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

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It didn't get the state of Kansas far in trimming the 2016 budget but higher education, the Board of Regents believes, did its part.

Gov. Sam Brownback held a news conference Tuesday to announce he has signed legislation that will raise the state's sales tax from 6.15 percent to 6.5 percent. But that still leaves the state short of a balanced budget and many thought Brownback would outline cuts today.

But all he cut was $1.9 million from a Regents program called GED Accelerator. This is money that helps the state's 26 two-year institutions pay for programs that result in students receiving both a GED and an industry-recognized credential. So, a high school drop out could simultaneously finish their secondary education and, for example, earn a welding or mechanics certificate. The money goes to the institutions and not the students.

Courtesy photo / KCPS

Kansas City Public Schools has reached inside the district for an interim superintendent to fill the shoes of outgoing Stephen Green.

The school board Wednesday night tapped Chief Financial Officer Al Tunis as interim head of the 15,000-student district.

Green is set to leave the district in a few weeks to go to Georgia. Green spoke with KCUR's Steve Kraske last week about his departure on Up To Date.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

While the broader battle over a tax plan in the Kansas Legislature continues, a few nights ago the Senate managed to slip in a last minute provision that makes it a lot easier to obtain tax credits for private and religious school scholarships in the state.

The mission of the legislation is laudable: provide scholarships to at-risk kids to go to private or parochial schools.

But there's a catch. People or corporations in the state receive a tax credit for providing the scholarship money. The state will allow up to $10 million a year in such credits.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

As a tax plan continues to elude the Kansas House of Representatives, the state is preparing for severe budget cuts in case the Legislature can’t close a $400 million budget hole.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, wanted to know just how badly an across-the-board 6.2 percent budget cut would harm schools.

The answer from the Kansas State Department of Education: $197 million statewide.

Locally, Kansas City, Kansas, schools would lose the most, $10.8 million next year.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

There’s probably no tougher job in education in Missouri right now than leading the scandal plagued St. Joseph School District.

So the board of education has called on a hometown hero of sorts.

Dr. Robert Newhart started his career in St. Joe, his mother is a legendary high school government teacher there and Newhart is a hall of fame football player from Missouri Western University in St. Joseph.

Even though Newhart only has a one year contract and the title of "interim superintendent" the board expects him to start cleaning up the mess.

St. Joseph School District

With its former superintendent on his way to the Missouri bootheel, the St. Joseph School Board has picked an interim superintendent it hopes can lead the district out of scandal.

Dr. Robert Newhart, a veteran administrator, was picked by the board of education in a closed session Thursday night.

Kansas City Public Schools

Stephen Green became interim superintendent of the Kansas City Public School District in September 2011, then superintendent in April 2012.

Nearly four years later, his time in Kansas City has ended. Green recently announced that he is leaving the district to be closer to his children and grandchildren in the Atlanta area. He will lead the Dekalb School District starting this year.

Green has led the district through the loss of accreditation and the threat of a state takeover. He has brought stability back to the district with his focus on curriculum, instruction and student achievement.

Green spoke with Up To Date host Steve Kraske about the struggles the district faced under his tenure, how it has rebuilt, and how it will successfully transition and regain accreditation.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The former superintendent whose actions created the current scandals dogging the St. Joseph, Missouri, School District has landed a new job in education.

Fred Czerwonka, who was fired following a scathing state audit report, has been hired by the tiny Caruthersville School District tucked into the Bootheel of Missouri, according to Superintendent J.J. Bullington. Czerwonka's wife, Wendy, has also been hired and will teach business at the high school.

Czerwonka will be director of school services. The Czerwonkas will start their new jobs on July 1.

Teachers Say Missouri Has 'Too Much' Testing

Jun 1, 2015

A new survey of teachers in Missouri shows, by and large, educators in the state still believe there is “too much” standardized testing of their students.

