Education News.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Taxpayers in the St. Joseph, Mo., school district are opposed to renewing part of property tax levy that would cost the district $6.5 million.

Brad Wilson / Flickr-CC

An idea born around a kitchen table a year-and-a-half ago to create charter schools in midtown Kansas City for parents who want to live in the city got a huge boost Thursday.

The Midtown Community Schools Initiative says it will open two charter elementary schools in the 2016 school year.

To get off the ground, the group will draw on $2.6 million in grants from the Kauffman Foundation, the Hall Family Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.

Midtown co-founder Kristin Littrell says these schools will keep families in the city.

Kansas Attorney General's Office

The Kansas Attorney General is suing a New Jersey company for allegedly scamming more than 300 schools in the state.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt filed a civil suit in Shawnee County District Court against Robert Armstrong who runs Scholastic School Supply out of Franklinville, N.J.

The scam, according to the lawsuit, was simple and worked liked this: The company would send an invoice to a school for text books that the school never ordered.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The Kansas Legislature gets back to work Monday, and when lawmakers arrive in Topeka they will be consumed by two things: budget deficits and education.

Where those two intersect may prove to be the hot spot of the legislative session.

A preview of the coming budget battle was clear at the final meeting of the K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission Monday at the statehouse.

The commission was supposed to figure out ways for Kansas school districts to save money that could be plowed back into the classroom.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

A commission set up to make Kansas school districts more efficient released its final report to the Legislature Tuesday.

The commission was created as part of a political compromise last session that put a court ordered $179 million more into Kansas schools.

The commission, which has been meeting since July, recommended two pieces of legislation. Neither would show any short-term savings.

One would establish a semi-permanent efficiency task force that would require yearly compliance audits for all school districts.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Gov. Jay Nixon was in Kansas City, Mo., Tuesday to announce $450,000 in grants for a metro-area Missouri Innovation Campus.

The Northland CAPs program connects high school students from six local districts to nearby employers, where they learn job skills while earning college credit.

"That's a win for our colleges and universities, a win for Missouri business and, more importantly, a win for our students," said Nixon.

National non-profit USA Funds awarded Missouri $1 million to expand the Innovation Campus program last fall. 

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

School board members from across Kansas are gearing up to fight for more funding when the state Legislature convenes on Jan. 12.

The Kansas Association of School Boards is using a court ruling handed down last week to makes its case.

A three-judge panel from Shawnee County was clear in its decision: schools in Kansas are unconstitutionally underfunded and more money must be spent.

Exactly how much and where that money will come from is being left up to the Legislature.

Fort Hays State

Trying to figure out how to pay for college?

Turns out one of the best deals in the country is in Kansas.

When it comes to higher education in Kansas, most of the attention centers on the University of Kansas or Kansas State University.

But there are three other regent schools in the state. And according to U.S. News and World Report, for in-state students, Fort Hays State University has the second-lowest tuition and fees in the country.

Lauren Manning / Flickr--CC

In the next six months, state education officials will be poring over recently released data on whether students in high-poverty schools are getting the same quality of teaching as kids in low-poverty schools.

The U.S. Department of Education recently released something it calls Education Equity Profiles for all 50 states. They compare teacher data in high-poverty and high-minority schools with teacher data in low-poverty and low-minority schools.

Missouri fares worse than many other states.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

A much-anticipated court ruling that could profoundly change how much Kansas spends on public schools was announced Tuesday afternoon – and it's bad news for state lawmakers.

A three-judge panel from Shawnee County ruled that while the formula for funding K-12 education is fine, lawmakers have failed to properly fund it.

The panel says per pupil base aid might need to go as high as $4,980. Current base aid per pupil is $3,833. That means the Legislature might have to come up with at least another $522 million to satisfy the court.

Dan Verbeck / KCUR

You probably don’t know it, but Johnson County is in the middle of one of its biggest election challenges ever.

The county election office says it will mail ballots to more than 330,000  voters in a mail-election on whether school districts should be allowed to increase how much of their budgets can be raised from local property taxes.

County Election Commissioner Brian Newby says he expects half of those ballots to be returned. That means officials will be handling more paper ballots then they ever have.

alamosbasement / Flickr--CC

Starting Friday the Johnson County Election office will mail about 330,000 ballots to voters in five county school districts.

The districts want to make permanent an increase in their local option budgets.

School districts have two main sources of money. Most funds come from the state, but districts can also raise local money from property taxes.

But the state limits how much a school district can tax locally.

Last year, the Legislature raised the limit from 31 percent to 33 percent of a district’s budget.

Courtesy photo / Kansas City Public Schools

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Monday against Kansas City Public Schools over a November protest at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy. 

Lamar Republican Sen. Ed Emery wants to give Missouri schools a report card – he's filed legislation to create an A-F letter grade system similar to those enacted in other states.

"I think if we can do this in Missouri, we'll have better informed parents and more involved parents, and as a result, we'll be moving toward an excellence in education that we all want," Emery said.

Florida was the first state to issue A-F letter grades to schools a decade ago under former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush. Now, about a dozen states have similar systems in place.

Courtesy photo / Kansas State University

The Kansas State University marching band won one of the most prestigious music awards in the country Friday.

The Sudler Trophy is given every two years by the John Phillip Sousa Foundation to the university band with the highest musical standards, innovative routines and that's made contributions to the American way of life, according to the foundation website.

