Category Archives: KCK

A New Charter School for KCK

The Maurice R. Holman Academy of Excellence opened its doors recently. It’s the first charter school in Kansas City, Kansas.

Correct that. It’s the first charter school OF the KCK district.

Odd, yes. In most states, charter schools are independent public schools that have been authorized by the state board of education, a four-year college or a state board of education for charter schools. In other words, they stand as separate organizations, serving students with the same legal independence that traditional school districts have.

But in Kansas, charter schools aren’t independent. They’re legal and financial creatures of the school district that agrees to permit them to exist. In other words, they’re a gussied-up version of an alternative school.

Not exactly the model of what makes some charter schools work so well elsewhere.

As for the new school,

“According to a press release from the district, the mission of the school is “to provide self-paced, performance-based learning with an emphasis on core knowledge, civic responsibility and entrepreneurship.”

Source: Charter school up and running, Kansas City Kansan.

Meet the Maurice R. Holman Academy

This fall there will be a new charter school in Kansas. KCUR-FM has an interview on the subject. We wish a great start to the Maurice R. Holman Academy, which will serve Kansas City, Kansas.

Laptops for KCK Students?

Looks like students in KCK may be getting laptop computers, courtesy of taxpayers:

The proposal calls for students at all five district high schools to receive a laptop that could be used in and out of the classroom. Students could take the machine home each night. The student and a parent or guardian must place a small insurance deposit on the machine.

The machines would be equipped with a GPS tracking device, much like the technology used to track vehicles. District officials can remotely disable and destroy a stolen laptop’s hard drive.

Board members have yet to approve the project. They made it clear at a recent board meeting that they had a lot of unanswered questions. While the discussion remained cautiously optimistic, most board members said they were not ready to move forward without more information.

Good idea? Or not. One answer to that question, at least, is unsatisfactory:

Board Vice President Linda Pendleton said “our kids are worth this,” but she told board members that a three-year lease made her uneasy.

Perhaps the computers are worthwhile. But simply saying that it’s “for our kids” isn’t enough of a reason–as the rest of the text indicates. There are lots of questions to ask, and it’s unclear from other locations (search the archives with the tag “technology”) that laptops are not a cure-all solution.

Source: Kansas City, Kan., parents will have chance to learn about laptop lending proposal, Kansas City Star, August 19

No Bullies!

The state will require school districts to implement a “no bullies” policy.

“The compromise bill also requires all 296 school districts to implement a plan to address bullying that includes training and education for staff and students. The bill passed Friday, 36-2 in the Senate and 109-16 in the House.”

We’re certainly not pro-bully, though we will point out that school safety is one reason why some parents would like to exercise school choice.

Refer to: Anti-bullying measure passes, Wichita Eagle, April 29.

On a related matter, Another KCK school adopts uniforms with parent support, says the Kansas City Kansan in its April 27th edition.

About 65 percent of the school’s families participated in the survey, with about 82 percent of the families supporting school uniforms, while the remaining 18 percent disagreed or had no opinion. [snip]

According to uniform policy, students will not be able to wear jeans, sweatpants or sports pants. Students will have the choice of wearing navy blue, black or khaki colored slacks, while white, navy blue and black shirts are available.

So how does this relate to bullying? It’s hard for government-run schools to get a consensus of parental support. Indeed, as the “reverse lottery” recently conducted in Wichita shows, when it comes to most government-run schools, you do what you’re told, or else face some uphill struggles. Hence, administrators find it easier to take the path of least resistance.

Of course, in privately run schools, parents make an affirmative committment to the values of the school. They aren’t put dumped into the school by virtue of simply living in an area–or of having their child’s birth date chosen in a lottery.

Retaining Teachers in KCK

The KCK school district says that it is having trouble keeping teachers:

The district not only finds its students leaving the district, but its highly qualified teachers are also leaving.

J.D. Rios, assistant superintendent of human resources, said the cause is the higher teacher salaries paid by competing school districts, most notably in Johnson County.

“We need not to look at just being competitive,” he said. “Our goal is to have the best, and we should pay for the best. We need to lead and compensate our teachers.”

Rios said the district asks for too much from the teachers compared to the actual salaries they get paid.

We don’t doubt that there are advantages–nonmonetary ones as well as higher pay–in Johnson County. So how can the district respond? A poor way would be to raise teacher pay statewide. That would do nothing to alleviate KCK’s comparative disadvantage.  And the district doesn’t have the self-taxing power of some JoCo districts.

So how about doing something different? Unleash the spirit of entrepreneurship. Enact merit pay and give school principals increased autonomy over the hiring, firing, and pay of teachers. That way, outstanding performance is rewarded. Cutting the red tape could in itself be something attractive to teachers.

