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Headlines for Thursday, March 2, 2017

Here's a look at area headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Supreme Court Says State Must Increase Public School Funding 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Latest on a Kansas Supreme Court ruling on public school funding (all times local):

12:10 p.m.

Attorneys for four Kansas school districts that are suing the state to increase school funding say the state Supreme Court's new ruling will require a funding boost of at least $800 million per year. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state isn't spending enough money on its schools to provide a suitable education to every child, which the state constitution requires. The justices did not set a specific figure for how much more the state must spend a year. Attorneys Alan Rupe and John Robb say the ruling suggests that the increase must be sizeable because it affirmed a lower court panel's findings that spending was inadequate. Rupe and Robb represent the Dodge City, Hutchinson, Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas, districts. They used the state in 2010.

11:15 a.m.

The Kansas Supreme Court has ordered the state to increase its spending on public schools, but it didn't say by how much. The court ruled Thursday that legislators must enact a new education funding law by the end of June. The decision comes with the state already facing projected budget shortfalls totaling more than $1 billion through June 2019. Lawmakers are considering rolling back steep income tax cuts championed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback. The justices ruled in a lawsuit filed by four school districts in 2010. They argued that legislators were violating the state constitution by failing to finance a suitable education for each of the state's 458,000 students. The districts argued for an $800 million increase in the state's $4.1 billion in annual aid.

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Kansas Governor Calls for School Choice Measures

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is calling on legislators to enact school choice measures in response to a state Supreme Court ruling directing the state to increase its spending on public schools. The conservative Republican governor said in a statement Thursday that the GOP-controlled Legislature has an opportunity to engage in what he called "transformative educational reform." Brownback said lawmakers should write a new school funding formula that puts students first and focuses on performance. But he added that the state should give parents of struggling students a greater say over their children's education. He said if parents do not believe a public school is best, they should have the resources to make other choices. The governor was not more specific about what school choice measures he advocates.

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Kansas Leaders Say Work Started on School Funding Law 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  The Kansas Legislature's top leaders say a state Supreme Court ruling on education funding won't require lawmakers to change course on drafting a new school finance law. Senate President Susan Wagle and House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. said their chambers of the Republican-controlled Legislature already were working on a new school funding law before the court's decision. The court said the state isn't adequately funding its schools and lawmakers must enact a new education funding law by June 30. Wagle and Ryckman put a positive spin on the court's decision by saying it recognized the Legislature's power to set school funding policy and appropriate money. While the court said the state's current funding is in adequate, the justices did not specifically say how much spending needs to increase.

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Kansas AG Urges Focus on Struggling Students 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas's attorney general says a state Supreme Court ruling suggests that lawmakers should concentrate on helping underperforming students by boosting spending on public schools. Attorney General Derek Schmidt called Thursday for a "bold legislative response" to comply with the court's order in a lawsuit filed by four school districts against the state in 2010. The high court said the state's funding for public schools is not adequate but did not say how much more lawmakers must provide. In its decision, the court noted that about a quarter of the state's students aren't proficient in reading and math with higher percentages for minorities. Schmidt said such a statement implies that underperforming students should be lawmakers' main focus in crafting a new school funding formula before the court's June 30th deadline.

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Ruling on School Funding Pleases Some Kansas Parents 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Several parents say they're pleased with a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that directs the state to increase spending on its public schools. Taunia Ross from the Kansas City suburb of Olathe said Thursday that additional state dollars would improve schools and parents would not have to pay as much in fees. She is the mother of four children aged 8 to 22. Angie Sutton of Ottawa in eastern Kansas said legislators "absolutely" should be spending more on schools. She's the mother of a 9-year-old and a 12-year-old. In Wichita, community activist Djuan Wash pointed to the court's finding that a significant percentage of minority students aren't proficient in reading and math. Wash says such problems help create a cycle of poverty. Wash is the father of a 9-year-old daughter.

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Kansas Secretary of State Splits with Governor on Firm Fees 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has split with Governor Sam Brownback on a measure that would increase business registration fees to help balance the state's budget. Kobach said in a news conference Thursday that he doesn't support a provision in Brownback's proposal that would increase annual fees on registered businesses. He says it would drive businesses in the Kansas City area across the state line into Missouri. Brownback proposed the fee hike to help end the state's tax exemption that benefits about 330,000 farms and businesses. He vetoed a bill last week that would have ended the exemption, raised personal income taxes and created a third income tax bracket for top earners. The House voted to override the veto, but the Senate fell three votes short of an override.

