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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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Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

When you walk into the new Olathe West High School, it doesn't at all feel like a high school. It could be on a college campus — or even the campus of Microsoft or Google.

There's an atrium when you walk in, along with a large commons area — and even a part of the library where students and teachers can congregate.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Update Aug. 4 5:38 p.m.

Mandi Hunter's lead over at-large incumbent Cindy Neighbor more than doubled Friday afternoon, from seven votes to 18 votes. 

The Johnson County Election updated the primary night vote totals after counting additional mail in ballots post marked by 7:00 Tuesday night and received in the office Friday.

The votes, including provisional ballots, will be canvassed Monday morning.

If Hunter's lead holds she will face Heather Ousley in the general election.

Original story starts here.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Public Schools Board of Education is preparing to take a public stance on the rapid expansion of charters. 

"We recognize as a board the need to create one voice around schools of choice or charters in Kansas City," said Jennifer Wolfsie, kicking off the conversation at the board’s executive session Wednesday evening.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A fresh legal challenge to the state’s 2014 elimination of teacher job protections has reached the Kansas Supreme Court, close on the heels of a separate lawsuit that proved unsuccessful six months ago.

At stake are due process rights for thousands — or even tens of thousands — of teachers who had earned them before the Republican-led Legislature passed and Gov. Sam Brownback signed the repeal.

In name, the case is a battle between the school board of a 270-student district in rural Butler County, east of Wichita, and two teachers dismissed from their jobs in 2015.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

You don't often see a school board election as contested as the one percolating in the Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) but that's exactly what's happening this year.

There is a primary election on Tuesday, August 1 for two of the three seats up this year.

Orlin Wagner / Associated Press

If you weren’t paying really close attention to the oral arguments in the Gannon v. Kansas school funding case before the Kansas Supreme Court on Tuesday, you probably missed a little question from Justice Dan Biles about a provision of the new school funding formula that exclusively benefits two Johnson County districts.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

There are fewer high school age students enrolled in public schools in Kansas City than there are in the elementary grades.

But while charter operators say there aren’t enough high school options, Kansas City Public Schools officials argue there are too many.

Orlin Wagner / Associated Press

Attorneys for the state and the Legislature faced a barrage of questions from skeptical Kansas Supreme Court justices Tuesday scrutinizing the Legislature’s school finance plan.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

The Kansas State Department of Education is asking schools to increase the number of students who go on to college or vocational programs within two years of leaving high school.

The department released new district-by-district data this month as part of its push toward that end.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Public Schools is pushing hard to get students enrolled before school starts Aug. 14.

Director of Enrollment Garrett Webster says that in the past, some schools have had 100 kids just show up on the first day.

But an email announcing the enrollment fairs suggests that their purpose is not simply to welcome new students to the district.

“We're encouraging families to do the right thing for their children's education by coming back to KCPS,” it reads.

Metropolitan Community College / Twitter

Kansas City's Metropolitan Community College, like its bigger, four-year counterparts in Missouri, is hoping alternative funding may allow the school to handle state budget cuts without raising tuition or laying off staff. 

Adam_Procter400 / Flickr - CC

Despite steep budget cuts from state lawmakers, donors to University of Missouri are proving their stripes.

Donors broke a record in the 2017 fiscal year by donating over $121 million in cash donations. Overall, donations including pledges totaled almost $152 million, the fourth highest in the school's history according to a news release. 

The Mizzou: Our Time to Lead campaign has a fundraising goal of $1.3 billion by 2020. The university is currently over two-thirds of the way there with $905 million total. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Public Schools is considering reopening Lincoln Middle School in an ongoing effort to attract families back to the district.

The middle school closed in 2010, but as Lincoln College Preparatory Academy consistently tops U.S. News and World Report’s list of best high schools, it has become a destination for middle-class families whose kids attended West Side charters for elementary school.

Adam_Procter400 / Flickr - CC

Leaders of the University of Missouri are taking issue with a recent New York Times article which describes challenges still facing the Columbia campus nearly two years after student protests grabbed national attention. 

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

A new math class being piloted by dozens of high schools across Kansas seeks to save students stress, time and money when they reach college.

Currently, about one-third of students who continue to two- and four-year colleges in Kansas don’t score high enough on placement tests to enroll directly in college algebra, a class most need in order to graduate.

Instead, they work their way up through remedial classes, a process that can take multiple semesters.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

The Gannon v. Kansas lawsuit is in its seventh year. In that time, the case has led to repeated rulings against the state for underfunding schools and responses by lawmakers in the form of appropriations bills.

file photo / Kansas State University

What's the best college campus in Kansas for LBGTQ students?

