early childhood education | KCUR

early childhood education

Courtsey Shantelle Tomlin

Child care providers in the metro have been allowed to stay open in order to watch the kids of essential workers who still need to do their jobs.

But advocates worry the child care workers themselves, many of whom are low paid and don’t have health insurance, are working through the COVID-19 crisis without a safety net.

“It’s not a question of if somebody gets sick taking care of other people’s children, it’s a question of when,” said Melissa Rooker, executive director of the Kansas Children’s Cabinet. 

Segment 1: Where do efforts towards improving pre-K access and quality in Kansas City stand?

In early 2019, a big controversy was Mayor Sly James' push for universal pre-K through a sales tax. Kansas City voters didn't go for the plan on the ballot, but a year later, many people still want something to fill in the gap.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Earlier this year Kansas City voters rejected a plan to improve pre-K access and quality with public dollars, but that hasn't stopped a child care center at 59th Street and Swope Parkway from trying to get better on its own.

The Upper Room, an education equity non-profit, has run a licensed child care center for about 15 years but only recently began to pursue state accreditation as an early learning center.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

On a sunny Saturday afternoon — possibly the last warm day of the year — more than 150 people gathered near 21st and Prospect in Kansas City, Missouri, to watch some dirt get turned over.

But for a community battling years of blight, it couldn’t have been a happier occasion. They were celebrating the groundbreaking of the KD Academy, a 24-hour child care facility that hopes to open in 2020.

Segment 1: A Kansas City dance performance is a transatlantic collaboration.

Krystle Warren and Brad Cox have been musical collaborators for years, continuing to make music together across an ocean. As Warren prepares to head from Paris to Kansas City for an October performance, the two discuss their shared history and their craft.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

COFFEYVILLE, KANSAS — Preschool was a logistical boon for Delice Downing and an educational bonanza for her son, Adrian.

The head volleyball coach and director of student life at Coffeyville Community College had ruled out day care when she heard the price: several hundred dollars a week.

Then Adrian reached preschool age. Coffeyville offers something most Kansas communities don’t: free attendance at a preschool with room for nearly all kids in town whose parents want it.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Between the time they’re born and age 3, babies’ brains are literally mapping, making the connections they’ll need to learn later on.

In fact, 80 percent of a child’s brain develops in the first three years.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Mayor Sly James made education a top priority when he took office eight years ago.

He succeeded in getting the business and philanthropic community to rally around third grade reading, but he couldn’t convince voters to pass a pre-K sales tax.

Now Kansas City is about to pick a new mayor.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

Setting children up for academic success is Annie Watson’s driving passion.

The Kansas City, Missouri, native is the director of early education and parent success at Turn the Page KC, a non-profit that aims to have all children reading at grade level by third grade.

Seg. 1: Daycare Deserts | Seg. 2: Allison Gliesman

May 1, 2019

Segment 1: Daycare Deserts

Pre-kindergarten has been on the mind of Kansas City-area parents, but the conversation is also extending to care from birth onward. In this conversation, we hear about the struggles parents face in finding and affording childcare, as well as what's being done about it both locally and nationwide.

Segment 1: Kansas City mourns the death of philanthropist Henry Bloch.

Henry Bloch, co-founder of the tax preparation firm H&R Block and World War II veteran, has had an immense impact on Kansas City. His legacy will persist through the institutions he helped established and support. Today, a look at how his contributions were aimed to serve the community he loved. 

Alex Smith / KCUR

Judging by the results of Tuesday’s election, in which Kansas City, Missouri, voters rejected a universal pre-K plan by a nearly 2-1 margin, some might think there's little interest in early childhood education.

But Annie Watson doesn't see it that way. She spent hours on the phone talking to voters on behalf of her employer, Turn The Page KC, the child literacy organization that was founded by Mayor Sly James. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3 file photo

Kansas City voters have rejected Mayor Sly James’ plan to pay for universal pre-K for 4-year-olds with a three-eighth-cent sales tax.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Paying for pre-K is a huge burden for families with young children, even for parents with good jobs.

Tiffany Price has one of those. She works with teen moms in the Hickman Mills School District, and she’s a mom herself. She has four boys, and the two youngest aren’t in school yet.