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Kansas Tax Collections Exceed Expectations by $37 Million in February
 
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that it collected $37 million more in taxes than anticipated in February. The Department of Revenue's report Wednesday is good news for legislators and Governor Sam Brownback as they deal with the state's budget problems. It lessens pressure for immediate spending cuts. The department said the state took in nearly $332 million in taxes when the state had projected collections of $295 million. The monthly surplus is 12.5 percent. It was the fourth consecutive month tax collections exceeded expectations. But revenues are being compared against a revised and more pessimistic fiscal forecast issued in November. The state still faces a projected shortfall of $281 million in its current budget and gaps in spending for existing programs exceeding $1 billion through June 2019.

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Indictment: Veteran claiming blindness defrauded government
 
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An Army veteran has been indicted for pretending to be blind to collect $63,000 in benefits.  A federal indictment unsealed Thursday charges 61-year-old Billy J. Alumbaugh and his ex-wife, Debra K. Alumbaugh, both of Turon, with conspiracy to defraud the government and theft of government funds.  Court records do not show they have attorneys.  Prosecutors allege he fraudulently obtained a supplemental monthly pension of $700 between June 2009 and January 2017 by claiming he was legally blind.  The indictment says that in October 2016 his wife drove him to the VA hospital in Wichita and drove away with him after his appointment. But after a few blocks, the couple stopped the car and switched seats so he could drive.  He held a driver's license that did not require corrective lenses.
 
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Survivor of Kansas Bar Shooting Released from Hospital

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man who survived an apparently racially motivated shooting at a suburban Kansas City bar has been released from the hospital. Ian Grillot was one of three men who were shot February 22 at Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe. One of the men, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, was killed. Kuchibhotla's friend, Alok Madasani, was wounded. The University of Kansas Health System said in a statement Thursday that Grillot has been released from the hospital. A bullet hit Grillot in the hand and entered his chest when he tried to stop the suspected gunman, 51-year-old Adam Puriton, of Olathe. Puriton is charged with murder and attempted murder. Witnesses say Puriton shouted racial slurs before shooting Kuchibhotla and Madasani, natives of India who were engineers at GPS-maker Garmin.

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Westar Energy Says New Wind Farm Fully Operational

SPEARVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Westar Energy says its new wind farm near Spearville will allow the utility to provide more than half its annual electricity needs without carbon emissions. The 280-megawatt Western Plains Wind Farm in Ford County began full operations Wednesday. The Hutchinson News reports the farm will make about $75 million in lease and other payments to local and county governments in the next 20 years. It also is expected to provide about three dozen permanent jobs. Besides wind, Westar gets about 20 percent of its emission-less power from the Wolf Creek nuclear plant near Burlington. Westar owns two other wind farms and buys energy from eight wind farms and a landfill gas generator. Later this spring, the utility will add a community solar installation in South Hutchinson.

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Judge Sets Hearing on Wichita Wiretap Interceptions 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge wants to hear oral arguments on a newspaper's request to disclose the federal government's reasons for putting wiretaps on the phone communications of a former state legislator, a Wichita businessman and others. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren set a hearing for Tuesday in federal court on the motion filed by The Wichita Eagle. Five of the paper's current or former employees were notified their calls with Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O'Donnell and businessman Brandon Steven had been intercepted. The U.S. attorney's office says disclosing the information would jeopardize its investigation. The government contends no one has been charged and no evidence has been introduced in any civil or criminal proceedings. It calls the request a "thinly veiled First Amendment argument" to obtain access to sealed documents.

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Crews Fight Fire in Manhattan's Aggieville District

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Crews have extinguished a fire that heavily damaged one building and caused smoke damage to two others in the Aggieville entertainment and shopping district near the Kansas State University campus. Deputy Manhattan Fire Chief Ryan Almes says the fire was reported around 3:45 a.m. Thursday in a building that had housed a bookstore called the Dusty Bookshelf and was being renovated. Almes says dangerous conditions inside the building forced firefighters to exit the building. He says 30 firefighters fought the blaze from outside the building before extinguishing it around 8 a.m. No one was hurt. The fire also caused smoke damage to adjoining businesses that sell doughnuts and T-shirts. The state fire marshal's office will help investigate the fire's cause.

