Education | KCUR

Education

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

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Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

For students who speak a language other than English at home, it can take years to learn English well enough to pass tests at school.

For refugee students – many of whom never went to school – it can take even longer.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Take a look at the Kansas budget and one item looms large, eating up more state spending than anything else.

Schools swallow about $4.5 billion. That spending rose after an infusion of cash by lawmakers earlier this year in response to a court ruling in a long-running fight over whether state government does enough to support public education.

Kansas schools are still struggling to hire teachers.

There are more than 600 vacant teaching positions in Kansas, nearly 100 more than in the fall of 2017. Special education and elementary positions have the largest number of vacancies.

The Kansas State Board of Education received the update on Tuesday from the Teacher Vacancy and Supply Committee. The main reason for the open positions is a lack of applicants or qualified applicants.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

As Missouri school districts await state test scores they should have received months ago, some administrators said they're getting frustrated with the delay.

“I don’t have the data right now for math and reading to even make a determination as to whether the things we invested in last year are making a difference,” Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell said.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Lee’s Summit Superintendent Dennis Carpenter is urging residents of the district to “believe the data” that shows significant achievement gaps between students of color and their white peers.

Originally the district wanted to bring in a diversity consultant to speak to the school board at their Oct. 3 meeting, but the proposed training roiled Lee’s Summit parents participating in an online discussion group. Last week they asked the school board to back up the superintendent’s assertion that white students were outperforming students of color with data.

About two decades ago the Wichita School Board, disturbed by an increasing number of guns, knives and other weapons being brought to schools, decided to take a hard-line approach:

Zero tolerance.

The board, prompted by the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994, passed a policy mandating that any student caught with a gun — or a realistic-looking replica — on school property or at a school-sponsored event would be expelled for a full year.

No weapons — no questions, no excuses.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Parents whose kids attend Lee’s Summit schools are growing increasingly frustrated with the school board and superintendent as tensions escalate over issues of equity and race.

It was standing room only Tuesday night as parents demanded the Board of Education justify the need for professional development from a particular diversity consultant.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / KCUR/Kansas News Service

Angie Schreiber sees it time and again: dyslexic students failing to learn to read through traditional teaching techniques.

But she says she knows how they can flourish.

Schreiber’s private teaching service in Emporia uses an approach known as structured literacy. The method drills students on myriad rules of English sound and spelling that most of us never learned consciously.

Olathe Public Schools

Kansas public schools will see $27 million from the U.S. Department of Education to improve literacy for all kids — including those not yet old enough for school.

Courtesy UM System

It’s likely layoffs will be necessary to pay for what University of Missouri System President Mun Choi outlined as priorities in a speech last week.

That’s according to Board of Curators Chairman David Steelman.

“Some people are going to lose their jobs. There are going to be program cuts, but we’re going to get the money now for the investments this state needs,” Steelman said Wednesday on KCUR’s Up To Date.

Funding for running school buses in Missouri could return to state funding goals within five years if the state education department’s request to the legislature is fulfilled.

Missouri education officials outlined a $6.3 billion budget for the 2020 fiscal year to the state Board of Education Tuesday, which asks state lawmakers for more transportation aid and per-student funding as part of a $140 million increase in its budget.

KCUR Photo Illustration / Lee's Summit R-7 School District

Is it preferable to build new schools or renovate old ones?

Should the priority be to minimize the fiscal impact or minimize student disruption as more families move into the district?

Is it important to consider equity of learning environments when making facilities decisions?

These are questions the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District will ask students, parents, teachers and taxpayers at a series of community engagement events this fall.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

DeLaSalle Education Center has long been the last resort of Kansas City teens who haven’t succeeded anywhere else.

“Back in 1993 when I went, this school for bad kids,” Christina Boyd remembers. “If you had behavioral issues, if you fell behind too far in school, if you were a teen mother, you went to De La Salle when no one else wanted you in the school district.”

Wichita Public School teachers are receiving a more than a 3.5 percent increase in salary. In Topeka, the increase is nearly 8 percent, that district's largest in 26 years.

School districts across Kansas are raising salaries, restoring cut positions and adding new jobs.

Courtesy Scott Hanson / The Family Conservancy

There aren’t enough licensed child care centers in Wyandotte County to serve all working families with young children, according to a community health assessment.

That’s why the Family Conservancy and other community groups are launching the Start Young initiative to improve access to high-quality child care for kids younger than 6.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

New routines as school starts can overwhelm kindergarteners, especially if they didn’t go to preschool.