"It’s an award that people in the athletic band world covet. It’s really considered  sort of a lifetime achievement award in the marching band area," said Dr. Gary Mortenson, director of K-State's School of Music.

Sean Sandefur / KMUW - Wichita Public Radio

Room and board is going up at the six Regent universities in Kansas.

The Kansas Board of Regents unanimously approved the hike at its regular meeting Wednesday in Topeka. Next year students will be paying about 3 percent more for dorm rooms and meals.

Some schools are hiking the price a little more than others.

The University Of Kansas placed the Kappa Sigma fraternity on probation for two years on Wednesday because of violations of the Student Code of Rights and Responsibilities.

The sanctions are the result of an investigation of alleged sexual assault at the fraternity the weekend of Sept. 26.

According to a statement from the University, the sanctions against the Kappa Sigma fraternity include:

Courtesy photo / Missouri Department of Education

Update, 2:15 p.m. Wednesday:

Missouri's next education commissioner, Margaret Vandeven, says the provisionally-accredited Kansas City Public Schools will need to continue to make progress to regain full standing with the state.

"We're monitoring the situation," says Vandeven, a current deputy education commissioner who will take over as Missouri's schools chief early next year. "We certainly have our regional team working with the school district ... and we just need to continue to see improvement at the individual child level in that district."

Frank Morris / KCUR

Charles and David Koch are well known for funding political campaigns, but the Kochs also donate tens of millions of dollars to colleges and universities.

Nothing unusual about wealthy people giving to higher education, but some professors warn that Koch funding can come with conditions that threaten academic freedom, and that has sparked a debate about the influence of big donors in an age of diminishing public university funding.


When Chris Nicastro was chosen as Missouri’s education commissioner in 2009, her experience with school districts in north St. Louis County was cited as a big factor.

Now, as the Missouri state board of education prepares to interview five finalists to succeed Nicastro, they have a list of four white men who have been superintendents in Joplin, Branson, Springfield and Wentzville, plus a white woman who has been actively involved in north county as deputy commissioner but has never served as a superintendent.

Missouri has fallen short in a bid for federal preschool dollars.

But last week's news gets worse for advocates of early childhood education – Missouri’s application finished dead last in the nine-state competition.

Sarah Potter, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education,  says Missouri’s application for preschool development money didn’t do enough to address students with special needs.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The St. Joseph, Mo., school district is heading into perhaps the most difficult and trying few months in its history.

As the district’s legal troubles get both deeper and broader, much of the time and effort of the Board of Education and the administration is consumed by remediation and litigation.

Here's just one example.

At a regular board meeting earlier this month all seemed normal. First the Pledge of Allegiance followed by recognition of district Special Olympians.  

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Update, Dec. 18:

The St. Joseph School District filed an action plan Monday with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

In the letter to St. Joseph superintendent Dr. Fred Czerwona outlining the summer school programs the state disallowed, DESE required a plan from the district to make sure these mistakes don't happen again.

Czerwonka sent a one page letter to DESE saying, among other things, the district will review the summer school handbook every year and any changes will be reviewed by DESE.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education received some bad news Wednesday.

Its application for a $17.5 million grant to boost the number of children in state-funded early childhood education programs was turned down by the U.S. Department of Education.

The grants were announced in conjunction with a Dec. 10 White House summit on early childhood development. Eighteen states will share $226 million in federal grants to either develop state pre-kindergarten programs or expand existing programs.

(Updated with interviews from all candidates.)

The Missouri state board of education has narrowed to five the field of candidates seeking to become the state’s next commissioner of elementary and secondary education.

After reviewing 12 applications in closed session Friday, the board announced Monday that it would interview:


Missouri legislators don’t return to Jefferson City for another month, but two bills that would make big changes to education in the state already have been filed.

One would drastically change the way school districts are accredited and another would stir the controversy around Common Core standards.

Rep. David Wood, a Republican from Versailles in mid-Missouri, pre-filed a bill that would require the state to accredit individual schools rather than entire districts.

American Institutes for Research -- highlighting KCUR

For years, states have decided the definition of reading and math proficiency with their own sets of standards.

The result? Kansas children often seem to come out ahead of Missouri children in math and reading, when comparing the states' data.

But when this data is normalized across all 50 states, there's a different story.

RELATED: What You Probably Didn't Know About Academic Standards In Kansas And Missouri / Creative Commons

It’s not really fair, but when many people around here think of quality schools, they think of Kansas.

Indeed, going back decades lots of real estate agents have guided new residents to the Kansas side of the line.

But there’s a significant difference between how Missouri schools and Kansas schools are judged.

"Our Missouri standards tend to rank at the more rigorous levels than do our standards assessments in Kansas," says Dr. Leigh Anne Taylor Knight of the Kansas City Area Education Research Consortium.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

  If you’ve been on social media lately, you’ve probably seen parents complaining that the Common Core has ruined math for their kids.

They’ll share comedian Louis CK’s bit about the incompressible homework his kids are bringing home.

“‘Bill has three goldfish. He buys two more. How many dogs live in London?,’” he tells David Letterman. “Or something like that.”

Sam Zeff / KCUR

It was a brutal legal week for the embattled St. Joseph, Mo., School District.

It was served with a third federal grand jury subpoena for documents, as staff welcomed back CFO Beau Musser after seven months on paid administrative leave after accusing him of sexual misconduct.

An outside investigation showed Musser did not act improperly. Musser sued the district and that lawsuit is still pending.