Kansas Supreme Court Rejects Some Education Funding Changes
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court says that if its most recent education funding ruling results in public schools closing, it will be because legislators did not comply with an earlier order. The high court Friday rejected some education funding changes enacted by the Republican-dominated Legislature. The justices said in an unsigned order that lawmakers did not fully comply with an order in February to improve funding for poor schools. The court refused to separate the changes it endorsed from ones it accepted, saying they were all part of a single system. The justices said that unless the problems are fixed, the state won't have an acceptable system for distributing its more than $4 billion in annual aid. The court said schools would be forced to close if the problems aren't fixed not because of its decision.
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court is threatening again to close the state's public schools and has rejected some education funding changes enacted by legislators earlier this year. The court ruled Friday on a law that revised parts of the state's funding formula but resulted in no change in total funds for most of the state's 286 school districts. The justices said legislators didn't fully comply with an order it issued in February to make education funding fairer to poor school districts. The court said all schools must remain closed unless lawmakers fix the problems by June 30. The court made the same threat in February, and the Republican-dominated Legislature passed the changes in hopes the court would relent. Lawmakers are scheduled to meet Wednesday to formally adjourn their annual session.
NWS: Northeast Kansas Tornado Was an EF4
CHAPMAN, Kan. (AP) — The National Weather Service says a tornado that damaged or destroyed about 20 homes near the northeast Kansas town of Chapman was an EF4 with estimated peak winds of 180 mph. Weather service surveyors determined the tornado Wednesday evening stayed on the ground for about 90 minutes and traveled 26 miles. Numerous power lines and a set of railroad tracks were damaged in the storm. The weather service says Wednesday's tornado was a half-mile wide and completely destroyed a farmstead near Chapman. Severe weather spawning numerous tornadoes roiled large stretches of Kansas for a second day on Thursday but caused only scattered damage and no injuries or deaths. A late afternoon tornado warning north of Kansas City prompted a brief evacuation of Kansas City International Airport in Missouri on Thursday forcing travelers into parking garage tunnels for shelter.
Coordination Key to Cleanup Efforts in Dickinson County
Emergency managers are coordinating volunteers to assist in the cleanup after a slow-moving tornado hit rural northern Kansas, damaging about 20 homes. No major injuries or fatalities have been reported in the tornado late Wednesday. Chancy Smith, Dickinson County emergency management director, told The Topeka Capital-Journal that coordination is key because he doesn't want people "randomly driving around looking for people to help." More than 120 responders searched through debris and damaged homes overnight looking for injured residents. The National Weather Service says the tornado covered about 23 miles between Niles and Chapman in Dickinson County. Chapman is about 140 miles west of Kansas City, Kansas. Power outages were reported across the region Thursday.
After Kansas Tornado, Residents "Lucky to Be Alive"
CHAPMAN, Kan. (AP) — Residents in northern Kansas are cleaning up the damage from an EF4 tornado that ripped through the rural area earlier this week. Tom and Janet Whitehair's Dickinson County home was among about 20 homes damaged or destroyed by the half-mile-wide tornado that was on the ground for about 90 minutes Wednesday night. No serious injuries or fatalities were reported. Whitehair told the Topeka Capital-Journal he and his wife are "lucky to be alive." The National Weather Service says the tornado had wind speeds up to 180 mph. Most of the damage was in Dickinson County, but two homes were also damaged in Ottawa County, where the twister began. Dickinson County administrator Brad Homman says some residents had minor injuries, and ranchers are also reporting missing livestock, horses and pets.
GOP Leader Seeks Kansas Senate Vote Against Federal Order
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle wants the chamber to vote next week on a resolution condemning a recent federal directive on accommodating transgender students in public schools. Wagle's office says that she is drafting a nonbinding Senate resolution to be considered next week, when lawmakers have a brief ceremony scheduled to formally adjourn their annual session. President Barack Obama's administration earlier this month directed public schools to allow transgender students to use the restrooms associated with their gender identities rather than their birth genders. Many GOP officials in Kansas question whether the Democratic president's administration has the legal authority to issue such a directive. LGBT-rights advocate Tom Witt said Thursday that lawmakers are singling out transgender children for harassment.
Lawrence Crafts Security Plan to Comply with Concealed Weapons Law
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The city of Lawrence is creating a security plan to comply with a state law allowing people to carry concealed guns. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the city attorney's office has proposed funds in the 2017 budget to install personnel and equipment security at entrances to public buildings in anticipation of the Personal and Family Protection Act's expiration in 2017. The act, passed in 2013, allowed Lawrence and other cities to ban concealed weapons for four years before complying with a state law that says concealed firearms are allowed in public buildings unless the structures are equipped with security measures. The security measures are being considered at City Hall, the municipal court, the public library and the police department's investigations and training center.
Police: Man Accused of Theft of Blue Man Group Items
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a man is charged with stealing props and costumes of the Blue Man Group while the performance artists were in that south-central Kansas city last week. Thirty-three-year-old Freddy Gonzalez-Gonzalez of Wichita was arrested Tuesday and charged two days later with aggravated burglary and felony theft. Police have said the theft involved items worth more than $1,000 from a performance arts center where Blue Man Group was scheduled for two nights of shows. Police say publicly released photos of the suspect on surveillance video were instrumental in Gonzalez's arrest. It was not immediately clear Friday if Gonzalez has an attorney.
