Education

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

Ways to Connect

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.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

When Kansas City Public Schools hired Mark Bedell to be the district’s next superintendent, one of the board members sent him a book to read, “Complex Justice,” about the Missouri v. Jenkins desegregation case.

In the 1980s, the courts ordered KCPS to pay teachers more and build state-of-the-art schools – at the time, what people thought it would take to bring white, suburban families back to the district.

University of Kansas

New figures from the Kansas Board of Regents spell out just how much each university, community college and technical college would lose if the Legislature chooses to cut its way to a balanced budget this year. 

And it's a lot of money.

In total, all 37 institutions would lose out on a combined $52,546,469 if lawmakers enact an across-the-board 6.95 percent cut.

The state's current-year budget is estimated to be $362 million short and the Legislature must find that money before July.

Kansas Supreme Court

In a blow to teachers in Kansas, the state Supreme Court Friday upheld a 2014 law that stripped educators of due process before being fired.

In a unanimous ruling the court rejected an appeal by the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) that argued the law violated the constitutional ban of one bill covering more than one subject. KNEA claimed since the bill covered both appropriations and policy the act was unconstitutional.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Friday morning at 11 a.m., Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

But from the moment he won the election, there has been trepidation among immigrants, both those in the country legally and illegally. That fear is a big problem in the Kansas City Public Schools.

It can be hard enough teaching in the Kansas City school district. Many students live in poverty, lots of the schools are crumbling, and there are a lack of extracurricular activities.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District will pay Hickman Mills Supt. Dennis Carpenter $235,000 for the 2017-18 school year.

That’s more than Carpenter’s current $185,000 base salary, but it’s substantially less than his predecessor, David McGehee, was making. With a compensation package of $395,000, McGehee was the top paid administrator in the state of Missouri when he resigned last year.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The number of degrees and certificates being awarded by state colleges and universities is up, as are on-time graduations.

Overall the Kansas Board of Regents seemed pleased Wednesday with its latest annual progress report.

In news that will also be very welcomed by the Legislature, the report says wages are rising for those earning either a two-year or four-year degree.

Barbara Shelly / KCUR 89.3

Kaily Ross rocked a baby stroller as she talked to the staffers who run the after-school program at Ingels Elementary School in the Hickman Mills district.

Could her older son, the 3rd grader she was enrolling in the LINC program that day, still get in the flag football activity? What else did they offer?

It was a few weeks after the start of the school year and Ross’s son was transferring from another area district. When I asked how many schools he had attended to that point she sighed and said, “There have been so many.”

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

As Kansas City Public Schools battle to improve academics, one high school is getting multi-million dollar help from the state.              

East High School just got word that it received what’s called a School Improvement Grant (SIG).

It’s federal money that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) distributes to very low performing schools.

East principal Jeff Spaletta, who’s in his first year in the district, says the $4 million grant will be used, among other things, to add classes.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Public Schools Supt. Mark Bedell says he’s done observing – it’s time to act.

Last month, Bedell outlined his plan to move KCPS forward in a 22-page report that recapped his experiences visiting schools during his first 100 days as superintendent.

Wikipedia -- CC

In his State of the State speech Tuesday, Gov. Sam Brownback threw down a gauntlet for state universities: come up with a $15,000 bachelor's degree. In education world, almost nobody saw that coming.

But now that the idea for a bargain bachelor's is out there, it's up to the Kansas Board of Regents to try and make it a reality.

Danny Wood / KCUR 89.3

The controversial $1.8 billion Brookridge redevelopment proposal in Overland Park is a step closer to being subsidized with help from taxpayer funds. A special committee told the Shawnee Mission Board of Education Wednesday that it should not use its veto power to stop the creation of a tax increment financing district (TIF).

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