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Olathe Woman Accused of Battering Infant, Illegal Child Care 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 25-year-old Kansas woman has been accused of battery of an infant and running an unlicensed child care facility. The Kansas City Star reports that Paige E. Hatfield of Olathe was charged Wednesday with one count each of aggravated battery and unlawfully running a child care facility without the proper license. Hatfield is accused of critically injuring an infant who was less than 6 months old on Jan. 30. She allegedly unlawfully operated the child care facility from January 1 through February 3. Hatfield was released from the Johnson County jail on a $25,000 bond Wednesday evening. She's scheduled to appear in court March 10.

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Survivor of Kansas Bar Shooting Released from Hospital

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man who survived an apparently racially motivated shooting at a suburban Kansas City bar has been released from the hospital.  Ian Grillot was one of three men who were shot February 22 at Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe. One of the men, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, was killed. Kuchibhotla's friend, Alok Madasani, was wounded.  The University of Kansas Health System said in a statement Thursday that Grillot has been released from the hospital. A bullet hit Grillot in the hand and entered his chest when he tried to stop the suspected gunman, 51-year-old Adam Puriton, of Olathe. Puriton is charged with murder and attempted murder.  Witnesses say Puriton shouted racial slurs before shooting Kuchibhotla and Madasani, natives of India who were engineers at GPS-maker Garmin.
 
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Kansas Man Pleads Guilty to Murder Midway Through Trial 

HILL CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has pleaded guilty midway through his trial to killing a man in a western Kansas park and shooting at pursuing law enforcement officers. The Salina Journal reports that 39-year-old Bobby Tallent admitted Wednesday to reduced charges of second-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder and other related charges. Jurors heard four days of testimony, but Tallent entered the plea before they began their deliberations. Tallent was previously charged with first-degree murder in the March 2016 shooting death of Joseph Sweet in a city park in Norton. He arrested near the Nebraska border after a chase. Tallent's trial was moved to Hill City after a mistrial was declared in October when a Nebraska television station aired footage of people in the jury pool. Sentencing is set for May 1.

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Ethanol Producer Considering Expansion in Colwich 

COLWICH, Kan. (AP) — Ethanol producer ICM says it is planning a $175 million bio-refinery in Colwich. The company said in a news release Thursday that the plant, ICM Element, will create 50 new permanent jobs, as well as construction jobs. At full production, the plant will buy more than 22 million bushels of corn and sorghum. ICM says the planning is in its final stages. The new plant would be on 80 acres just ICM's main plant in Colwich. Colwich Mayor Terry Spexarth says the city council is considering providing 10 years of tax abatements. He says after 10 years, the plant could provide about $1.8 million to the community.

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Clerk Shot in South Central Kansas in Critical Condition

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) —  A convenience store clerk in Kansas is in critical condition after police say he was shot by a fugitive charged with two murders in Mississippi. A spokeswoman for Via Christi Hospital in Wichita, said the clerk was in critical condition late Wednesday. Authorities have not released the victim's name. Police say the man was shot yesterday (WED) in Pratt as officers were searching for 28-year-old Alex Deaton. A spokesman for the Pratt Police Department said Deaton was being chased in a stolen car when he went into a Kwik Shop, shot the clerk and stole another vehicle. Deaton was later arrested when the car crashed near Wilson, in Ellsworth County. Mississippi authorities say they will seek extradition of Deaton who left a nearly 2,000-mile trail of violence across the country. Rankin County, Mississippi, Sheriff Bryan Bailey said that Deaton is suspected of strangling his girlfriend last week in a suburb of Jackson, Mississippi and stealing her SUV. Deaton is believed to have then shot a jogger and police say he may have also killed a woman at a rural Mississippi church. Sheriff Bailey says Deaton sent a series of texts, some incriminating, to friends and family before he went silent Saturday. On Tuesday, New Mexico authorities say he carjacked and briefly abducted two hikers. 

