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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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Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas Department of Labor has sided with the teachers union in an ongoing contract dispute with the Shawnee Mission School District.

The Department of Labor found that the district committed a “prohibited labor practice” when it imposed a three-year unilateral contract on teachers late last month.

The labor board’s ruling came just minutes before a 4 p.m. deadline for teachers to sign that contract. Only one teacher had tendered her resignation as of mid-afternoon Friday, according to a district spokesman. Most teachers had already signed the three-year contract.

Hickman Mills C-1 Schools

Updated, 1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11: Hickman Mills Superintendent Yolanda Cargile is leaving her post to take the top job in the neighboring Center School District. 

Cargile announced her resignation in a letter sent to Hickman Mills parents last week.

WICHITA, Kansas — Faculty at state colleges in Kansas find themselves armed with fresh ammunition in their ongoing plea for more pay.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The fourth grader in Amanda Whiting’s chair had never been to the dentist, so she was a little nervous to be seen at the clinic at her school, J.A. Rogers Elementary.

“We don't use scary terms when we are treating a kiddo,” said Whiting, the dental director at Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center, which runs the clinic for Kansas City Public Schools.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Hundreds of students at Shawnee Mission East High School walked out of school Friday to show support for teachers after the school board imposed a three-year, unilateral contract on Thursday.

Teachers began the school year without a contract, and negotiations have been at an impasse for months. A five-hour bargaining session on Tuesday ended with a lawyer representing the school district walking away from the table.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Kansas schools had 800 vacant positions last year, and the lack of certified teachers has some districts trying to get people who want to change careers into the classroom.

Breanna Lovett got her bachelor’s degree in forensic biology, but she didn’t love working overnight in a lab. So when she learned the Kansas City, Kansas, Public, Schools had a fellowship program that would let her teach while she earned a master’s degree, she decided to apply.

After six weeks of training, she was in her own classroom at Washington High School.

Lee's Summit R-7 Schools

Updated, 3:51 p.m. Tuesday – The Lee’s Summit school board has hired a new superintendent, David Buck.

Buck has served as superintendent for the Wright City schools, a tiny district about 40 miles west of St. Louis, since 2015. He’ll start in Lee’s Summit on July 1.

Dennis Carpenter, the district’s first black superintendent, resigned in July amid ongoing tension over diversity training for teachers and staff.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Negotiators for the Shawnee Mission School District and the teachers union are at an impasse and will now present their cases to a neutral party.

On one side are teachers who feel overworked and underpaid. On the other side are school administrators who say the union’s demands will ultimately put the district in the red. It’s a dispute with deep roots in the Great Recession and all the years Kansas seriously underfunded schools, happening amidst a national conversation on teacher pay.

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The Shawnee Mission School District and four district officials have  agreed to pay $165,000 to resolve a lawsuit alleging school officials failed to take action against a middle school student accused of sexually assaulting another student.

The district and officials agreed to the settlement in September but the amount was not disclosed until Monday, when U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree approved the settlement.

Elle Moxley / 89.3

The KCUR news staff presents the State of Kansas City series as a look ahead to 2020 on topics of importance to the region. Find the State of Kansas City report on other topics in the series as they are published each weekday, Jan. 6–Jan. 20. Follow coverage on these topics at KCUR.org and on 89.3 FM throughout the year.

Kansas City’s complex racial history is still defining how kids are educated in 2020. That includes factors far outside of classrooms, where housing instability, violence in communities and childhood trauma all have profound effects on schools and students.

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.

Courtesy Victoria Hammond

States can get a substantial return on investment if they help single mothers in college access child care, support services and financial aid, according to a new study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

But even though about 10% of all undergraduates in Kansas and Missouri are single mothers, neither state makes significant investments in helping them persist to graduation. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

School’s out for winter break, and Kansas City Public Schools fourth grader Miranda Hernandez can’t wait to have arroz con leche with her family on Christmas.

“It’s rice with milk,” she explained. “We have it every time when it’s cold, like in winter.”

Sharing food with friends and family is an important part of Miranda’s culture, which is why she likes the new mural at Carver Dual Language School so much. 

Waiel Turner, 20, was not planning on going to college. He thought about entering the U.S. Air Force or becoming a police officer for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. 

Enrolling at Harris-Stowe State University was strictly happenstance.

In 2017, he accompanied a friend to the campus in midtown St. Louis where she was registering for classes. An admissions counselor told Turner he should enroll. Two days later, Turner became a college student. 

Turner said it is the family environment that makes Harris-Stowe home for him. Like many historically black colleges and universities, Harris-Stowe is struggling to keep its tight-knit family of students and staff together in the face of shaky finances and relative lack of state resources. 

