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Headlines for Wednesday, May 15, 2024

A graphic representation of eight radios of various vintages, underneath the words "Kansas Public Radio News Summary"
Emily Fisher

Governor Signs New Kansas School Funding Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Governor Laura Kelly signed a bill Wednesday that to fund public K-12 schools in Kansas. The bipartisan bill fully funds public schools as ordered by a Kansas Supreme Court ruling, and it provides $75.5 million in additional money for special education. The bill also includes $1.3 million for a mentorship program for early-career educators. But Kelly vetoed a provision that earmarked state tax dollars for weapons detection software. The governor objected to language in the bill that would have required schools to purchase a specific type of AI security system to get matching money from the state’s school safety grant program. Kelly said the provision amounted to a no-bid contract and wouldn’t give schools the flexibility to invest in other security efforts.


Kansas Education Leaders Approve New Graduation and FAFSA Requirements

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas education leaders Wednesday approved the first update to high school graduation requirements in nearly two decades. The State Board of Education voted 8-2 to pass the new requirements. For the first time, graduates will need two credits earned outside the classroom, such as community service or work experience. The new requirements will include a half-credit each of health, communications and financial literacy. They’ll also be required to file an application for federal financial aid, known as a FAFSA. Tamara Seyler-James is a parent of four from Johnson County. She says a lack of financial aid forms shouldn’t keep students from graduating. “They should not have to wait on their parents to complete their FAFSA, or an opt-out form for a FAFSA, to receive the diploma they have already earned,” Seyler-James said. The changes in graduation requirements takes effect with the Class of 2028, which will start high school this fall.


Kansas Getting More Days of "Fire Weather"

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - Kansas is getting more days of fire-prone weather. A new report from the group Climate Centralsays the number of days with wildfire-prone weather has increased since the early 1970's. High temperatures, low humidity and strong winds can all promote the spread of wildfires. A new report by Climate Central shows that these conditions are all becoming more common in Kansas. Climate Central is a nonprofit that analyzes climate data. Kaitlyn Trudeau is a senior research associate with the group. She says climate change is increasing temperatures and decreasing relative humidity. "All you need is a spark and then these conditions are really set to just create a much more dangerous fire than if the conditions were otherwise," Trudeau said. The central Kansas region saw 18 more fire weather days in 2023 compared to 1973, followed by 13 more in southwest Kansas and 11 more in south-central Kansas. Most new fire weather days are occurring in the spring. Trudeau says this could impact controlled burns in the flint hills, which also occur in the spring. (Read More)


Products Recalled at Western Kansas Walmart Stores Because of Salmonella

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Products at five Walmart stores in western Kansas have been recalled because they may be contaminated with salmonella. Walmart is recalling one lot of its “Great Value Organic Black Chia Seeds,” which come in 32 ounce packages. Salmonella is a type of bacteria that can lead to serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or older adults and those who have weak immune systems. Even healthy people who come into contact with salmonella may develop symptoms like fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Walmart keeps a list of affected stores on its website. KSNT reports that the affected Walmart locations in Kansas include stores in Colby, Goodland, Garden City and Liberal.

The FDA says no reports of illness have been received yet in association with the recalled seeds. However, the products are still being recalled out of an abundance of caution. More information about the recalled seeds can be found below:

Lot code: 24095 C018
Expiration date: Oct. 30, 2026
UPC: 078742300665


Kansas Attorney General Sues Biden Administration over Title IX

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach is suing the Biden administration over a new Title IX rule about transgender rights. It's the latest Republican effort to keep trans women out of women’s sports. Federal education officials issued guidance saying Title IX prohibits discrimination based on a person’s gender identity. They say that’s necessary to ensure schools don’t discriminate against trans students. But Kobach and other Republicans say the new rule imposes on women’s rights. They say it would require biological women to compete against biological males. “It’s unconscionable," Kobach said. "It's unfair in the athletic arenas, and it’s dangerous for girls and women.” Kobach is seeking an injunction in court to prevent the rule from taking effect. “Biden’s Title IX regulation effectively requires universities to pretend that there are no biological differences between men and women and effectively erases those differences," Kobach said. Attorneys General from Alaska, Wyoming, and Utah are joining the lawsuit.


