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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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The search has begun for Missouri’s next education commissioner, even though there currently aren’t enough board members to vote on hiring Margie Vandeven’s successor.

Ten people applied for the job by Monday’s deadline. But Board of Education President Charlie Shields said they can’t even review their applications until there are at least five voting members on the State Board.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Kansas set lofty goals for its public schools in the next dozen years – but the Trump administration and independent experts suggest the state’s plan is as vague as it is ambitious.

The state’s plan lacks concrete details on closing academic gaps in its public schools, so much so that federal officials and outside reviewers question the state’s compliance with civil rights law that demands all children get fair learning opportunities.

File Photo / KCUR

The former legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas thinks a practice among some school boards of restricting patron complaints at public meetings eventually will end up in court.

Doug Bonney, legal director emeritus for ACLU Kansas, said if barring complaints about school board members, the superintendent or employees is common, that doesn’t make it right.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ stop at a tiny private school in Kansas City’s Waldo neighborhood earlier this year became a flashpoint in a national conversation about transgender rights.

The education department’s rollback of Obama-era protections for transgender students quickly overshadowed DeVos’ purported reasons for visiting Kansas City Academy – an innovative fine arts curriculum and farm-to-table culinary program.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt on Tuesday suggested the Legislature let the public have a say on the state’s constitutional duty to pay for public education, but he steered clear of criticizing the Kansas Supreme Court’s rulings on the topic.

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Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers are facing an even tighter deadline to pass a new school finance law this session, after an attorney for the state encouraged them to finish their work on the topic less than two months into the coming 2018 legislative session.

Asked Monday by lawmakers what legal staff need to help make the state’s case, Arthur Chalmers urged them to aim for the start of March for handing off a new school finance bill rather than sometime closer to the date the Kansas Supreme Court set for filing the state’s arguments.

Charlie Riedel-Archive Photo / Associated Press

In the summer of 2005, the Legislature butted heads with the Kansas Supreme Court over a ruling that ordered an influx of money to public education.

The result? Kansas came closer than ever to a constitutional crisis.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The School of Computing and Engineering at the University of Missouri-Kansas City is getting a high-tech $32 million facility to help students compete in a global economy.

The University of Missouri Board of Curators approved construction of the computer science building, which will be adjacent to Flarsheim Hall, earlier this month. It will be built with a combination of state funds and private donations, including a $6 million gift from the Sunderland Foundation.

With the task of going through a state Senate confirmation process approaching, Gov. Eric Greitens’ picks to the Missouri State Board of Education successfully sped up the process of finding an education commissioner over the objections of the board’s president.

The governor’s five nominees outflanked three other board members during a teleconference Thursday to open and close the application process for a new education commissioner before an early January meeting. The board fired Commissioner Margie Vandeven Dec. 1 over objections of lawmakers from both sides as well as leaders and supporters of traditional school districts.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Gingerbread houses crafted by Kansas City Public Schools culinary arts students are on their way to Union Station, where they’ll be on display until Christmas.

“They make some amazing things,” says Rashawn Caruthers, director of Career and Technical Education for KCPS. “One year they made SpongeBob’s house. It’s not just your traditional gingerbread house.”

Courtesy Photo

Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer continues to shape top levels of Kansas government amid anticipation that the U.S. Senate may soon confirm Gov. Sam Brownback for an ambassadorship at the State Department.

Although Colyer made the selection, Brownback — who may have just weeks left as governor — issued a news release Tuesday announcing that former Kansas education commissioner Diane DeBacker will serve as education liaison and adviser to the Governor’s Office. 

Missouri’s education commissioner could soon be out of the job after a State Board of Education member resigned — and a judge refused to reinstall a Joplin pastor to his slot.

Claudia Oñate Greim resigned from the state board on Thursday night, less than a day before members are slated to meet. Greim was the only person who Gov. Eric Greitens appointed who voted earlier this month against firing Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven.

Josh Harbour / Garden City Telegram

Children who come from low-income families, have disabilities, aren’t white or don’t speak English at home appear to be disproportionately paying the price of Kansas’ teacher shortage, according to an analysis by the Kansas News Service.

