman Mills Board of Education.  

Brooks, 85, says it was time. His term is about to expire, and he doesn’t think Republican Gov. Eric Greitens will reappoint him.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas House debated a new school finance plan for five hours Wednesday, taking up two dozen amendments and finally voting 81-40 to advance a bill not much different from the one that had come out of committee. The measure is slated to get a final vote Thursday in the House. Then it will be the Senate’s turn.  

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

University of Missouri-Kansas City Chancellor Leo Morton on Tuesday announced he plans to retire from his position at the end of the next academic year.

Morton has served as chancellor since 2008. Prior to that appointment he was senior vice president and chief administrative officer for Aquila Inc. and also held positions at AT&T, General Motors and Corning Glass.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Starting in the 1990s, Hickman Mills became a forgotten community. Middle-income families moved out. Blight moved in. Drive through the neighborhoods today and the symbols of disinvestment are everywhere – gutters falling off houses, trash in yards, payday loan shops where stores used to be.

“It’s just strictly rental there now and nobody takes care of the yards. Nobody trims the trees. Nobody looks out for the other person,” says Jerry Porterfield, a longtime landlord in the area.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Brenda Thomas and her husband bought their house in Marlborough the 1990s because they wanted to send their daughter to a magnet program in Kansas City Public Schools.

“We’re a well-kept secret,” Thomas says matter-of-factly. “We’re south town, but not all the way to 95th Street or Bannister. We have quite a few historic homes here in our area.”

But after Thomas’ daughter graduated from high school, the neighborhood began to change. As older homeowners died, investors bought the properties – and renters moved in.  

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3


The tipping point may have come in late January, when yet another quick-tempered boy moved into Aubrey Paine’s second grade classroom at Ingels Elementary School.

Or maybe it was the departure in early February of the bright, motivated little girl who had been the leader of a reading circle.

As winter gave way to spring, the change in in the student roster came so fast I barely recognized the happy classroom I’d first walked into in September.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The University of Missouri-Kansas City confirmed Thursday that it laid off 30 people this week as part of a plan to cut up to $30 million in spending over the next two years.

The university refused to say exactly when the layoffs happened or what departments were cut. When first contacted about the layoffs, UMKC spokesman John Martellaro replied in an email, "We do not comment on personnel matters."  When pressed, Martellaro finally confirmed the layoffs. "Yes, layoffs have occurred," he wrote in another email. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Principal Anthony Madry stands in a noisy hallway at Central Academy of Excellence, greeting students.

“Good morning, good morning, good morning,” Madry says, fist bumping students as they pass. “Hey are we good?”

The student nods. “Yeah.”

Madry points to a young woman. “That’s Emily. Emily’s one of the best kids I have in this school. She’s one of my favorites. Don’t blush, please don’t blush.

“You try to learn most of the kids’ names, the reason being that’s the most honorable thing you can do,” Madry says.

Johnson County Community College / YouTube

Kansas universities and community colleges have been working for years getting ready to allow campus concealed carry.

Unless the Legislature rolls the change back, and that appears unlikely, Johnson County and every other state school will have to allow almost anyone older than 21 to carry a pistol on campus on July 1.

Barbara Shelly / KCUR 89.3

Saadiq Thompson will walk across the stage and proudly receive a diploma from Ruskin High School in Kansas City in a few weeks. But he’s only spent a sliver of his student days there.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

The Shawnee Mission School District Board of Education unanimously voted Wednesday night to name Dr. Kenny Southwick as interim superintendent for Shawnee Mission schools.

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

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

A $1.3 million grant will help a downtown charter school expand.

Education nonprofit SchoolSmartKC announced Tuesday support for Crossroads Academy, which hopes to open a high school in 2018.

“Whenever you’re growing and expanding, there are a lot of operational costs associated with the planning and staffing something while it’s still small and before it can reach full capacity and scale up to a point where it’s self-sustainable,” says Dean Johnson, executive director at Crossroads Academy.

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.

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.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Maybe you’ve noticed the yard signs featuring a pixelated, rainbow “U” popping up in the city’s southwest quadrant.

Parents who want to see the former Southwest Early College Campus reopened as a project-based learning high school met Wednesday at Bier Station in the Waldo neighborhood.

Shawnee Mission School District

Shawnee Mission School District Superintendent Jim Hinson unexpectedly resigned today. Hinson has spent more than thirty years in public education, four of them in Shawnee Mission.

In a statement on the school district’s website, the superintendent says, “I’ve decided to retire effective June 30, 2017. This decision will allow me to spend more time with my family, and pursue other lifelong goals.”

Under Hinson’s watch, the district invested millions in building news schools and the “one-to-one” technology initiative, which provided each student with a personal computer.

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.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Five minutes before the town hall is supposed to end, a girl in a superhero shirt with perfect posture steps up to the microphone. She tells Kansas City Public Schools Supt. Mark Bedell the only reason she’s still in school is ROTC.

Many high-achieving and low-income high school students bound for college get an assist from the state of Missouri in the form of modest scholarships.

The trouble is that budget constraints have left programs that help both groups of students underfunded and unable to keep up with rising tuition. That’s bad news for high school seniors who’ll be choosing where to go to school in the coming weeks.

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