Education

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

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No restricting free speech, no matter the perspective. A bill backed by Republican lawmakers intends to send that message to college campuses in Kansas.

The Campus Free Speech Protection Act would insist that universities make clear that all of their outdoor spaces, not just “free speech zones,” embrace political outlooks and events regardless of how they fit with trends in academic thought.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Imagine, teacher Shauna Hammett tells first-graders gathered around a small table, a train whistle.

“What sound is the long ‘A’ sound?” Hammett asks.

Hands shoot into the air, then tug downward as if pulling on a rope. Their sing-song answer mimics the sound of a passing train: “Aaaaaaaa. Aaaaaa.”

Courtesy of SMSD

Editor's note: This post was updated at 12:50 on Tuesday to include comments Michael Fulton made to KCUR's Steve Kraske on Up to Date.

In a unanimous vote Monday night, the Shawnee Mission Board of Education appointed Michael Fulton as new superintendent of the Shawnee Mission School District, bringing a long saga of disrupt in the district to a close.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The University of Missouri-Kansas City must figure out how to invest in its students, faculty and staff even as state appropriations decline, Chancellor-designate C. Mauli Agrawal says.

University of Kansas

Kansas could struggle to stop college students from taking their money to other Midwestern states if it continues to charge higher tuition.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Newly installed Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer described his state Wednesday as vibrant but with trouble spots, telling lawmakers he plans to charge ahead at its problems.

Colyer promised to reform the state’s struggling foster care system, improve its privatized Medicaid program, open government activities into clearer public view and help more Kansans find jobs.

The speech was effectively a State of the State speech by a former two-term lieutenant governor now one week into higher office and trying to distinguish himself from his unpopular running mate, former Gov. Sam Brownback. Brownback delivered a formal State of the State address last month.

University of Texas at San Antonio / College of Engineering

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3:50 p.m. to include comments from incoming chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal and MU spokesman Christian Basi.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City’s next chancellor, C. Mauli Agrawal, takes over at a time when higher education funding in the state is under fire and inherits the imperiled promise of a downtown location for the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance.

UM-System President Mun Choi announced Agrawal’s appointment to faculty and staff in an email Tuesday.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Over five years, the bus money that Kansas doled out to schools — that auditors say it shouldn’t have without legislative permission — totaled $45 million.

It’s a drop in the bucket compared to the $4 billion a year that the state spends on public schools.

With so much at stake — the state’s single largest budget item — the system is drawing fresh looks.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:10 p.m. with comments from the school district.

Kansas City Public Schools leaders are open to the possibility of reopening Southwest High in partnership with a community coalition that’s been campaigning for months in the Brookside and Waldo neighborhoods.

“To me, what’s going to get support in that neighborhood is a middle school that could grow into a high school with a signature component,” Superintendent Mark Bedell said Monday in a South Zone School committee meeting of the KCPS Board of Education.

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A booming stock market last year meant big gains for endowments at Kansas colleges and universities.

But declines in the long-term performance of endowments and changes to the tax code make many financial officers nervous.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

The chief school finance official in Kansas — under fire from top Republican lawmakers, backed by scores of people in state education circles — on Friday avoided a suspension.

Dale Dennis, the state’s deputy education commissioner and a walking encyclopedia of Kansas school finance policy, came under attack over an audit that showed some school districts had long been getting money for buses beyond what lawmakers authorized.

file photo / Kansas State University

A pay gap that left Kansas professors trailing their peers for more than a decade grew wider last year.

A new report from the Kansas Board of Regents confirmed that the state pays its academics less than the public colleges and universities they compete against.

“We’re not surprised because we’ve been at the bottom for so long,” said Brian Lindshield, the faculty senate president at Kansas State University.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Missouri families can now use an existing college savings program to get a tax break on private school tuition and other K-12 education expenses, Treasurer Eric Schmitt announced this week.

An amendment added at the last minute to the massive tax overhaul Congress passed in December allows participants in state 529 college savings programs to spend up to $10,000 annually to cover tuition expenses at public, private and religious schools.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Gov. Sam Brownback wants to add hundreds of new school counselors to public schools in Kansas over the next five years, if they can be found.

That would require a dramatic reversal in a state that’s seen a slight decline in school counselors over the past decade and that may be losing its capacity to train more.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

When 18-year-old Columba Herrera walks across the graduation stage this May, she’ll leave Topeka Public Schools with two things — a high school diploma and the beginnings of her college transcript.

Herrera will have a semester’s worth of college credit — courses offered at Topeka West High School in conjunction with Washburn University.

Each freshman-level college class that the aspiring computer science major knocks out of the way while in high school gets her closer to her goal.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Missouri teachers have made incremental salary gains since last school year, but educator pay continues to trail the national average.