So every week she writes a check for $270 to Ronnie’s Childcare.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Mayor Sly James' term is rapidly coming to an end. 

At his final State of the City address Tuesday night, James reflected on his tenure, but spent most of the 40-minute speech campaigning for a sales tax to pay for universal pre-K.

"If we screw it up, we're the ones liable," James said. "You know what's far more regressive than a 3/8-cent sales tax? Poverty and crime. Winding up in jail and not being able to dig your way out because you don't have the skill set or money. It's time for a change."

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City’s tangled school boundaries will make the mayor’s pre-K plan difficult to administer, opponents argued Monday at a news conference in the Northland.

“North Kansas City as a whole has 14 different municipalities, causing huge concern for our board of education and our community that only one of our 14 municipalities would be eligible for resources within the mayor’s plan,” said North Kansas City Superintendent Dan Clemens.

Segment 1: The debate over free pre-kindergarten. 

At face value, the idea of universal preschool sounds great. And that's exactly what Kansas City Mayor Sly James is trying to accomplish with his proposal calling for a sales tax to fund it. But he's facing quite a bit of opposition, notably from the local school districts. Mayor James joins us to lay out his plan, and then school superintendent Dan Clemens explains his concerns with the proposal.

Courtesy Ray Weikal / KCPS

Missouri lawmakers are starting pay attention to turnaround efforts in the Kansas City Public Schools – and one member of the school board says that’s given the district a seat at the table.

John Fierro has been the chairman of the government relations committee since he was elected to the school board three years ago.

“Our reputation in Jefferson City has improved significantly,” Fierro says. “(Before) you would hear the stories about, ‘Oh, they can’t get along, the board is disruptive, they can’t keep a superintendent.’”

Segment 1: Teaching kids about identity.

Concepts like race, gender and social class can be difficult concepts to address — even for adults. So how do you talk to children about those ideas?

A white-haired man wearing glasses and a grey suit sits in front of a microphone in a radio studio.
Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: The former Missouri senator balances heavy workloads as CEO of Truman Medical Center and president of the state Board of Education.

Seg. 1: Unschooling. Seg. 2: Feral Cats

Sep 13, 2018

Segment 1: To school or unschool, that is the question.

Unschooling combines the ideals of Montessori schools with homeschooling; letting kids dictate their education. We talk about the pros and cons with a local homeschooler and an adolescent psychologist.

  • Jessica Mattingly, mother of six, local unschooler
  • Matthew Westra, psychology professor, Metropolitan Community College Longview

Segment 2, beginning at 35:49: How Kansas City is addressing an abundance of feral cats.

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.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: Most people agree access to pre-K needs to be expanded. Not everyone agrees on how to pay for and oversee it.

Days after Kansas City Mayor Sly James made public the particulars of his plan to fund expanded early childhood education, opposition to the proposal is piping up. Today, we heard educators and community organizers explain why they think the mayor's scheme to get more 4-year-olds into pre-K needs work.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Mayor Sly James announced Friday he will temporarily table his plans to fund pre-K education with a 3/8-cent sales tax, a quick reversal of his impassioned push to get the issue on the November ballot.

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

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.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James sits behind a microphone. He is wearing headphones.
Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: If approved, the proposed 3/8-cent sales tax to fund expanded early childhood education in Kansas City will be on the November ballot.

Segment 1: Fred Rogers and his television show influenced generations of viewers.

Won't you be my neighbor? That's a lyric to the theme song of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, a children's television program that spanned decades in the mid-1900's. On this episode, we learn the impact Fred Rogers had on the lives of children and educators across the country.

  • Angee Simmons, Vice President of Education and Engagement, KCPT

Segment 2, beginning at 36:36: History of women's activism in Kansas City. 

Segment 1: Are we taking the wrong approach to education research?

Results-oriented education research often overlooks the side effects that accompany common teaching practices. We learn how the approach medical research makes can help educators avoid damaging policies from the start.

Brandi Thorpe

Brandi Thorpe says her 10-year-old son D’Juan Franklin is a loving, intelligent child, who loves playing football and baseball. He's also autistic.

When Thorpe transferred him to the New Beginnings School in the Lansing, Kansas, district — a school dedicated to special education — she was hopeful that her son would get the support he needed. And, he did, up until the morning of January 17, 2017.

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