That’s why many Kansas City area school districts try to ease the transition for young students with summer programs.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Cafeteria workers at Center Middle School are getting ready to cook up protein-rich breakfasts when kids come back on Wednesday.

“So this here is our egg muffin,” says Marjorie Rice, the kitchen lead at Center Middle School. “What this consists of is peppers and cheese and egg, and it’s a full serving of protein. We cook that, and it puffs up like a muffin, and then we wrap it and it goes into the bag with either salsa or hot sauce.”

Turns out, the hot sauce is pretty key to getting kids to eat the breakfasts.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Mayor Sly James is ready to fight for a 3/8-cent sales tax to improve access to quality preschool in Kansas City.

“Only 35 percent of the kids in this city are engaged in quality pre-K. We have 40 percent of zip codes in deserts where there is no quality pre-K,” James said Monday on KCUR’s Up To Date.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Students in the EMT class at Manual Career and Technical Center were honest when Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell asked if they were excited or scared to be back at school.

Scared, said Jayla, a senior. “I just don’t want to fail,” she told Bedell, “and I don’t want to disappoint anybody. Because I refuse to fail.”

Bedell, who made stops at several KCPS schools Monday morning, nodded sympathetically.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

It was back to school Friday for some Johnson County students.

For many years now, the Shawnee Mission School District has had a transition day for students moving into a new school building. According to Shawnee Mission West Principal Steve Loe, having just ninth graders on the first day lets new high school students meet their teachers and get acquainted with the building before they have to share the halls with upperclassmen.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Long lines, loud music ... and backpacks?

All month long, community organizations have been passing out school supplies to kids at events that feel less like back-to-school fairs and more like outdoor concerts.

CC -- Bigstock

By working with neighboring school districts and community health partners, Olathe Superintendent John Allison thinks Johnson County might actually be able to change the conversation on teen suicide.

“Each of the Johnson County school districts has taken a little different approach,” Allison says. “I think that’s been key to our conversation that started last spring, is to learn from each other to try to see what’s worked and at the same time to blend our limited resources to best support each other.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The wait for immunizations at the Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department most afternoons this summer has been two, sometimes three hours – and it’s likely to get worse as the first day of school nears.

“Morning times are probably the easiest to get in,” says Bill Snook, a spokesman for the health department. “Later times, you should expect a long wait.”

J.G. Park / Flickr--Creative Commons

Black students in Missouri continue to be suspended at a disproportionate rate compared to their white peers, according to an analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU updated a report it published last fall that found black children with disabilities received more than 40 percent of out-of-school suspensions despite making up only 16 percent of the student population receiving special education services.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Chappell Electric is the very definition of a small business: call, and owner Germaine Chappell picks up on the second ring.

“Our motto is to exceed above expectations,” Chappell says. “Every job we go on, we give 100 percent and go up and beyond what the general contractor or the client is asking for.”

The Harbinger / YouTube

When Christopher Justice got a text message from a friend earlier this summer, he didn't know what it meant: "You're Twitter famous."

Justice had just graduated from Shawnee Mission East High School, and he was spending an uneventful few months working at a pizza place before heading off to college at Wichita State University. He didn't even have a Twitter account.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

There's good news for a Kansas City elementary school that wasn’t sure how it would continue a successful tutoring program that helps transient students catch up in English and math: a $75,000 grant from the Kauffman Foundation will keep it alive.

Courtesy Shawnee Mission School District

The Shawnee Mission School District is still searching for someone to lead its beleaguered special education department.

The district came under fire last year after the Kansas Department of Education found some students with special needs weren’t getting all federally required services. Students who are gifted also qualify for special education in Kansas.

SMSD Superintendent Michael Fulton sent an email to parents earlier this week announcing Assistant Superintendent Christy Ziegler would be taking over the special education department on an interim basis.

Missouri charter schools will now be able to give preference to poor or struggling students in its lottery admissions system.

That change was part of an omnibus education bill signed into law last week by Gov. Mike Parson. Some charter schools in St. Louis have struggled to maintain their mission as they increased in popularity and surrounding neighborhoods gentrified.

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Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Sly James rolled out the beginning of his “Pre-K for KC” campaign that could help make high quality early childhood education more affordable for local children.

The initiative calls for funding the program with a three-eighths cent sales tax increase for Kansas City, Missouri. On Tuesday, James announced the beginning of a petition process to collect signatures to get the proposed tax on the November ballot.

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