Source: ” Teacher salaries, early childhood ed among priorities,” Kansas City Kansan, April 16, 2007.

KCK Might Get a New Charter School

Somehow we overlooked this promising piece of news: a KIPP charter school may be coming to KCK. KIPP, which stands for Knowledge is Power Program, shows what charter schools can do.  (See, for example, this list of reports on the organization.)

The KIPP charter school in KCK hopes to attract urban settlers who are looking for a school at which to enroll their children. It has the backing of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Metropolitan Community College-Kansas City.

Source: Add students to urban revival; Downtown backers plan charter middle school as part of downtown’s renaissance, Kansas City Star, March 9, 2007.

Superintendent: Show Me the Money

From a news story about parents and administrators airing their complaints about No Child Left Behind:

John Rios, a Kansas City, Kan., assistant superintendent, said the money was essential.

“They want No Child Left Behind, fork it up,” he said at the community forum in Kansas City, Kan. “What’s the movie? Show me the money, and we’ll show you the results.”

Source: “Teachers and parents bash standards,” Kansas City Star, April 11, 2007

Yet according to the State Department of Education’s “Total Expenditure Report,” (available here in a PDF file), per-pupil spending in USD 500 has gone up from $6,153 in the 1993-1994 school year to $9,980 in the 2004-2005 school year. That’s an increase of 62 percent over the time. Even now, however, 43 percent of 8th grade students do not read at great level.

A similar story could be told in many other places in Kansas.

Five Charter Applications in KCK, One Approval

One for five.

That’s what charter schools are doing in Kansas City lately. The KCK school board approved a charter school application for the Maurice R. Holman Academy of Excellence, but rejected the application for the Pleasant Green Academy of Excellence.

Also rejected: the Walnut Boulevard Institute of Learning Charter School, Freedom Academy and Meta-Center High School.

We favor allowing multiple authorities to authorize a charter school.  Under Kansas law, only local school districts are allowed to oversee charter schools. We need not embrace a bad-faith model of school boards to recognize that there is an inherent conflict-of-interest here when an organization that gets its budget from enrollment numbers must decide whether to allow another organization, which would draw from its student body, to exist.

Source: Charter school proponent says board may have intentionally picked worse applicant, Kansas City Kansan, January 26.

KCK Charter School Approved

The board of USD 500 Kansas City approved one charter school application: the Maurice R. Holman Academy of Excellence Public Elementary Charter School, which might open as early as the 2008-2009 school year. The State Board of Education, whose approval is not certain, must also approve the application. It is the first proposal to get even this far.

According to the Kansas City Star account of the action, the delay to the 08-09  year was unusual. But given the work involved in setting up a charter school, eight or nine months of planning to get the school ready for the 20 07-08  year may not be enough.

The school would serve about 100 students, and have an entrepreneurial emphasis.

USD 500 officials say that the school, founded by Chiquita Coggs, executive director of the Northeast Business Association, have a burden to outperform the district’s own schools.

“If we approve something, we want it to be a success. This is new to everyone, said one member of the board. The president added, “Our district has made some outstanding gains. I would like for the charter school to go over and beyond. We are doing an outstanding job at making these gains.”

Of course, some parents choose charter schools because their children’s behavior, grades, or both, have plummeted to such measures that they are desperate, suggesting that the children are even harder to educate than the rest of the district’s enrollment. Never mind; urban charter schools have outperformed their regular school counterparts in Chicago. We hope for the children’s sake and the community that this school goes well.

Source: Charter schools: District says yes to one, no to another, Kansas City Kansan, January 24; KCK Charter School OK’d, Kansas City Star.

KCK Schools: Not Great, But We Knew That

Good enough for government work?

Here’s how the KC Star headlined a report detailing what’s wrong with KCK schools, as well as some recommendations for improvement: “Most take analysis of schools in stride.

KCK Budget Announced

The KCK school system announced that it plans on having a $244 million budget.

Among the points mentioned in the Kansas City Kansan article:

– State Base State Aid Per Pupil (BSAPP) has been increased by $600 since 1997. (That’s $15,000 for a classroom of  25 students.) Remember, BSAPP is, as the name suggests, the foundation, the lowest level of funding. Various categorical amounts are added to that.- Enrollment in the district is going down over time.

– Only 54 percent of funds went to teacher pay.

– Cynthia Lane, assistant superintendent for business and instructional support services, blamed the legislature for cutting funding.

85-year old teacher keeps teaching

Here’s a feel-good story:Lucy Saunders is a special education teacher in KCK. At age 85.