Particularly affected are Liberal, Garden City and Dodge City — southwest Kansas towns where most of the students come from low-income families and more than half face the added challenge of building math, literacy and other skills while acquiring English as a second language.

Updated at 2:15 p.m. with governor's comments —

Missouri’s commissioner of education survived a rare move to oust her by appointees of Republican Gov. Eric Greitens.

The State Board of Education, though stacked with appointees by Greitens, did not vote in favor of firing Margie Vandeven in a closed-door meeting Tuesday. The board tied 4-4.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Public Schools scored fewer points than it did last year under Missouri’s statewide accountability system but stayed solidly in the provisionally accredited range, according to data released Wednesday by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The top education official in Kansas on Tuesday proposed allowing more schools to hire educators who don’t qualify for teaching licenses under the state’s current system — and signaled he would support changes to state regulations if needed.

Kansas State University

Kansas State University President Richard Myers had promised to strengthen the university's commitment to diversity, and he did just that Tuesday.

K-State announced the hiring of Adrian Rodriguez as the school's first vice president for diversity and multicultural student affairs. "Adrian will serve a critical leadership role to promote a culture at Kansas State University where all students are able to thrive and be engaged," Myers said in a statement.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Johnson County Community College just received the biggest financial gift in its history and plans to use the money to expand its technical education.

JCCC says it received a $10 million donation from the Overland Park-based Sunderland Foundation. It's part of a $102 million project that will add two buildings to campus.

A banner displayed in the middle of the Kansas State University campus. K-State has been rated among the 25 campuses for LGBT students in the country.
Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

In the ongoing struggle on college campuses for LGBT equality and acceptance, Kansas State University is an unexpected leader.

K-State is best known for agriculture and football.

On a gorgeous fall day in Manhattan, with the K-State marching band entertaining tailgaters, many fans were surprised to learn that their school was ranked in the 25 campuses for LGBT friendliness by CampusPride.org.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas’ approach to implementing a federal law on equity in education would fail to promote achievement for thousands of students the law was meant to protect, civil rights advocates say.

But state education officials counter that there are good reasons for their strategy designed to ensure that Kansas schools are evaluated fairly.

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.

Lexi Churchill / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Public Schools will reopen Lincoln Middle to relieve overcrowding at the adjacent high school and offer a rigorous college preparatory program to more students.

“Just like any other competitive superintendent, I don’t want to lose on my first big decision, so I’m extremely happy about the board approving our recommendation to reopen Lincoln Middle School,” Superintendent Mark Bedell, now in his second year with the district, said after the board of directors approved his administration’s plan to reopen Lincoln Middle for the 2019-20 school year.

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.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers soon will start work to determine their response to a ruling by the state’s Supreme Court that found K-12 public school funding unconstitutional.

Republicans and Democrats on a key legislative panel decided the matter is too urgent to wait until the 2018 legislative session starts in January.

They voted Monday to create an 11-member committee that will meet for three days before then. Its task will be to kick-start efforts that must be done by an April 30 deadline.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Fifteen years ago, the vast majority of young couples buying homes in Brookside and Waldo had no intention of staying in the central city once they started families.

“Maybe they were just married and didn’t have any kids, but they planned to eventually,” says Mary Hutchison, real estate agent. “When they had one child, maybe two, they automatically decided to hop over to Kansas to get their kids in the public school system there.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Public Schools Board of Directors appears poised to reopen Lincoln Middle School, relieving overcrowding at the elite Lincoln College Preparatory Academy and reversing an unpopular decision made during rightsizing.

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Kansas State University is scaling back this year’s budget by millions of dollars after about 1,000 fewer students enrolled this fall compared to the previous year, creating a budget crunch.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Fewer than 40 percent of Kansas students are on track to be academically prepared for college, community college or technical school as measured by their scores on the state’s standardized math and English tests.

Scores on English language arts tests went down for the second year in a row. About 38 percent of students scored proficient in that subject in spring 2017.

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.

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