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Education

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

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Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

(This story has been updated.)

Getting most Kansas schoolchildren doing well enough in math and reading to stay on track for college could cost an extra $2 billion a year — or roughly half what the state already spends on aid to local schools.

The figure comes from a report released Friday that lawmakers commissioned to help them judge the costs of getting better classroom results and to comply with a Kansas Supreme Court order.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Leaders in City Hall and Kansas City Public Schools are just beginning to piece together a connection between Kansas City’s high numbers of evictions and the academic performance of children affected by forced moves.

The data is preliminary, but Michael Reynolds, chief research and accountability officer for the school district, says a relationship is coming into focus.

“Without a question, students who get evicted have worse academic outcomes, according to the state and according to standard testing, than students who don’t,” Reynolds says.

Campus 'Free Speech' Law Shut Down By Kansas Senate

Mar 15, 2018
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An effort by conservatives to protect what they see as an assault on free speech on college campuses fell to defeat by the narrowest of margins Thursday in the Kansas Senate.

The bill — inspired by the canceling of conservative speakers’ appearances at some elite schools across the country in recent years — would eliminate “free-speech zones” designated for demonstrations. Some critics have seen such zones as a way of moving politically unpopular perspectives out of view.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Eleven months before a gunman opened fire in a Florida high school, students had to evacuate North Kansas City’s Oak Park High School.

They were told to leave their backpacks in their classrooms, walk outside in a single-file line and keep their hands on their heads.

Stephan Bisaha / Kansas News Service

Students in Kansas are bearing more than two-thirds of the cost of their education at public universities in the state.

That’s a sharp increase over the last 16 years. In 2001, revenue from tuition was little more than a third of the cost of education — about 35 percent. Today it's just over 71 percent.

Big Stock

The father of a 19-year-old Shawnee Mission South student says his daughter was sexually assaulted last April on a school bus as she was returning home from school.

The allegations are detailed in a lawsuit filed this week against First Student Inc., which last year lost its transportation contract with the Shawnee Mission School District.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The young survivors of a Florida school shooting last month don’t want thoughts and prayers.

They want gun control.

They’ve organized protests, staged walkouts and demanded policymakers do more to protect them. On Twitter, they’ve called out politicians who oppose restrictions on the assault-style rifle a gunman used to kill 17 of their classmates and teachers.

And their activism has resonated with teens across the country.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas schools already have the freedom to arm their teachers. Gov. Jeff Colyer says now bonuses for teachers who pack weapons might be in order.

Yet the governor also said that local school districts should make the call, embracing those options that they think make the most sense to prevent school shootings.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Can an all-girls charter school with a college prep curriculum help young women of color in Kansas City’s poorest neighborhoods succeed?

Tom Krebs thinks so, though he’s admittedly an odd champion for single-gender education.

“I’m a white guy from the East Coast. Why am I the leader of this effort?” Krebs, founding CEO of Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy, said at a community meeting last week. “I’m hoping long term I won’t be.”

In fact, hiring someone to lead the charter school is “the biggest decision we’re going to make,” Krebs says.

Erica Lynn / Flickr Creative Commons

One of the most common ways for high school students to earn college credit — and, by extension, reduce the cost of college — is to pass an AP exam.

But fewer Kansas students are graduating with a passing grade on an Advanced Placement exam compared to their peers in other states.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Even before releasing their results, consultants hired to guide Kansas lawmakers to a school funding plan that meets legal muster endured a grilling on Friday.

How, wondered lawmakers, would the consultants reach their conclusions on how much money school districts need to help students succeed academically? Why do the consultants seem to be excluding the overhead, non-classroom expenses of running schools from their study? And what about criticism of work they’d done in other states?

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Many local schools remained closed Wednesday in anticipation of an ice storm that could dump up to an inch of snow and sleet on the metro by Thursday afternoon.

But not Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools.

Shawnee Mission School District

Shawnee Mission Board of Education hired Michael Fulton to be the district's next superintendent for $250,000 a year, but the other details of his contract have been finalized.

Fulton will receive $1,000 a month car allowance "for the purpose of offsetting all necessary operating expenses for travel required to perform duties" in the Kansas City area. In addition, the district will also provide a yearly $24,000 tax-sheltered annuity.

Fulton will get 31 vacation days a year in addition to all days off students and staff get.

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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.

wikimedia

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.

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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.

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