Education | St. Louis Public Radio


Kristin Sobolik, new provost at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, in photo provided by the campus Jan. 4, 2017
Provided | University of Missouri-St. Louis

Kristin Sobolik, currently the dean of the college of liberal arts at Wright State University, will become provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Missouri-St. Louis on June 1.


Chancellor Tom George announced her selection on Wednesday, praising her work in increasing diversity at Wright State in Dayton, Ohio. Those areas have been a big focus at the University of Missouri system in recent months.


Provided | Alliance Defending Freedom

When Annette Kiehne looked for ways to make the playground safer at Trinity Lutheran Church preschool in Columbia, Missouri, she had no idea the plan would become a federal case – all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

As director of the school, she just wanted to replace the playground’s pea gravel surface with shredded tires, which would be a more comfortable cushion for the inevitable tumbles from monkey bars and such. And the church playground qualified for a state program that was giving away just such a surface.

But after Trinity was judged fourth best of the 14 applicants who qualified to get the shredded rubber, state officials changed their minds. Because the preschool is run by a church, they decided, Missouri law bars it from taking part in a program funded with state money.

MCU's Dietra Wise Baker talks during a workshop on the problems in the juvenile justice system in Missouri on May 14, 2016.
File Photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louisans working to reform school discipline and the juvenile justice system say they are pushing for clear district policies in response to Missouri’s revised criminal code.

That’s after Ferguson-Florissant and Hazelwood issued warnings in December that Missouri’s newly revised criminal code could mean students would be charged with felonies for fighting.

Drawing of child and scales of justice
Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

Warnings issued by two St. Louis County school districts Thursday sparked a flurry of concern that students who fight in school will be charged with a felony beginning in January.

In a video posted to YouTube, Ferguson-Florissant Superintendent Joseph Davis told students and parents that “the consequences of poor choices and bad decisions, a simple fight, may follow you for the rest of your life” when changes to Missouri’s criminal code take effect in 2017.

KB35 | Flickr

With a new Missouri governor ready to take over, lawmakers are trying once again to solve an old problem: how students in unaccredited school districts can get the education they deserve.

Since the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the transfer law in 2013, students in unaccredited districts have had the right to enroll in nearby accredited districts, at the cost of millions of dollars to their home districts that had to pay tuition and in some cases transportation as well.

social security card corner
File photo | Kelsey Proud | St. Louis Public Radio

An increasing number of older Americans are having problems with student loan debt — so much so that their Social Security checks are being reduced because the federal government is withholding loan repayments.

And those reductions result in Social Security recipients falling below the poverty line.

Lucy Englander and Rose Hanley joined "St. Louis on the Air" to discuss the Little Bit Foundation.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis area non-profit The Little Bit Foundation has aided schoolchildren in need for the past 15 years by providing one-on-one support in schools to identify specific needs from underwear and eyeglasses to meals and mental health.

The organization was founded by Rose Hanley, Little Bit’s executive director, with a simple coat drive for an area school. Now, the non-profit serves 25 schools and 7,000 children in the St. Louis area.

Tax credits | Flickr

St. Louis is backing charter school parents in a legal dispute over how money from a 1999 city sales tax is distributed.

St. Louis officials  argue that the money from the sales tax was designed to help all students attending public schools in the city, not just those in district schools.

The St. Louis Public Schools and the NAACP, which filed the lawsuit, say the money should go only to the school district, not to charters, and they want to recover more than $50 million that has gone to the charters since 2006.

Patrick Henry Elementary School in St. Louis.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

One day before filing for the spring election begins, the Ferguson-Florissant school board announced Monday that it will appeal a federal judge’s ruling changing how board members in the district are elected.

U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel last month ordered that members of the board of the north St. Louis County district should be elected with cumulative voting, in an effort to achieve racial balance. He said that the current system of electing all board members at large “is legally unacceptable.”

La'Shieka White talks about the lawsuit involving her son, Edmund Lee, on May 4, 2016. Attorney Joshua Thompson is at left.
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

The African-American student who was barred from attending a St. Louis charter school after his family moved to St. Louis County is pressing his case in federal appeals court, arguing that the agency that administers the city-county transfer plan is violating his constitutional rights.

The family of Edmund Lee filed suit this year, claiming racial discrimination. He had attended Gateway Science Academy while his family lived in St. Louis, but when they moved to Maryland Heights, the school said he could no longer attend.