Rape Charge Filed in Johnson County Against Elderly Cab Driver
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 70-year-old cab driver faces charges accusing him of raping a female passenger in Johnson County. The Kansas City Star reports Abdul S. Sayed, of Olathe, is charged in Johnson County District Court with rape and aggravated criminal sodomy. A criminal complaint filed Thursday says the alleged assault occurred December 13. The complaint alleges that the victim was "overcome by force of fear" or was unable to give consent to sexual contact because of intoxication. Online court records don't list a lawyer for Sayed, who has a first appearance scheduled for Friday. His bond was set at $500,000. Sayed was a driver for the Atlas Cab Company at the time of the alleged assault. The company said Friday that Sayed was fired about three months ago.
KCMO Fire Chief Says Changes Made Since 2 Deaths
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City Fire Chief Paul Berardi says the fire department has implemented several of the recommendations listed in a report focusing on the deaths of two firefighters killed last year in a building collapse. the 68-page report released this week focuses on the events of October 12, when two firefighters were killed when a wall collapsed as firefighters tried to extinguish an arson fire. The report, which was researched and written by an 11-member Kansas City Fire Department team, said commanders allowed the two firefighters to continue to fight the fire from an alley that was in a declared collapse zone. Berardi told The Kansas City Star he supports all 14 recommendations in the report and that the department has adopted or made progress on most of them.
Kansas City Streetcar Involved in Wreck
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - One of Kansas City's new streetcars has been damaged in a wreck with a car last (THUR) night. The Kansas City Star reports the wreck occurred when the streetcar and a car collided at a downtown intersection. No injuries were reported. About 10 people were in the streetcar at the time. One of the streetcar's doors was partly caved in. The Streetcar Authority says the streetcar was returned to its station and streetcar service resumed later Thursday evening. Accounts differ on whether the streetcar or the passenger vehicle had a green light to proceed through the intersection. Kansas City's streetcars started taking passengers earlier this month along its 2.2 mile starter line.
Wichita Teachers Vote for Shorter School Year, Longer Day
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Union officials say Wichita teachers have approved a plan to lengthen the school day and shorten the year. United Teachers of Wichita president Steve Wentz tells The Wichita Eagle that nearly 70 percent of the more than 4,000 ballots the union received were in favor of the proposed calendar. The calendar was proposed as a way to trim about $3 million from next year's budget. It'll shorten the school year by 15 days for Wichita students and lengthen the school day by 30 minutes. The Wichita school board must approve the proposed change. Members are expected to approve an addendum to this year's teacher contract noting the calendar change, as well as a new calendar for the 2016-17 school year, during its June 6 meeting.
Attorney Running for Congress as Democrat in Kansas 4th District
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 42-year-old Wichita attorney is running for Congress as a Democrat in the 4th Congressional District of south-central Kansas. Dan Giroux filed the necessary papers and paid a $1,760 fee Thursday at the Kansas secretary of state's office in Topeka to secure a spot on the August primary ballot. Giroux said he's running for Congress because he's concerned about the area's economy and has seen most of his 11 brothers and sisters move out of the state. Republican incumbent Mike Pompeo captured the seat in 2010 and is favored to win a fourth two-year term in November. Giroux is the second Democrat to file. The other is retired Wichita court services officer Robert Tillman. He ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in 2010 and was the party's nominee in 2012.
13 Indicted in $3.5M Wichita Identity Theft Scheme
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal indictment in southern Kansas accuses 13 people of roles in an identity-theft ring involving more than $3.5 million of theft. The 50-count indictment unsealed Thursday in Wichita alleges the conspirators divided up the work of stealing from mailboxes, forging identification documents, obtaining fraudulent credit cards and shopping with stolen identities. Prosecutors said the thieves used the phony credit cards to finance luxury shopping sprees. Items allegedly purchased included a $43,500 Jaguar and a $62,000 Dodge Challenger. The indictment's charges include aggravated identity theft, trafficking in stolen identities, unlawful production of identity documents, bank fraud, and drug and gun counts.
Kansan Pleads Guilty in Girl's Chase-Related Shooting Death
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A man faces life in prison now that he's admitted in federal court that he kidnapped his Kansas girlfriend's 5-year-old daughter and killed her during a police chase. Thirty-two-year-old Marcas McGowan pleaded guilty Thursday in Kansas City to charges of kidnapping resulting in death, and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. Authorities allege McGowan abducted Cadence Harris on July 18, 2014, after a domestic dispute in the Atchison, Kansas, home they shared with the girl's mother. During an ensuring chase in which McGowan fired at police, authorities pursuit him into Missouri before officers shot McGowan after they say he pointed a gun at them in Leavenworth. Sentencing is scheduled for September 6. Both sides have agreed to recommend a sentence of life on the kidnapping charge.
Man Accused of Attacking Kansas City Animal Control Officer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City, Missouri, man is accused of assaulting a female city animal control officer and leading police on a pursuit. The Kansas City Star reports that 45-year-old Ricky Allen Williams is charged with assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest, vehicle theft, assault and armed criminal action. Court documents allege Williams choked and threatened to kill an animal control officer who had gone to the home to check on a dog that lacked food, water and shelter. When a passer-by saw the alleged assault and intervened, Williams allegedly threatened that person. Williams jumped into the passer-by's vehicle and drove off as police arrived, prompting a chase that ended when the vehicle got stuck in mud. It was not immediately clear Friday if Williams has an attorney.
Man Found Guilty in Fatal Shooting of Dodge City Woman
DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — A man charged in the 2014 fatal shooting of a Dodge City woman has been found guilty of second-degree murder. Victor Gutierrez Jr. was found guilty Wednesday in the death of 30-year-old Natasha Pruitt. Authorities say Pruitt was found dead in her home on September 22, 2014. Gutierrez was arrested after authorities say he led police on a chase with speeds that reached up to 140 mph through Stafford and Reno counties before he stopped. Gutierrez was sentenced to two years and two months in prison in connection to the police chase.