KBI Identifies Man Killed in Officer-Involved Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KPR) - The Kansas Bureau of Investigation has identified a man killed in an officer-involved shooting in Kansas City, Kansas. 18-year-old Jordan Cole was shot and killed Friday night when exchanging gunfire with an KCK police officer near an Interstate 35 on-ramp. A 16-year-old male was taken into custody. A third suspect is still on the run.


Kansas City, Kansas, Had Worst Air Quality in America on Tuesday

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (Washington Post) - The flow of Canadian wildfire smoke into the Midwest meant that on Tuesday... Kansas City, Kansas had the worst air quality in the United States. The Washington Post reports that the worst air quality in the world this week could be found in places like Indonesia, Qatar, Cambodia — and Kansas. The air quality was considered unhealthy for sensitive groups and on Tuesday, that unhealthy air stretched across the Midwest. The wildfire smoke is coming from western Canada, where, for a second year in a row, fire season is off to an active and early start.


Kansas Board to Open Second Round of Opioid Grants

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - A state board that allocates opioid settlement funds will soon open its second round of grant funding in Kansas. The board will allocate $10 million dollars for grants focused on treatment and prevention, much like it did last year. The money is part of a national legal settlement against prescription opioid makers, distributors and pharmacies. Kansas is expected to receive about $340 million dollars over the next 18 years. About $6 million dollars of the grants will go toward substance use treatment with the remainder for prevention. Applications and more information for both of the grants will open this summer. The board allocated $10 million dollars in grants last year for treatment and prevention services.


Another Step Forward for New Mental Health Hospital in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - Kansas is getting a new state mental hospital. It will be built in Wichita. The city council just approved a zoning change to permit the construction of the facility, but not everyone is happy with its location. In 2022 and 2023, the state legislature committed millions of dollars to Sedgwick County to build the new hospital. But its proposed location frustrated neighbors. In April, several people testified at a planning committee meeting that it would bring crime to the area. The facility will be used, in part, to evaluate the mental health of people in jail.


Lesser Prairie Chicken Still Under Threat in Southwest Kansas

LIBERAL, Kan. (KNS) - It’s mating season for the lesser prairie chicken, but bird watchers will have fewer feathered friends to watch as the population continues to dwindle in southwest Kansas. The lesser prairie chicken used to roam the plains by the millions, but Audubon of Kansas estimates only around 25,000 remain. It is a metric that animal conservationists use to gauge the health of native grassland ecosystems, but 90% of the bird's habitat has been lost. Wayne Walker is with Common Ground Capital, an endangered species organization in the southern plains. “Imagine if 90% of the rain forest was cut down. People would be freaking out about that," he said. Walker and others are working on a program to pay ranchers for protecting the grasslands. Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach filed a lawsuit last year to remove the bird from the threatened species list.

Proponents of the lesser prairie chicken say the species is synonymous with the Great Plains but the bird could go the way of the buffalo. Most of the bird’s remaining habitat is located in southwest Kansas. There are fewer places overall for the chicken to roam and less biodiversity in the prairies. Walker says that’s because cropland has replaced native prairie ecosystems. “I mean, it’s this massively complex and cool ecosystem. And you know, we look at a field full of wheat. And it's just like golly, you know, we plowed up this to make that?, he said.

Check out this new commentary about the lesser prairie chicken from Rex Buchanan.


Emergency Crews Rescue Trapped Worker

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (KCTV) - A construction worker has been rescued after being trapped in a trench in Overland Park. KCTV reports that the worker was trapped about 15 feet below ground when a trench collapsed in on him. The man was stuck for about an hour in dirt up to his waist. He was taken to a hospital for treatment.


Measure Signed into Law Aimed at Helping Foster Care Teens

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has signed a bill into law aimed at helping teenagers as they age out of the state's foster care system. The law is designed to allow teens 16 and older to choose a person - or group of people they trust - to help raise them as they enter adulthood. Kansas is the first state in the country to sign the permanency option into law.


Kansas Officials Select KanCare Contracts

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas officials have selected two existing health plans and one new health plan to run the state's Medicaid system on a three-year contract beginning in January. Sunflower Health Plan and United Healthcare Community Plan will continue offering Medicaid services. A new subsidiary of Blue Cross and Blue Shield -- called Healthy Blue -- will replace current provider Aetna. The three health care companies will provide Medicaid services to more than 450-thousand Kansans. Seven groups applied for the contracts.


