Education

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

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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.

Facebook

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.

Wikimedia -- CC

Alumnae of St. Teresa’s Academy are upset by the school’s lax response to social media posts that show current students posing with a swastika.

According to multiple alumnae who reached out to KCUR, seven students arranged plastic cups in the shape of a swastika while playing beer pong at a weekend party. They then shared photos of themselves with the swastika on Snapchat with the caption, “Girls night!”

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The massive hurricanes Harvey and Irma have people talking about how much, if at all, climate change adds to such storms’ destructiveness.

In a blog post authored by Paul Driessen, the conservative Heartland Institute disputes that global warming is worsening the weather or that it’s human-caused. And, Driessen writes, fossil fuels “bring rescue boats.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

At Kansas City Academy on Friday, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made veggie burgers in culinary class and a clay pot in ceramics, but she didn’t explain how a private liberal arts school known for its progressive values landed on her radar.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos touted the importance of making higher education accessible Thursday while on a whirlwind tour of vocational classrooms at Johnson County Community College.

The highly orchestrated two-hour visit included stops to view spaces used for teaching automotive, electrical, welding, nursing and culinary programs.

The stop was part of a six-state tour in which DeVos has traveled to public and private schools, highlighting themes ranging from services for children with autism to Native American education.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Despite the ongoing fight over how much Kansas should spend on schools, the Legislature did at least one thing this year that almost all educators were pleased with: For the first time, it included all-day kindergarten in the school funding formula.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is in the Midwest this week on a hastily-planned “Rethink Schools” tour that’s left Kansas and Missouri school leaders scrambling.

To say the call Kansas City Academy received the Friday before Labor Day was unexpected would be an understatement.

Someone from DeVos’ staff wanted to know if the education secretary could visit the tiny private school in Kansas City, Missouri, in two weeks’ time. Head of School Kory Gallagher says he was given until 5 p.m. to decide.

It was already 3:55.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas is setting aspirations for much higher math and reading competency among the class of 2030 — today’s kindergartners — in a long-term accountability plan for its public schools.

Kansas officials submitted the accountability blueprint Tuesday to the U.S. Department of Education. It does not include language promoting controversial school choice concepts that Gov. Sam Brownback’s office advocated for, according to staff at the state education department.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

University of Missouri-Kansas City leaders on Monday acknowledged the mixed results of a survey about the atmosphere on campus. 

The majority of UMKC students, faculty and staff rated their campus “comfortable” or “very comfortable” in the most recent climate study.

But 17 percent of those who took the survey last October said they personally had experienced “exclusionary, intimidating, offensive and/or hostile conduct” because of their ethnicity, age, gender or gender identity.

And 34 percent of respondents said they had seriously considered leaving UMKC.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

As dozens of Kansas school districts spar with the state over funding for public education, the term “Rose standards” has emerged as arcane but critical jargon among lawyers and judges, and surfaced over and over again in court documents.

Though the term has appeared in past school finance lawsuits in Kansas, following a March 2014 Kansas Supreme Court ruling, it is undeniably front and center in the ongoing Gannon v. Kansas wrangling.

City of Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department

Young black students were five times more likely than their white peers to be removed from Kansas City classrooms for disciplinary infractions during the 2015-16 school year.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Tens of millions of dollars in extra state funding that legislators approved this spring amid pressure from an ongoing school finance lawsuit could go toward raising teacher pay.

In recent weeks, news reports point to school boards throughout the state adjusting pay this year.

UMKC Marketing & Communications / Flickr -- CC

More cuts may be coming at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

An email Interim Chancellor Barbara Bichelmeyer sent to staff Wednesday suggested that the budget situation was even worse than anticipated. UMKC is already operating with a budgeted deficit of $4.5 million for the fiscal year that began July 1.

“We also are now aware of additional risks that were not contemplated in initial budgeting,” Bichelmeyer wrote. “Most importantly, we still will need to make selected strategic investments that will require reallocations from within our existing budgets.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Talking to fourth graders about saving money for college is very different than talking to their parents, Missouri Treasurer Eric Schmitt found out Tuesday.

“How do you get money?” asked a student at Crestview Elementary, the first stop on a statewide tour to promote 529 college savings accounts.

When Schmitt replied you get money by working, the girl’s classmate raised his hand to ask, “How much do you get?”

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