University of Missouri students protest a series of racist incidents on the Columbia campus in this photo from Nov. 9, 2015.
Bram Sable-Smith | KBIA

The University of Missouri should emphasize diversity in its recruitment, train professors in the importance of diversity in their courses and increase outreach to improve diversity among faculty and staff, a systemwide task force recommended on Wednesday.

Those proposals were among priority items included in the task force’s report. It was responding to a comprehensive audit of diversity, equity and inclusion practices at the university conducted by the consulting firm IBIS.

LeDiva Pierce with her daughters Alfreida (left) and Unique. Pierce is one of two charter school parents seeking to intervene as plaintiffs in St. Louis Public School's dispute with the state over funding.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Two parents of children in charter schools in St. Louis are taking their fight to be involved in a school-funding lawsuit to a federal appeals court.

Earlier this year, a U.S. District Court judge rejected attempts by Ken Ross Jr. and LeDiva Pierce to intervene in a motion brought by the St. Louis Public Schools and the NAACP. The court actions seeks to stop money from a 1999 sales tax from going to charter schools and want the charters to pay back $50 million in tax proceeds they have received over the past 10 years.

Paul Ziegler, new executive director of EducationPlus
Provided | Education Plus

Paul Ziegler, the superintendent of the Northwest R-1 school district in Jefferson County, will become executive director of EducationPlus on July 1, 2017.

Ziegler will succeed Matt Goodman, who has been interim executive director of the area school collaborative. Don Senti stepped down as head of the agency in April following questions about finances.

KT Klng | Flickr

The Missouri Charter Public School Commission had a good reason to locate its office in the heart of the Cortex entrepreneur mecca in St. Louis.

Robbyn Wahby, who became the commission’s first executive director last year after serving as education adviser to Mayor Francis Slay, said she hopes to work with a wide range of people who are interested in starting charters. Her office in the CIC building on South Sarah is a good place to bring such people together, she said in a recent interview there.

University of Missouri President Mun Choi, shown here in November 2016, detailed cuts across the UM System campuses.
File photo | Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

As he begins visiting all four campuses in the University of Missouri system, incoming president Mun Choi is taking time to listen and learn about many of the issues facing the school.

But he made clear during a visit to the St. Louis campus on Tuesday that he intends to make the university a destination for students from all over who are seeking a world-class education in a changing environment, and he intends for UM to be active in the communities it serves.

Zora Mulligan, Missouri's Commissioner for Higher Education, has been in the position since August.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Zora Mulligan has been on the job as Missouri’s Commissioner of Higher Education for less than four months. But before she stepped into those shoes, she served as the University of Missouri System’s Chief of Staff during the 2015-2016 protests at Mizzou, which grasped the attention of the entire nation.

Did such exposure hurt the UM System as a whole?

William P. Johnson, new dean of Saint Louis University's law school
Saint Louis University

Saint Louis University has named William P. Johnson, a member of its faculty since 2012, as the new dean of its law school.

Johnson, 45, who has been director of the school’s Center for International and Comparative Law, takes over Jan. 3 from the retiring Michael Wolff, who has been dean since 2013. Johnson also has directed the SLU Summer Law program at the university’s campus in Madrid, Spain.

school buses

After area school superintendents voted Friday to phase out the current race-based student transfer program – and possibly replace it with a new one down the road – those who have been part of the program so far cited a lot of reasons it should continue.

Harlan Hodge, a city resident who graduated in 1992 from Parkway North High School, put his experience this way:

“The kids at our school, the teachers lovingly embraced us the same way they have everywhere else. It really became about excellence. I’m as committed to Parkway as I was 25 years ago when I started. I believe in the school district. I believe in teachers. I believe in our education. It was a great experience.”

KB35 | Flickr

If the voluntary student transfer program that has served more than 70,000 St. Louis area students over more than 30 years is going to continue beyond 2036, it probably will be based on a factor other than race.

At a meeting Friday, the board that oversees the program is expected to approve a final five-year extension that would begin phasing out the transfers in the 2023-24 school year. Students who begin kindergarten that year could remain through high school graduation.

Washington University Professor Peter Kastor teaches his freshman politics seminar on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

On Election Day, as he does every day, Washington University freshman Jordan Phillips called his grandma in Florida. His message was a definite one.

“I called her about an hour before the polls started closing,” Phillips said. “She jokingly said, ‘Jordan, who's going to win the election?’ I said I would bet everything I have that Hillary Clinton's going to win.

“Then I called her the next day, and she's like, ‘So you owe me everything you have.’”