Many might guess the University of Kansas in Lawrence, long considered a progressive bastion.

But according to CollegeChoice.net, the best bet for LGBTQ students in Kansas is in Manhattan, at Kansas State University. K-State ranked as the 45th best choice in the country.

University of Kansas

After years of anticipation, and a final round of heated debate in the state legislature, "No Guns" signs finally came down at Kansas college campuses Saturday. The state's new so-called "campus carry" law went into effect July 1.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Lawyers for Kansas and for dozens of school districts suing it filed briefs Friday at the Kansas Supreme Court, in what could be the final leg of a seven-year legal battle over school finance.

The state argues legislation passed early this month ratchets up annual state aid to schools by nearly $300 million over the next two years, and that should be enough to end the Gannon v. Kansas case once and for all. 

Courtesy Pratt Community College

Students who complete an associate’s degree at Pratt Community College that prepares them to become electrical linemen earn just under $100,000 annually five years after graduation, according to a massive database now available online as an interactive tool. 

That is the fastest route to such high earnings among the more than 1,000 degree programs at Kansas’ 32 public two-year and four-year colleges and universities, a fact that doesn’t surprise the program’s director, David Campbell.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

“Let’s go divas, let’s go!” the girls chant, before dissolving into giggles.

On the last day of a Kansas City Public Schools-sponsored summer camp, students cheer on their friends in an engineering challenge.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.
Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

In his 26 years at Meade Unified School District 226, a 400-student district southwest of Dodge City, Superintendent Kenneth Harshberger has watched the educational landscape change.

Teachers are harder to recruit — even for elementary jobs, which were traditionally easier to fill.

“The first time I tried to hire an elementary teacher 25, 26 years ago, we had over 100 applicants,” he recalled. “Now I can’t get five applicants.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Growing up, Kansas City Mayor Sly James had to wait for his younger brothers to go to bed before he could read.

“I would sit on the attic steps with a flashlight and read Doc Savage books,” James said Tuesday as he accepted an All-American City Award for his efforts to promote reading. “It was my ritual.”

The mayor was appalled to learn in 2011 that only 33.8 percent of Kansas City students could read proficiently by third grade.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

The cost of higher education in Kansas continued to swell this week, carrying on a long-running trend in which universities rely increasingly on tuition and fees to operate.

This fall, a full-time semester at the University of Kansas will cost nearly $2,000 more than a decade earlier. The increase at Kansas State University has been similar.

Also over the last decade, the state’s spending per student at Kansas Board of Regents universities has slid.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

A few years ago, Missouri’s suspension rate was the highest in the nation for young black students – an unfortunate distinction that forced Kansas City Public Schools to rethink discipline.

The district did away with automatic suspensions for a lot of less serious violations. This year, KCPS issued 31 percent fewer out of school suspensions to kids in kindergarten through third grade.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Olathe School Board meeting Thursday night was decidely more upbeat than about this time two years ago. At that time,the board was facing a $2 million deficit and had laid off 80 people to fill budget hole.

But last night, the board heard the district will probably be able to spend about $14.5 million more in the 2017-2018 school under the school funding plan passed this week by the Kansas Legislature.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

There are two college tuition stories in Kansas right now.

The first is a good news story. Johnson County Community College says it will hold the line on tuition. The JCCC Board of Trustees voted last month to maintain the current cost for students. A credit hour is $93 for Johnson County residents and $110 for all other Kansas residents.

“JCCC is a place where every student has the opportunity for success.  By not raising tuition, that opportunity for success is now more achievable for more students,” president Joe Sopcich said in a statement.

University of Missouri

University of Missouri System President Mun Choi on Friday outlined plans for addressing $94 million in potential budget cuts over the next two years.

Besides a $19.6 million reduction in its state allocation, Choi said, the university system's budget problems have been "compounded by the dramatically lower enrollments we're facing especially here at the Columbia campus."

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Legislature isn’t close to coming up with a school funding formula. 

However, lawmakers are working with a bill that looks a lot like the formula they scrapped in 2015 for block grants.

That bill, and the struggle this session to write it, is not just back to the future, but back 25 years to the future. That’s when another school funding suit bogged down the session.

When the history of Kansas school finance lawsuits is written — whenever that may be — two names will loom large. And they’re not governors, attorneys general or legislative bigwigs.

Shawnee Mission School District / YouTube

The ACLU of Kansas says a new policy adopted by the Shawnee Mission School Board may violate the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment. It has sent a letter to Board President Sarah Goodburn, urging the board to rescind the policy. 

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