“NASA Acres” Helping Farmers with Data from Space

UNDATED (HPM) - A research program called "NASA Acres" is helping farmers make use of NASA satellite data to improve their efficiency in the field. Now in its second year, “NASA Acres” is funding research projects at 10 universities across the country. Tom Wagner works for an organization called NASA Earth Action. He says they are developing new ways to use satellite data regarding land, water and weather to make farming and agribusiness decisions. “When you get something like Acres going, you get a group of people focused on a problem," he said. "And I think over the next five years plus, we’re going to see some real changes for agriculture in terms of what we can do with data from space.” Current projects in the program include forecasting crop yields and monitoring nitrogen levels in crops, allowing for adjustments in fertilizer use.


Man Serving Life in Prison for Killing Six Women in Kansas City Dies

POTOSI, Mo. (AP) — A man convicted of killing six women 20 years ago in Kansas City has died. The Missouri Department of Corrections says 62-year-old Terry Blair died Saturday morning. An autopsy is planned. Blair was imprisoned at the Potosi Correctional Center on six counts of first-degree murder. All six of the women died in the period from July to September 2004. Their bodies were found in an area of Kansas City frequented by drug dealers and prostitutes. Blair had a long history of violence. He was convicted of killing a woman in 1982, and served 21 years. He was on probation when he was arrested in the deaths six women who were killed in 2004. Blair also was suspected in the deaths of two other women, but those charges were dropped.


70 Years Ago, School Integration Was a Dream Many Believed Could Actually Happen. Has It?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Seventy years ago this week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled separating children in schools by race was unconstitutional. On paper, that decision — the fabled Brown v. Board of Education, taught in most every American classroom — still stands. In reality, school integration is all but gone, the victim of a gradual series of court cases that slowly eroded it, leaving little behind.

The country is more diverse than it ever has been, with students more exposed to classmates from different backgrounds. Still, around 4 out of 10 Black and Hispanic students attend schools where almost every one of their classmates is another student of color.

The intense segregation by race is linked to socioeconomic conditions: Schools where students of color compose more than 90% of the student body are five times more likely to be located in low-income areas. That in turn has resounding academic consequences: Students who attend high-poverty schools, regardless of their family’s finances, have worse educational outcomes.

Efforts to slow or reverse the increasing separation of American schools have stalled. Court cases slowly have chipped away at the dream outlined in the case of Brown v. Board, leaving fewer and fewer tools in the hands of districts to integrate schools by the early 2000s. “School integration exists as little more than an idea in America right now, a little more than a memory,” said Derek Black, a law professor at the University of Southern California. “It’s actually an idea that a pretty good majority of Americans think is a good idea. But that’s all.”

The dream of Brown was never as simple as diversity. It was about equality, and the opportunity that came with it. From the beginning, funding and integration have been inseparable. “Whiter schools and districts have more resources, and that is wrong,” said Ary Amerikaner, a former Obama administration official and the founder of Brown’s Promise. “But it is a reality. And that undermines opportunity for students of color, and it undermines our future democracy.”


New Abortion Clinic Opening this Fall in Southeast Kansas

PITTSBURG, Kan. (KNS) - Planned Parenthood in Kansas says it will open a new abortion clinic in southeast Kansas. The facility will open in Pittsburg this fall. The news comes as abortion providers in Kansas report overwhelming demand from out-of-state patients. Since many nearby states have banned abortion, most patients at Planned Parenthood Great Plains’ Kansas clinics now travel from out-of-state, more than half from Texas alone. President Emily Wales says she hopes the new Pittsburg clinic will help alleviate some of that demand, in addition to providing services like contraception and STI testing. “There are not enough health care providers there, and there are certainly not enough providers of sexual and reproductive care, particularly gender-affirming services," she said. Wales says her organization only has room to treat a fraction of those seeking appointments. “We were somewhat braced for it. And we had adapted a number of things about our operations. But at the end of the day, you can only provide so much care in a physical facility," she said.

It’ll be the third new clinic offering abortions to open in Kansas since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. Abortion remains legal in Kansas until 22 weeks, but anti-abortion groups are celebrating legislative wins including a law that will require patients to tell their doctors why they’re getting an abortion.


This summary of area news is curated by KPR news staffers. Our headlines are generally published by 10 am weekdays and are updated through 7 pm. This ad-free news summary is made possible by KPR members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on X (formerly Twitter,).