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

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Sam Zeff / KCUR

The No. 2 person in the St. Joseph School District, who is now on administrative leave, claims he is not the target of an ongoing FBI investigation of the district.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The beleaguered St. Joseph, Mo., School Board met behind closed doors for three hours Monday night to hear from a host of lawyers. None of what members heard was good news.

The board received a report from one lawyer on the process that lead to district CFO Beau Musser being placed on administrative leave last year. At the time, the district accused Musser of sexual misconduct and creating a hostile work environment. A different investigation cleared Musser of any wrongdoing and after seven months of paid leave he returned to work last November.


For the first time, UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton apologized on Monday for the untruthful information the university supplied to online reviewers of its Bloch Business School entrepreneurship program.

Morton made the apology on KCUR’s Up to Date with Steve Kraske.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The long anticipated report from the Missouri State Auditor on the scandal-plagued St. Joseph, Mo., School District will be released on Feb. 17.

Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich made the announcement Wednesday. The audit will be released during a public forum at Oak Grove Elementary School. While most audits are simply released online or at a news conference some high profile audits are released at public events.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

When they’re not talking about how to fund education in the Kansas Statehouse, they’re talking about how to change it. How to improve it. How to get better results with the same money.

Six school districts across the state are now rolling out something that may do all of that.

The school districts in Concordia, Marysville, McPherson, Blue Valley, Hugoton and Kansas City, Kan., are all part of something called the Coalition of Innovative School Districts and they all want, among other things, to license teachers differently. In a way, they say, that works best for them.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

School districts in Johnson County are waging a desperate fight to defeat a bill that would force them to cut millions of dollars from their budgets.

The measure had its first hearing Tuesday in the Kansas Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Educators from across the state lined up to oppose the bill, which would change the way the state distributes state aid around local option budgets.

The Princeton Review, an influential list used by colleges and universities for recruitment and development,  has dropped University of Missouri-Kansas City's business school from the 2014 list of top 25 entrepreneurship programs in the country.

The Princeton Review made the decision after an independent audit revealed administrators with the Henry W. Bloch School of Management had inflated data about enrollment and programs.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts dined on chicken teriyaki bites, brown rice and green beans at Mill Valley High School in Shawnee, Kan., Friday, where he discussed federal nutrition guidelines with students and staff.

"This menu I think would meet even Mrs. Obama's approval," Roberts quipped, taking a bite of pineapple.

Roberts, the new chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has long criticized the new school lunch rules pushed by First Lady Michelle Obama. Roberts says the standards are impossible for some districts to meet.

A report released Friday confirms the rankings of the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Bloch School of Management.

The Journal of Product Innovation Management ranked the Bloch School number one in innovation management research. Controversy started last year after an article in the Kansas City Star questioned the validity of ranking the school as a global leader.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

A bill in the Kansas Senate would reduce the amount of state aid to most school districts in Kansas in the current fiscal year.

The measure is what educators in Kansas feared the most — a bill that would force districts to cut their budgets before the current fiscal year ends in July.

The measure would cut state aid for Local Option Budgets, that portion of school budgets raised through local property tax.

The state provides money to help equalize those taxes between wealthy and low-income districts.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

The best way to visualize a school district’s Internet connection may be to compare it to a busy network of highways:

First, an Internet service provider, like Time Warner or Google Fiber, sends in the Internet on one big eight-lane freeway to a district’s main servers. Here, the Internet connection may meet some firewalls and content filters — think of these as tollbooths — and then, the Internet is streamed out to the district’s schools through fiber cable on what you might think of as two-lane country roads.

Voters in five Johnson County school districts have agreed to an increase in how much money can come from local property taxes.

Kansas schools have two major sources of money, state dollars and local property taxes. But the state limits how much districts can tax. Last year the Legislature raised the cap from 31 to 33 percent of a district's budget.

Cody Newill / KCUR

Nearly 500 students from the Kansas City metro area competed in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, or FIRST, Tech Challenge qualifier Saturday. 

Thirty-seven teams of middle and high school students filled UMKC's Swinney Recreation Center. Each team brought a small remote-controlled robot to roll around small arenas. The students guided their robots to try to collect Wiffle balls and place them in tall bins.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

How do you get fifth and sixth graders to see a connection between what they're doing in school and their future careers?

Talk to them about Walt Disney.

"As a sixth grader, he was sketching mice and ducks in his art class," Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon told students during an assembly at Mill Creek Upper Elementary in Belton Friday.

The school is one of 34 across Missouri that's teaching elementary school students about math and science through Project Lead the Way, which Nixon hopes will inspire them to pursue those fields as adults. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Update: Jan. 22, 2:25 pm

The St. Joseph School District has confirmed that Superintendent Fred Czerwonka and Chief Operating Officer Rick Hartigan are now on administrative leave.

alamosbasement / Flickr--CC

Funding cuts to public schools in Kansas may be more severe than education observers first thought.

Gov. Sam Brownback has proposed that the legislature rewrite the state's school funding formula. While that happens, he has proposed funding K-12 education in fiscal 2016 with block grants.

But a new analysis just released Wednesday by the Kansas Department of Education says money from the state for classroom instruction will be reduced by $127 million next year.

Initially, the department’s analysis had pegged the loss at $107 million.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The St. Joseph School Board spent a tense eight hours behind closed doors Tuesday.

Board members spent more than five hours with investigators from the Missouri State Auditors office, going through the 49-page draft report page-by-page.

Those who’ve seen the report won’t discuss specific recommendations but describe it as "scathing."

After the meeting, board president Brad Haggard refused to discuss the audit's findings or recommendations. The district will write a response that will become part of the report.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Officials in the St. Joseph School District have been nervously waiting for months for a report from the Missouri State Auditor.

KCUR has learned that the report is back and the board will discuss it Tuesday in executive session.

The Missouri State Auditor moved a five-member team into district headquarters last Spring after it was revealed that the new St. Joseph school superintendent, Dr. Fred Cerwonka, handed out $5,000 stipends to 54 administrators without seeking board approval.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The watch word for school funding in Kansas is now block grants. But how that will work remains a mystery to educators.

Gov. Sam Brownback wants to scrap the current per pupil funding formula which, he says, is complicated and inefficient.

While lawmakers try to write a new formula, Brownback proposes to give school districts lump sum payments over the next two fiscal years equal to about what they receive now.

Across the state, that’s $3 billion in aid to local school districts.

Brad Wilson / Flickr-CC

The Hickman Mills School District in south Kansas City, Mo., appears to be inching closer to full accreditation.

Hickman Mills lost its full accreditation after several years of dismal test scores.

At the State Board of Education meeting Thursday Hickman Mills and two other districts updated their improvement plans.

Between the 2012-13 school year and 2013-2014 Hickman Mills made huge improvements on test scores and college and career readiness.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Last week a group of parents in Midtown Kansas City realized a dream: they raised enough money to get two new charter schools off the ground.

There was a time when such an announcement would be met with suspicion and perhaps even hostility from the Kansas City Public Schools.

Superintendent Steve Green says the district saw itself as a target.

"We isolated ourselves. It’s sometimes a typical response when you’re wounded or in some way hurting you isolate yourself. But it’s probably the last thing you should do," he says.

A major bond-rating agency says the budget problems in Kansas are getting worse and indicates budget stress.

Standard and Poor's issued its latest report on the Kansas budget Friday and says much of the concern comes from a court ruling on school funding.

S&P says a ruling from a three-judge Shawnee County Court panel could cost the state another $500 million a year in school funding.

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.