Education

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

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Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer continues to shape top levels of Kansas government amid anticipation that the U.S. Senate may soon confirm Gov. Sam Brownback for an ambassadorship at the State Department.

Although Colyer made the selection, Brownback — who may have just weeks left as governor — issued a news release Tuesday announcing that former Kansas education commissioner Diane DeBacker will serve as education liaison and adviser to the Governor’s Office. 

Missouri’s education commissioner could soon be out of the job after a State Board of Education member resigned — and a judge refused to reinstall a Joplin pastor to his slot.

Claudia Oñate Greim resigned from the state board on Thursday night, less than a day before members are slated to meet. Greim was the only person who Gov. Eric Greitens appointed who voted earlier this month against firing Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven.

Josh Harbour / Garden City Telegram

Children who come from low-income families, have disabilities, aren’t white or don’t speak English at home appear to be disproportionately paying the price of Kansas’ teacher shortage, according to an analysis by the Kansas News Service.

Particularly affected are Liberal, Garden City and Dodge City — southwest Kansas towns where most of the students come from low-income families and more than half face the added challenge of building math, literacy and other skills while acquiring English as a second language.

Updated at 2:15 p.m. with governor's comments —

Missouri’s commissioner of education survived a rare move to oust her by appointees of Republican Gov. Eric Greitens.

The State Board of Education, though stacked with appointees by Greitens, did not vote in favor of firing Margie Vandeven in a closed-door meeting Tuesday. The board tied 4-4.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Public Schools scored fewer points than it did last year under Missouri’s statewide accountability system but stayed solidly in the provisionally accredited range, according to data released Wednesday by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The top education official in Kansas on Tuesday proposed allowing more schools to hire educators who don’t qualify for teaching licenses under the state’s current system — and signaled he would support changes to state regulations if needed.

Kansas State University

Kansas State University President Richard Myers had promised to strengthen the university's commitment to diversity, and he did just that Tuesday.

K-State announced the hiring of Adrian Rodriguez as the school's first vice president for diversity and multicultural student affairs. "Adrian will serve a critical leadership role to promote a culture at Kansas State University where all students are able to thrive and be engaged," Myers said in a statement.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Johnson County Community College just received the biggest financial gift in its history and plans to use the money to expand its technical education.

JCCC says it received a $10 million donation from the Overland Park-based Sunderland Foundation. It's part of a $102 million project that will add two buildings to campus.

A banner displayed in the middle of the Kansas State University campus. K-State has been rated among the 25 campuses for LGBT students in the country.
Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

In the ongoing struggle on college campuses for LGBT equality and acceptance, Kansas State University is an unexpected leader.

K-State is best known for agriculture and football.

On a gorgeous fall day in Manhattan, with the K-State marching band entertaining tailgaters, many fans were surprised to learn that their school was ranked in the 25 campuses for LGBT friendliness by CampusPride.org.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas’ approach to implementing a federal law on equity in education would fail to promote achievement for thousands of students the law was meant to protect, civil rights advocates say.

But state education officials counter that there are good reasons for their strategy designed to ensure that Kansas schools are evaluated fairly.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Shawnee Mission school board is going to have a very different look next year.

All three reform candidates won Tuesday night, replacing three veteran board members.

That now gives reformers a 4-3 edge on the board.

One of the reform leaders is at-large board member Brad Stratton who wasn’t on the ballot last night.

"The voters in the Shawnee Mission District came out and said loud and clear that they'd like some new voices at the board table," he says.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

In an election that was all about trust, it's clear the St. Joseph School District does not have it with voters.

A proposed 38 percent property tax hike, which the district says it needs to stop eating into its reserve funds went down big--72 percent voted no, 28 percent voted yes.

The proposal would have raised an additional $11.5 million a year and cost the owner of an $80,000 house an extra $220 a year.

The levy increase was backed by some of the biggest businesses in St. Joseph, the local NEA chapter and the Chamber of Commerce.

Lexi Churchill / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Public Schools will reopen Lincoln Middle to relieve overcrowding at the adjacent high school and offer a rigorous college preparatory program to more students.

“Just like any other competitive superintendent, I don’t want to lose on my first big decision, so I’m extremely happy about the board approving our recommendation to reopen Lincoln Middle School,” Superintendent Mark Bedell, now in his second year with the district, said after the board of directors approved his administration’s plan to reopen Lincoln Middle for the 2019-20 school year.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

St. Joseph residents will decide Nov. 7 whether to raise their property taxes by 38 percent to provide more money for schools.

