Education

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

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Courtesy of the Lee's Summit R-7 School District

Changing bell times could save the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District more than $600,000 next year.

Three late-start elementary schools – Cedar Creek, Lee’s Summit and Trailridge – will start and end 40 minutes earlier next year.

For the first time, the district’s three high schools will all be on the same schedule.

Deputy Supt. Brent Blevins says current bus routes were set when the district was much smaller.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The crowd filling the old Supreme Court room at the Kansas Statehouse expected a bit of a showdown Wednesday when the House K-12 Budget Committee discussed how much money to put into public education.

In the end, that debate lasted about 10 minutes and the committee stood pat on adding $150 million a year for five years for a total package of $750 million.

Kim Fritchie / Jacqueline Clark / Dennis Smith

The Lee’s Summit R-7 School Board has three new members: Jacqueline Clark, Kim Fritchie and Dennis Smith.

Reached by phone, Smith said he was thrilled that voters had prioritized the experience of educators.

“I think the decision making is very similar to what I did as a teacher and a principal. It’s a team effort,” Smith, the former principal of Campbell Middle School, said.

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

The chairman of the K-12 Budget Committee in the Kansas House promised that a new funding formula would be approved Monday and sent to the floor so the measure would be considered before lawmakers leave for a three-week break.

Turns out, politics got in the way.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Academie Lafayette, a French immersion charter school, has reached an agreement to buy the former Derrick Thomas Academy in midtown.

“If everything goes as we hope, this building will be the third campus in the Academie Lafayette network,” Head of School Elimane Mbengue says.

Academie Lafayette already operates two schools, a K-3 campus in midtown and a 4-8 campus in Brookside. The 69,000-square-foot facility at 201 E. Armour Blvd would likely house a high school.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

A Kansas legislative committee worked eight hours Thursday night and didn't come up with a new school funding formula.

But we now know the goal for how much new money will be added to try and satisfy the state Supreme Court which has ruled school funding in Kansas is inadequate.

“Our target was a $150 million over a period of five years, to escalate up slowly to a more constitutionally appropriate number,” says Rep. Melissa Rooker, a Republican from Fairway and a driving force to find more money for public education.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Supt. Mark Bedell says community feedback should shape Kansas City Public Schools’ strategic plan.

“We need your voice. We need your assistance. And we need you to have buy-in to this plan,” says Bedell, who is in his first year with the district.

KCPS already has a master plan. Approved last year, it changed some boundaries and targeted student achievement at underperforming schools.

Elle Moxley

Kansas City Mayor Sly James sits in a comfy chair, holding up a book featuring a bow tie-wearing owl with a striking resemble to the mayor.

“The name of this book is ‘Our Home, Kansas City,’” James tells a group of 4-year-olds from Operation Breakthrough.

“It’s my book!” shouts a child.

“No,” says James, “this is my book.”

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

A proposed school funding bill in Kansas would add $75 million to the public education system but many educators say that’s far less than they expected and may not be enough to satisfy the state Supreme Court.

Stephanie Clayton, a moderate Republican from Overland Park, says lawmakers in both parties “believe it will take a significantly larger amount” to satisfy their constituents, educators and the court.

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers have waited for half the session to get a look at what will probably be the basis for a new school funding formula.

Rep. Larry Campbell, the chairman of the House K-12 Education Budget Committee, released an outline of the measure Tuesday.

It looks a lot like the formula scrapped two years ago for block grants, a funding scheme ruled unconstitutional earlier this month by the Kansas Supreme Court.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

In a city with so many school options, it isn’t always easy for parents to choose where to send their children.

Amanda Recob’s daughter, Marliemae, will start kindergarten in the fall. But Recob isn’t just choosing a school for her 5-year-old.

“I have two girls following her, so it is a lot of pressure,” Recob says. “I don’t want them going to three separate schools.”

So Recob is trying to keep the needs of her 2-year-old and 4-year-old in mind as she visits schools.

Barbara Shelly / KCUR 89.3

Students in the Hickman Mills School District are returning from spring break this week, and their teachers are gearing up for the final stretch of the school year. In most grades, that includes high-stakes state achievement tests.

Teachers and administrators want nothing more than to settle down their classrooms and get everyone focused on the work ahead. But in this south Kansas City district, movement in and out of classrooms shows no signs of slowing down.

Sam / Zeff

The Kansas Regents have given every state run university and community college in Kansas a tall order: vastly increase the number of degrees and certificates they award.

Every Regents school has to graduate 20 percent more students in the next three years and then maintain that level.

That’s 13,000 more associate degrees, four year degrees and certificates a year across the system.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

The president of the Kansas Senate says a new school funding formula needs to focus on the quarter of students who are at-risk and not meeting state standards. And simply adding money to a funding formula won’t solve the problem, she says.

Sen. Susan Wagle, a Republican from Wichita, says the federal Head Start program is a good model on how to help at-risk children.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The Missouri state auditor Monday issued a highly critical report of executive compensation in the University of Missouri System, calling some $2 million paid to top leaders over the last two years "hidden bonus pay."

Much of Auditor Nicole Galloway's fire was focused on how the UM System handled the resignation of former University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.

But she also highlighted additional compensation paid to other top system executives, including UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton.