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Slot Machines Start Arriving at Southeast Kansas Casino

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — The new casino in southeast Kansas took another step toward opening when the first of more than 620 slots machines arrived.  The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports the machines were unloaded and checked this week at the Kansas Crossing Casino.  Casino marketing director Carter Blair says the casino's games will include video poker, traditional slots and progressive slots. The casino also will offer 16 table games.  It is expected to open within the next 60 days, although Blair said the opening date has not been set.  The nearly $80 million project includes 123-room Hampton Inn and Suites and a 600-seat entertainment complex.

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Man Serves 2 Days After Fatal Hit-and-Run 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man who was sentenced to 60 days in jail for leaving the scene after hitting a pedestrian, who later died, has been released from jail after serving two days. District Judge Terry Pullman released 55-year-old Cary Whitlock, of Clearwater, on Monday and sent him to work release for the rest of his 60-day sentence. Whitlock pleaded no contest in January to leaving the scene of an accident. The September 2014 accident resulted in the death of 43-year-old Jeremy Napier, of Clearwater. Prosecutors say Napier was walking near Clearwater when he was hit by a vehicle, which drove away. He was run over by a second vehicle. The Wichita Eagle reports that coroners couldn't determine which blow caused Napier's death, so Whitlock wasn't charged with a more serious crime.

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Topeka Man Accused of Fleecing Mom Sent to Federal Prison 

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A man accused of defrauding his mother and others out of more than $911,000 has been sent to prison and ordered to pay back the money. Prosecutors say 61-year-old James Kappler Jr., of Topeka, was sentenced Tuesday to 63 months for wire fraud. Prosecutors say Kappler had told his mother that he had contracted the staph infection MRSA, which is resistant to many antibiotics. He falsely told her he was involved in a drug study that would pay him $5 million eventually, but he needed help paying for medical care in the meantime. Prosecutors say that when her money ran out, she sought more from her sister and friends. Prosecutor Jan Sharp said Wednesday Nebraska gained jurisdiction over the case because some of the people who helped wired money from Nebraska.

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Kansas City, Kansas Woman Accused in Husband's Death to Undergo Competency Testing

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) _ A 50-year-old woman accused of killing her estranged husband in Leavenworth, Kansas, will undergo mental competency testing. The Leavenworth Times reports that a county judge on Wednesday ordered the testing for Barbara Marie Frantz, of Kansas City, Kansas. She's charged with first-degree murder in the death of 54-year-old Gary Frantz. Leavenworth police say Gary Frantz was shot several times January 27 in a parking lot. Barbara Frantz was arrested hours later in Burlingame, Kansas. Police have said the case involved domestic violence but did not offer further details. Authorities say that Barbara Frantz referred to Gary Frantz as her ex-husband in a Facebook post in December. He listed his marital status on Facebook as separated. 

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Missouri Woman Gets 4 Years for Foiled Murder Plot 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri woman who tried to hire someone to kill her former son-in-law so she could see her grandchildren more has been sentenced to four years in federal prison. Sixty-three-year-old Teresa Owen of the Kansas City suburb of Independence was sentenced Thursday. She pleaded guilty last September to using a telephone to commit a murder-for-hire scheme. Authorities say Owen was embroiled in a custody dispute involving her grandchildren when she reached out to two people by telephone, offering them money to kill her former son-in-law. One of the would-be hit men turned out to be an undercover police officer. Investigators say Owen agreed to pay $700 for the killing said she wanted her former son-in-law's death to resemble an accident. She was arrested and charged in mid-2015.

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Kansas State Beats TCU 75-74 in Texas

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Kansas State's Wesley Iwundu scored 16 points and had 10 rebounds in his record 119th career start for Kansas State as the Wildcats beat TCU 75-74 on Wednesday night. Dean Wade had 20 points for the Wildcats (18-12, 7-10), who had lost eight of their previous 10 games. TCU (17-13, 6-11) under first-year coach Jamie Dixon, lost their sixth consecutive game, even after cutting an 11-point halftime deficit to one. Vlad Brodziansky had 18 points for the Horned Frogs, as they played their home finale four days after a 61-60 loss to 10th-ranked West Virginia. Kamau Stokes also had 16 points for K-State, while D.J. Johnson had 12.

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