Elle Moxley / 89.3

Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell concedes he’s not sure what it’s going to take to improve attendance.

Missouri uses what’s known as the 90/90 rule. Districts need to get 90% of students to school 90% of the time to get all of the attendance points on their Annual Performance Report (APR). KCPS didn’t get any attendance points for the 2018-19 school year because only 73% of students were at school 90% of the time.

Updated Jan. 9 with information about teacher recruitment efforts

Missouri education officials have a handful of ideas on how to get more people interested in becoming public school teachers and then staying in the classroom for the long term.

It goes along with a nearly $400 million pitch to increase teacher pay detailed last month.

The six-point recruitment and retention plan reviewed and compiled by a teachers working group was presented to the State Board of Education during its monthly meeting Thursday.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

For the first time, Missouri is reporting how much is spent per child at every school in the state.

It’s a requirement of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that’s supposed to help ensure equitable access and opportunity for all children.

There are many reasons why per-pupil spending levels vary within a district, though.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

NEODESHA, Kansas — Three hundred middle and high schoolers filed into their school auditorium last week in the small, southeast Kansas town of Neodesha, uncertain why they’d been called there.

They left cheering and hugging. Some of the older students were teary-eyed.

College tuition and fees need no longer hold back graduates of this manufacturing community, about halfway between Wichita, Kansas, and Joplin, Missouri. A wealthy donor hoping to turn around the fortunes of his dwindling hometown — population 2,300 — will foot those costs for the next 25 years, and possibly decades beyond that.

Every college in Kansas is more expensive today than it was a decade ago.

Tuition and fees haven’t gone up every year — this year, the Kansas Board of Regents convinced most of the state’s universities to hold tuition flat — but that doesn’t change how expensive college has become.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

When Dan Hoyt started graduate school at the University of Kansas in 2016, he knew he had anxiety and depression. He worried about being able to find a job after graduation. And, sometimes, he couldn’t get through his assigned reading.

“When you have anxieties, that gets impossible,” he said. “I'll think about the same things over and over and over again.”

But when he reached out to KU’s counseling services, he was told he had to wait five months before he could get an appointment with a therapist at the Lawrence campus. And getting there from KU’s Overland Park campus, where he took classes, complicated things.

Carolina Hidalgo / St. Louis Public Radio

After counting out the last in a series of chest compressions, Harry Painter Jr. sets up a nebulizer and begins piping oxygen into his patient’s lungs.

“Mr. Jones, you scared us there. How are you feeling?” he asks. The lifelike mannequin blinks back. 

Everything around Painter looks exactly as it would in a hospital, but this is a simulation room at St. Louis Community College’s new health care facility on the Forest Park campus.

For decades, a university education meant students had to load up on math, history and English courses. Now, Kansas universities are slashing those general education requirements so more students can graduate on time and have more room for classes in their major.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Missouri students spending more money to earn degrees want to know they’re making a sound investment in their future. That’s why college administrators have started steering them toward in-demand professions like education and nursing, where they’re all but guaranteed jobs. 

It’s a pathway to get students to and through college with less debt when they graduate. But some students and professors say Missouri’s colleges and universities still have an obligation to provide a well-rounded liberal arts education, and are tired of having to defend their majors every time state lawmakers propose another round of cuts.

MANHATTAN, Kansas — Millennials get blamed for killing off sports, drinks and entire industries. Those millennials — and their Gen Z successors — have also given rise to a new word: adulting.

Aging folks from the baby boom or Generation X enjoy ridiculing today's college students when those younger people can't change a tire or wash their clothes without turning to Mom or Dad.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Middle schoolers in the Kansas City area are paying close attention to Greta Thunberg and other youth climate activists making waves across the world. They’re also proposing their own solutions for global warming.

“I like to see kids taking action about what might happen in the future,” said Liam McKinley, an eighth grader at Chisholm Trail Middle School in Olathe. “I like to come up with random ideas about how we can fix that, even though it might not be achievable in the next few years.”

David Kovaluk / St. Louis Public Radio

On any given weekday, University of Missouri student Jack Hale is working six to eight hours and dashing to class in between. 

“I wake up a little after five and I do not stop until 11 p.m. most days,” Hale says. Between a full load of classes and two jobs taking up nearly 40 hours a week, he barely gets enough sleep.

Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3

A Kansas City charter school that closed in 2018 still owes millions of dollars to the state – and the Missouri Attorney General’s office has gotten involved.

Benjamin Banneker Charter Academy of Technology leaders resisted closure at every turn. They also never distributed any of the computers or education materials to other schools, according to the closure coordinator, and are possibly sitting on millions of dollars owed to the state after selling their building.

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