The average Missouri teacher is making $49,760 for the 2017-18 school year, according to a Missouri State Teacher Association report on educator pay. That’s about $700 more than last year but still well below the national average for a classroom teacher, which is $58,950.

file photo / Southeast Kansas Education Service Center

Today, about three of every 20 students in Kansas fail to graduate from high school. Gov. Sam Brownback contends that in five years, only one will fall short.

That would vault Kansas from the middle of the pack to a level no state in the country hits today.

Education experts question if it’s realistic. The governor and the education department, they say, ask for too much too soon. After all, the early years of school weigh heavily. Work with kids learning their alphabet and colors — as much as those studying capitalism and algebra — can determine later who sticks it out.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

One of the most outspoken school superintendents in Kansas, often a lightning rod for conservatives in the Legislature, announced Tuesday night that she is retiring in June.

Cynthia Lane has led Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools for eight years and spent 29 years in the district. Before KCK she was director of special education in the Spring Hill District.

Scott Canon / Kansas News Service

A Kansas Supreme Court ruling saying the state must spend more on schools could require lawmakers to find hundreds of millions of dollars. With some lawmakers saying a tax hike for education remains off the table, that financial hunt won’t be easy.

 

Legislators rolled back Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature income tax cuts just last year. It was a monumental task, which ultimately required lawmakers to override a veto from the governor. The fight stretched the session to a tie with the longest in state history.

 

The search has begun for Missouri’s next education commissioner, even though there currently aren’t enough board members to vote on hiring Margie Vandeven’s successor.

Ten people applied for the job by Monday’s deadline. But Board of Education President Charlie Shields said they can’t even review their applications until there are at least five voting members on the State Board.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Kansas set lofty goals for its public schools in the next dozen years – but the Trump administration and independent experts suggest the state’s plan is as vague as it is ambitious.

The state’s plan lacks concrete details on closing academic gaps in its public schools, so much so that federal officials and outside reviewers question the state’s compliance with civil rights law that demands all children get fair learning opportunities.

File Photo / KCUR

The former legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas thinks a practice among some school boards of restricting patron complaints at public meetings eventually will end up in court.

Doug Bonney, legal director emeritus for ACLU Kansas, said if barring complaints about school board members, the superintendent or employees is common, that doesn’t make it right.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ stop at a tiny private school in Kansas City’s Waldo neighborhood earlier this year became a flashpoint in a national conversation about transgender rights.

The education department’s rollback of Obama-era protections for transgender students quickly overshadowed DeVos’ purported reasons for visiting Kansas City Academy – an innovative fine arts curriculum and farm-to-table culinary program.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt on Tuesday suggested the Legislature let the public have a say on the state’s constitutional duty to pay for public education, but he steered clear of criticizing the Kansas Supreme Court’s rulings on the topic.

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Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers are facing an even tighter deadline to pass a new school finance law this session, after an attorney for the state encouraged them to finish their work on the topic less than two months into the coming 2018 legislative session.

Asked Monday by lawmakers what legal staff need to help make the state’s case, Arthur Chalmers urged them to aim for the start of March for handing off a new school finance bill rather than sometime closer to the date the Kansas Supreme Court set for filing the state’s arguments.

Charlie Riedel-Archive Photo / Associated Press

In the summer of 2005, the Legislature butted heads with the Kansas Supreme Court over a ruling that ordered an influx of money to public education.

The result? Kansas came closer than ever to a constitutional crisis.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The School of Computing and Engineering at the University of Missouri-Kansas City is getting a high-tech $32 million facility to help students compete in a global economy.

The University of Missouri Board of Curators approved construction of the computer science building, which will be adjacent to Flarsheim Hall, earlier this month. It will be built with a combination of state funds and private donations, including a $6 million gift from the Sunderland Foundation.

With the task of going through a state Senate confirmation process approaching, Gov. Eric Greitens’ picks to the Missouri State Board of Education successfully sped up the process of finding an education commissioner over the objections of the board’s president.

The governor’s five nominees outflanked three other board members during a teleconference Thursday to open and close the application process for a new education commissioner before an early January meeting. The board fired Commissioner Margie Vandeven Dec. 1 over objections of lawmakers from both sides as well as leaders and supporters of traditional school districts.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Gingerbread houses crafted by Kansas City Public Schools culinary arts students are on their way to Union Station, where they’ll be on display until Christmas.

“They make some amazing things,” says Rashawn Caruthers, director of Career and Technical Education for KCPS. “One year they made SpongeBob’s house. It’s not just your traditional gingerbread house.”

Courtesy Photo

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. 

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