The Missouri State Teachers’ Association, which counts more than 45,000 teachers on its rolls, recently asked its members to take the organization’s first-ever survey specifically devoted to teachers’ experiences giving standardized tests.

“We wanted to give our teachers an outlet to voice their feelings and frustrations,” MSTA spokesperson Todd Fuller said.

Blue Valley School District

One of the largest school districts on the Kansas side of the metro will be searching for a new superintendent.

The Blue Valley School District, with more than 22,000 students and 1,800 teachers, says Dr. Tom Trigg is the sole finalist for the superintendent's job in the Highland Park School District in suburban Dallas.

Trigg has been with the district for 19 years and took the top job in 2004.

"We have been fortunate to have a visionary leader who wants all students to follow their dreams,” Pam Robinson, Blue Valley Board of Education president said in a statement.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The only reason Missouri’s St. Joseph School District didn’t have the worst year of any district in the U.S. is because 11 educators in Atlanta were convicted of cheating on standardized tests to boost scores.

Despite dramatic actions over the last several months to address serious issues in the St. Joseph district, its problems are nowhere close to being resolved.

Many teachers, some board members and, most importantly, many taxpayers say the state's 11th-largest school district is no better off than it was a year ago.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

As Kansas educators await a district court ruling on the constitutionality of block grant funding passed by the Legislature this session, one local school district says it will be forced to make deep cuts.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Ask WABE education reporter Martha Dalton about the school district she covers, and you might think she’s talking about Kansas City.

“In 2012, they were put on probation by their accrediting agency. They had a lot of problems with their board, their board was having a lot of governance issues, their accreditors stepped in and said, ‘This has got to change,’” says Dalton.

If what Dalton's saying sounds familiar, it's because Kansas City Public Schools also lost accreditation in 2012.

The former dean of the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s business school died Tuesday.

Teng-Kee Tan was named dean of the Bloch School of Management in 2009. Tan, who was in his 60s, died “peacefully,” surrounded by family in Seattle, the Kansas City Star reports, citing an email from the current dean, David Donnelly. 

Kansas City Public Schools

Updated, 7:20 p.m.:

It's official: Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent R. Stephen Green is leaving the district to take another position in Georgia. 

Green has been a stabilizing influence in the district in the years since it lost state accreditation in 2012. But he says he's not worried his departure will stall efforts to regain full accreditation.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

A state match of $7.4 million dollars will help build the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center at the the University of Missouri-Kansas City's Volker campus.

"Just last week the state budget office announced we have a revenue increase of 7.7 percent compared to last year," Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said at a press conference announcing the match. "That's an increase that's well above revised projections. Hence, I am here to spend some."


Lincoln Preparatory High School started the year with a big honor and now it's ending the school year with another.

The premier magnet school in the Kansas City Public Schools was named the best high school in Missouri by U.S. News & World Report.

Louisburg USD 416

Usually by this time of year school districts in Kansas know how much money they’re going to get for next year and they can spend the summer working on a detailed budget.

This is not any year.

The legislature is nowhere near passing a budget and last week a court held a hearing on a lawsuit that may toss out what lawmakers do anyway.

At that hearing Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis, perhaps the leading expert on school finance in Kansas, testified that all school districts will lose some funding under block grants.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

While this case has been hanging over the state for the past five years much of the hearing Thursday before a three judge panel in Shawnee County District Court was spent on what has happened in just the past few months.

The four school districts suing the state, including Kansas City, Kansas, have asked the panel to halt further implementation of block grant funding, a school finance plan just passed this year by the legislature.

Block grants would essentially freeze funding for schools across the state while a new formula is written by lawmakers.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

There’s a school funding showdown Thursday in a Kansas courtroom.

Two court cases have been a huge part of the debate in the state over how much the legislature should spend on public education. But the real battle is between Kansas history and modern state politics.

When the hearing begins in Shawnee County District Court in Topeka there will be complicated testimony and evidence all lashed together with mind numbing legalese.