But you’re mistaken if you think the election is really about that. It’s more like a referendum on the school district’s past transgressions, which are almost legendary in the world of Missouri public education.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers soon will start work to determine their response to a ruling by the state’s Supreme Court that found K-12 public school funding unconstitutional.

Republicans and Democrats on a key legislative panel decided the matter is too urgent to wait until the 2018 legislative session starts in January.

They voted Monday to create an 11-member committee that will meet for three days before then. Its task will be to kick-start efforts that must be done by an April 30 deadline.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Fifteen years ago, the vast majority of young couples buying homes in Brookside and Waldo had no intention of staying in the central city once they started families.

“Maybe they were just married and didn’t have any kids, but they planned to eventually,” says Mary Hutchison, real estate agent. “When they had one child, maybe two, they automatically decided to hop over to Kansas to get their kids in the public school system there.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Public Schools Board of Directors appears poised to reopen Lincoln Middle School, relieving overcrowding at the elite Lincoln College Preparatory Academy and reversing an unpopular decision made during rightsizing.

Kansas State University

Kansas State University is scaling back this year’s budget by millions of dollars after about 1,000 fewer students enrolled this fall compared to the previous year, creating a budget crunch.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Fewer than 40 percent of Kansas students are on track to be academically prepared for college, community college or technical school as measured by their scores on the state’s standardized math and English tests.

Scores on English language arts tests went down for the second year in a row. About 38 percent of students scored proficient in that subject in spring 2017.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

A former superintendent and school board president for the St. Joseph School District is out of prison and in an area halfway house.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The top Democrats in the Kansas Legislature are calling on Senate President Susan Wagle not to wait until January to start work on fulfilling a Kansas Supreme Court order to fix funding for public schools.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, and his counterpart in the House, Jim Ward of Wichita, wrote a letter to Wagle, who heads the Legislative Coordinating Council, seeking an interim bipartisan panel of House and Senate members.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Missouri schools continue to dole out harsher punishments to black students – and in particular, black students with disabilities – for disciplinary infractions than their white peers receive, according to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union on what’s been dubbed the school-to-prison pipeline.

Orlin Wagner / Associated Press

Last week the state lost again at the Kansas Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled that Kansas is underfunding its public schools, with repercussions for academically struggling children across the state — and especially for students and taxpayers who live in resource-poor school districts. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Usually education officials talk about the achievement gap – the stubborn, persistent disparities that keep students of color from catching up to their white peers.

But in socioeconomically disadvantaged districts like Kansas City Public Schools, there’s also a mentoring gap. An estimated one in three young people reach the age of 19 without having a mentor to serve as a positive adult role model.

Orlin Wagner / Associated Press

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 2 with additional information.

The Kansas Supreme Court on Monday struck down the state’s aid to schools as unconstitutionally low — and unfair to poor school districts in particular. The decision could pressure lawmakers to increase school funding by hundreds of millions dollars.

Courtesy of University Academy

University Academy has been named a National Blue Ribbon School, the first public charter in the Missouri to earn the distinction.

The awards recognize sustained excellence for a five-year period. This award is for 2013-17.

Less than one-third of 1 percent of schools who are eligible for the award receive it each year, according to Supt. Tony Kline. He credits Principal Clem Ukaoma for building a culture of success at the upper school.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas education officials did little to promote a public comment period for a school accountability plan designed to steer the state through 2030 and guide nearly $2 billion in federal spending.

While some states that publicized town halls and launched online surveys for their plans collected comments by the thousands, Kansas officials didn’t use such tools nor issue news releases or social media posts about the state’s public comment period.

Kansas News Service

The Olathe School District says students who used anti-LGBT language at a homecoming parade last Thursday will be punished. However, the district suggests the incident at Olathe Northwest High School may not have been as bad as first reported.

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Updated, 3:06 p.m. Monday: St. Teresa’s Academy alumnae, who were outraged after a group of students shared photos of them playing “Jews vs. Nazis” beer pong, say the girls’ apology is insufficient.

The apology came late Sunday evening after classmates allegedly shouted “Nazi” and “racist” at the girls during the Teresian homecoming dance.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The students from St. Teresa’s Academy who posted photos of themselves drinking from cups arranged in the shape of a swastika are bullying the teenage girl who reported them.

That’s according to frustrated classmates who reached out to KCUR to say St. Teresa’s response to alleged anti-Semitism has been wholly inadequate.

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