public education

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Shawnee Mission school board is going to have a very different look next year.

All three reform candidates won Tuesday night, replacing three veteran board members.

That now gives reformers a 4-3 edge on the board.

One of the reform leaders is at-large board member Brad Stratton who wasn’t on the ballot last night.

"The voters in the Shawnee Mission District came out and said loud and clear that they'd like some new voices at the board table," he says.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

In an election that was all about trust, it's clear the St. Joseph School District does not have it with voters.

A proposed 38 percent property tax hike, which the district says it needs to stop eating into its reserve funds went down big--72 percent voted no, 28 percent voted yes.

The proposal would have raised an additional $11.5 million a year and cost the owner of an $80,000 house an extra $220 a year.

The levy increase was backed by some of the biggest businesses in St. Joseph, the local NEA chapter and the Chamber of Commerce.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

St. Joseph residents will decide Nov. 7 whether to raise their property taxes by 38 percent to provide more money for schools.

But you’re mistaken if you think the election is really about that. It’s more like a referendum on the school district’s past transgressions, which are almost legendary in the world of Missouri public education.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

More than 3,000 students in the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools stand to improve their chances of graduating from high school and pursuing higher education, thanks to an $18 million federal grant that will allow tutoring, mentoring and other services for students from sixth grade through their first year of college.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

A former superintendent and school board president for the St. Joseph School District is out of prison and in an area halfway house.

Kansas News Service

The Olathe School District says students who used anti-LGBT language at a homecoming parade last Thursday will be punished. However, the district suggests the incident at Olathe Northwest High School may not have been as bad as first reported.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The massive hurricanes Harvey and Irma have people talking about how much, if at all, climate change adds to such storms’ destructiveness.

In a blog post authored by Paul Driessen, the conservative Heartland Institute disputes that global warming is worsening the weather or that it’s human-caused. And, Driessen writes, fossil fuels “bring rescue boats.”

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Despite the ongoing fight over how much Kansas should spend on schools, the Legislature did at least one thing this year that almost all educators were pleased with: For the first time, it included all-day kindergarten in the school funding formula.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Is high school too early to figure out what career path to follow?

The Olathe School District doesn’t think so.

When the new Olathe West High School opens for all students on Thursday, the district will have a total of 17 specialty academies in its five high schools.

For as long as most people can remember, the main mission of Johnson County schools has been preparing kids for college.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

As some families mobilize to open new high schools in the Kansas City Public School district, district officials are concerned there are already too many

KCUR's Elle Moxley shares her latest education reporting, and local parents answer our questions about what schools they're choosing and why.

Guests:

  • Elle Moxley, KCUR education reporter
  • John Couture, parent
  • Darron Story, parent

Wladyslaw / Wikimedia-CC

Kansas’ private tuition tax credit program doubled in size in the 2016-2017 school year and appears likely to expand again after lawmakers voted to enhance it this session.

More than 200 children from low-income families received scholarships to attend private schools in northeast Kansas and Wichita during the fledgling program’s third year in existence. However, it only was the second year in which children actually received scholarships, because it took private schools time to set up the program.

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

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.

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

Outgoing Shawnee Mission School Superintendent Jim Hinson was absent from Monday night's board meeting but he was the subject of much discussion.

The board officially accepted Hinson's resignation and started to lay out plans to search for his successor.

Hinson, who has headed the district for the past four years, unexpectedly announced his retirement last week. His last day is June 30.

Several members of the public asked the school board to hold off on hiring a new superintendent until after the November elections. Three board positions will be on the ballot.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

A proposed school funding bill in Kansas would add $75 million to the public education system but many educators say that’s far less than they expected and may not be enough to satisfy the state Supreme Court.

Stephanie Clayton, a moderate Republican from Overland Park, says lawmakers in both parties “believe it will take a significantly larger amount” to satisfy their constituents, educators and the court.

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.

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.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas Legislature is entering its fifth week of work and already some members are being threatened with a primary and negative postcards are being dropped in mailboxes.

“They told me all this money from the Koch brothers, millions of dollars to attack me in a campaign,” Sen. Barbara Bollier, a moderate Republican from Mission Hills, said on KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend Kansas. “I’m not here  to be threatened. I’m here to get it fixed. And whatever it takes. And if I do the right thing I will be re-elected because that’s what my constituents want.”

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.

NPR

In conjunction with NPR's A Nation Engaged, we're asking people from across the region what they want the new president to know about themselves and their communities. Then, we preview an upcoming Conversation at the Square about the relationship between education and neighborhoods.

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.

Maria Carter / KCUR 89.3

Another metro school district is at a contract impasse with its teachers.

Teachers and the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools are heading into non-binding fact finding after failing to reach a deal.

The two sides held talks with a mediator twice last month but that also failed to result in a contract.

Teachers and the district say the dispute is not over how much of a pay hike to give but rather how to distribute the two percent raise.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

It only took the Olathe Board of Education about 20 minutes to approve the hiring of a new superintendent for substantially more money than it paid the previous top administrator.

On a unanimous vote, the board hired John Allison, the current superintendent in Wichita, with a base salary of $250,000.

Marlin Berry, who resigned in April, was making $231,263.

Olathe School District

The Olathe Public Schools issued a statement Thursday morning about racial incidents reported at Olathe North High School.

Principal Jason Herman informed parents Wednesday.

"I wanted to make you aware of some very concerning behavior recently occurring at North. We have had several incidents in which students were harassed based on their race and/or ethnicity," he said in a letter.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Electing a new president is usually not a cause for great alarm in schools.

But teachers say Donald Trump’s election is causing students to turn on one another and pitting teacher against teacher.

On Wednesday, Olathe North High School Principal Jason Herman sent a letter to parents saying, "We have had several incidents in which students were harassed based on their race and/or ethnicity."

Herman called the behavior "intolerable" and promised swift action by the administration.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Shawnee Mission School District board and its superintendent faced a packed room of very unhappy parents and teachers Monday night.

The district has come under fire for strongly suggesting to staff that they refrain from wearing safety pins. The pins are seen by many as a sign to students that they're in a safe place, but some see the pins as a protest of the election of Donald Trump.

Before the meeting even started, board President Sara Goodburn made it very clear: We'll listen to your concerns but we're not changing our minds.

iStock

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas has stepped into the battle over whether teachers in the Shawnee Mission School District can wear safety pins.

The district has strongly urged staff to refrain from wearing safety pins saying they have become a political symbol. Others have argued the pins simply tell students who feel threatened after the presidential election that they have a safe person to talk to about issues.

Laura McCallister / Kansas City Public Library

In the hands of musicians like Charlie Christian, Carlos Santana, and Slash, the electric guitar has become a symbol for freedom, rebellion and rock 'n' roll. Then, find out why celebrities like Will Smith and Casey Affleck are taking new interest in the 1955 murder of Emmett Till.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Education political action committees in Kansas are spreading around tens of thousands of dollars to help both conservative and moderate legislative candidates.

There are two big education political action committees in Kansas and they back very different candidates.

The Kansas NEA PAC is funded by contributions solicited by the union and in the last reporting period made about $29,000 in campaign contributions and spent $12,400 on polling.

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