University of Missouri

In a very critical report, the Missouri auditor called into question incentive payments made to top executives of the University of Missouri System. In a report released Monday, Auditor Nicole Galloway also questioned how much the system paid to the former chancellor of the Columbia campus after his resignation and how much the system spends on car allowances for UM System executives.

Charles Riedel / AP

As expected, the Kansas Supreme Court on Thursday morning ruled that the state’s school funding formula is inadequate under the Kansas Constitution.

In a unanimous 83-page decision, the court gave the Legislature until June 30 to address the state’s public education financing system.

The decision comes after the court ruled earlier that the school funding formula had failed to meet the equity prong of the Kansas Constitution.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

There’s been an awful lot of discussion on what Kansas’s new school funding formula will look like and whether the Legislature will still make cuts to public schools mid-year.

Nothing has been decided, which has educators in the state both a little optimistic and a little scared.

On a recent morning Allison Theno was combining math and penguins to teach her 18 kindergartners at Basehor Elementary to subtract.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

It’s crunch time for Missouri school districts trying to reach state-mandated attendance goals.

The phone rings constantly in the attendance office at King Elementary, one of the Kansas City Public Schools where attendance is below the district average.

An out-of-breath Donetta Stuart describes the morning she’s had – and it’s only 9 o’clock. 

“Normally when we miss the bus stop, I take her to the next bus stop, but her daddy didn’t do that. It was crazy. We had a crazy day,” she says.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

A major data breach is being investigated in the Independence School District.

The school district employees were alerted to the scam in an email sent last Thursday.

In it, the business office says “the names, social security numbers, addresses and earnings” of every employee was stolen in a phishing scam, where the crooks use fake emails or websites to steal personal information.

The information was used to file fraudulent income tax returns, according to the email.

A fraud investigation is underway by the FBI and the Independence Police Department.

Hickman Mills School District

The Hickman Mills School District has selected its own Yolanda Cargile to serve as its new superintendent. 

Cargile is currently associate superintendent of student services at Hickman Mills.

Current superintendent Dennis Carpenter is leaving the district at the end of June to serve as superintendent in the Lee's Summit school district. 

Barbara Shelly / KCUR 89.3

A parent arrives home one day to find the family’s possessions sitting on the curb. Those eviction threats were all too real.

A basement fills with water and the landlord won’t come around to deal with the problem. The family has no choice but to move.

An ex-boyfriend is making threats. A nearby apartment complex has a rent special going on. A family moves to be closer to a parent’s new job.

For many reasons, families move over the course of the school year. For children and their schools, the consequences can be profound.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Public Schools and the Mexican Consulate have partnered to offer educational opportunities to Latinos in the district.

The partnership comes at a time when many are worried about raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The partnership is housed at East High School, where the ribbon was cut Thursday.

St. Joseph School District

The St. Joseph School Board member at the center of a stipend scandal, which rocked the district and eventually led to a former superintendent going to federal prison, has resigned. 

"It was an agonizing decision to make," Chris Danford says. "I don't want to be a quitter, but it's better to split ways (with the district).

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Hickman Mills Supt. Dennis Carpenter wants to make something very clear: he won’t welcome charter schools in his district.

At a community meeting Wednesday night, Carpenter told Robbyn Wahby, executive director of the Missouri Charter Public School Commission, she was being disingenuous.

Wahby was in Kansas City to give a presentation to the Southern Communities Coalition.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

It took many by surprise, but the Kansas Senate Ways and Means Committee passed out a bill Tuesday that would cut $154 million out of the budget by July 1, the vast majority coming from education.

Of the proposed cuts, education shoulders 98 percent of the total. More than $127 million of the cuts would come from K-12 and another $23 million from higher education. 

In Johnson County, the plan would result in millions of dollars in cuts:

Wikimedia Commons

Updated, 11:40 a.m. Wednesday: The U.S. Senate has confirmed Betsy DeVos for education secretary, 50-50 with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote.

Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri; Jerry Moran, R-Kansas; and Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, voted yes. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, voted no.

The original post continues below. 

The U.S. Senate is expected to confirm Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s embattled pick for education secretary, Tuesday afternoon.

Brad Wilson / Flickr — CC

In the basket of thorny issues facing Kansas lawmakers how to fund public education is certainly among the thorniest.

Led by Gov. Sam Brownback and conservative Republicans, the old funding formula was scrapped two years ago in favor of a block grant scheme that expires July 1.

Starting Monday morning the House K-12 Budget Committee starts discussions on a new formula.

And with that comes some questions: 

What is this K-12 Budget Committee?

Barbara Shelly / KCUR 89.3

Second-grade teacher Aubrey Paine leads her class into the school computer lab, gets everyone seated, then moves from computer to computer, typing in login information and issuing instructions.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Sprint employees were at Central Academy of Excellence Wednesday to pass out free wireless hotspots to low-income high school students who don’t have internet access at home.

Freshman Nia Abson was one of the first students to receive a device with a data plan.

“Like, I couldn’t get my work done, and then I’d be failing classes,” Abson says. “I’d just be like, ‘Mom, I need internet.’”

Mark Bedell says he heard from countless Kansas City Public Schools students about the lack of connectivity when he visited schools during his first 100 days as superintendent.

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