There’s a blizzard of paper with captions like: Plaintiff’s Response to Motion to Add to the Record on Remand.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Dr. Fred Czerwonka, on paid administrative leave for the past 90 days as superintendent of the St. Joseph School District, abruptly resigned late Friday night.

But in one final twist to his rocky tenure, Czerwonka's letter of resignation was not sent to school board members but to the St. Joseph News Press.

"I hope my resignation can allow the District to move forward with the hiring of my successor. I look forward to continuing the good work I have been put here by God to do," Czerwonka wrote in a letter address to board president Brad Haggard.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Next week Kansas lawmakers will resume hammering out a budget for next year and trying to fill a $400 million deficit over the next two years.

But school districts all over the state are already feeling some pain.

Lower than expected revenue has already resulted in school budgets being cut for the current fiscal year that ends June 30.

A new tally from the Kansas Association of School Boards shows 26 districts across the state that have either cut spending or anticipates doing so in the next eight weeks.

The departure of Bishop Robert Finn won’t stall the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese’s plan to open a new high school in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, next fall.

St. Michael the Archangel High School is expected to open in fall 2016 with about 360 students, mostly students from St. Mary's in Independence, Missouri, which closed last year, and Archbishop O'Hara High School, which will close when the new school opens.

alamosbasement / Flickr--CC

While Kansas schools are paying close attention to the state budget, they’re also tracking an ongoing court case that could drastically change the education funding picture in the state.

On the same day the new consensus revenue estimate for the next three years was released Monday, a three-judge panel in Shawnee County once again made it clear it was a player in school finance.

In an email sent to lawyers in the case, the panel reminded them that it will hear testimony at a May 7 hearing on all outstanding K-through-12 finance issues. That includes block grant legislation passed this session and how much the Legislature will spend on public schools.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

There’s probably not an educator in Kansas who isn’t waking up this morning with a bit of queasiness.

Monday is the day of the consensus revenue estimate, an awful bureaucratic phrase that has far reaching, real-world effects.

Economists from state government and academia will lock themselves in a room in Topeka and they will look into the future.

Kansas will not, for the time being, change the way it licenses teachers in a half-dozen districts around the state.

Those districts have what’s known as innovative status.

The Legislature passed Innovative District legislation two years ago. It allows those districts the state has granted innovative status to ignore most state laws and regulations to see if they can come up with new programs to boost outcomes.

Kansas City Public Schools

New life has been breathed into a potential partnership between the Kansas City Public Schools and the area's most successful charter school.

On Monday, the Academie Lafayette board received a $2 million offer of support from the Stowers Foundation to try and revive a partnership that would involve the Southwest Early College Campus on Wornall Road.

The offer apparently took both the Academie Lafayette board and KCPS administration by surprise.

"It was not on the agenda for the meeting. It was unexpected,"  Lafayette spokeswoman Sarah Guthrie says.

Lauren Manning / Flickr--CC

Four Kansas school districts will end the school year early because state aid has been cut for the fiscal year ending June 30.

The Smoky Valley School District in Lindsborg, just south of Salina, which serves about 1,000 students, says it will close three days early due to a $162,000 budget cut.

St. Joesph School District

The St. Joseph School District, wrapped up in scandals and criminal investigations, has put at least one legal headache behind it.

The district has settled a slander lawsuit with CFO Beau Musser for $450,000. Far less than many expected.

The lawsuit named former superintendent Fred Czerwonka, former HR director Doug Flowers and current school board member Dennis Snethen. Czerwonka has been fired and Flowers demoted. Snethen remains on the board.

In the eight page agreement, nobody admits any wrongdoing.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

While it doesn’t get talked about much, one of the most important predicators for academic success is wealth.

Students who come from families with some means and comfort generally do better than kids who live below or near the poverty line.

One of the easiest places to see the contrast is along County Line Road which divides Johnson and Wyandotte Counties in Kansas.