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Headlines for Friday, March 30, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Officials Identify 3 New Cases of Measles

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials have identified three new cases of measles, bringing the state's outbreak total to 13.  The Kansas City Star reports that the outbreak began earlier this month at a daycare center that health officials have declined to name for privacy reasons.  The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says the new cases are residents of Johnson County, which is now home to 11 of the state's cases. Officials say people could've have been exposed to the viral infection in the past week at a Chuck E. Cheese's and a Chick-fil-A in Olathe, as well as at a Walgreens in Kansas City, Missouri.  The department advises people who have been in the exposure areas to monitor themselves for three weeks for symptoms like fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes.


Kansas House Rejects Bill Letting Agencies Refuse LGBT Adoptions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has rejected a bill that would have allowed adoption and foster care contractors to refuse placements to gay and lesbian couples based on religious grounds.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the House voted down the measure Thursday, hours after the state Senate approved nearly identical legislation. The bill now goes to a conference committee, where lawmakers from the House and the Senate will negotiate a final bill.  Senator Barbara Bollier, of Mission Hills, called the legislation "sick discrimination." But supporters of the bill say it's needed to attract more organizations to help in adoptions.  In other parts of the country, the American Civil Liberties Union has taken adoption agencies to court over similar policies. ACLU of Kansas says it would be willing to do so as well.


Lawmakers Review GOP's $500 Million Plan to Fund Public Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers have proposed a $500 million increase in school funding to satisfy a state Supreme Court mandate.  The legislation that a House committee advanced Wednesday night would phase in the increase over five years.  The plan emerged one day after Senate Democrats endorsed a $600 million increase for schools that was rejected by Republican senators. The state's high court has given lawmakers until April 30 to respond to its ruling that found schools are inadequately funded.  "I think this represents a good-faith effort to try and get our state education system back on track," said Representative Melissa Rooker, a Fairway Republican.  

Representative Ed Trimmer, a Winfield Democrat, suggested $500 million may not be enough to satisfy a group of school districts that are suing for additional funding. He noted a study commissioned by legislative leaders released earlier this month that said up to $2 billion more may be needed to improve academic performance.  The study included a range of possible increases, including a $450 million boost. The study authors said that amount would be enough to raise the state's high school graduation rate to 95 percent, up from 86.9 percent, but would not otherwise improve academic performance.  "I think we're rolling the dice if we do this," Trimmer said.

It wasn't immediately clear how many Republicans support the measure. Even the lawmaker who offered the proposal expressed reservations, saying his own projections indicate the Legislature won't be able to increase funding in other areas if they follow through with the plan.  "I didn't have the money for a judicial increase. I didn't have the money for higher education. I didn't have the money for other things I wanted to do," said Representative Steven Johnson, an Assaria Republican.  Senate Republican leaders have previously denounced potential funding increases for education. Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, has said new funding would require a tax increase or significant cuts.

Governor Jeff Colyer on Thursday released a statement saying he had been meeting with education leaders and lawmakers over the last couple of weeks and that he's confident they can reach an agreement that ends school finance lawsuits. He said he would like a bill on his desk before legislators leave Topeka at the end of next week.


Reviewer Backs Study Calling for $2B Boost in K-12 Spending

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An independent reviewer has backed the validity of a study that found improving Kansas' public schools could cost an additional $2 billion a year. Jesse Levin, a principal researcher at the American Institutes for Research in Washington, D.C., told a joint meeting of the House and Senate K-12 budget committees Thursday that the study conducted by Texas A&M University professor Lori Taylor and Jason Willis, director at the San Francisco-based nonprofit education research agency WestEd, was "fairly cutting-edge and done very, very well." Lawmakers hired Levin to conduct a peer review of the study, which found that Kansas would need to spend an additional $1.8 billion to $2.1 billion a year on education to boost its high school graduation rate to 95 percent and raise significant numbers of students up to grade level or college readiness on statewide reading and math tests, the Lawrence Journal-World reported . Legislators are facing a Kansas Supreme Court mandate to increase spending on public schools. When the results of the study were released earlier this month, they sent shockwaves through the Statehouse, especially among conservatives who quickly dismissed the findings. Levin said he initially was troubled that Taylor and Willis recommended an increase that was vastly higher than that of a study done in 2006 amid another school finance lawsuit. At that time, the Legislative Division of Post Audit, or LPA, found the state needed to add roughly $399 million in new spending. However, Levin said the LPA study was based on the cost of providing services that schools are legally required to provide, while the Taylor study looked at the cost of achieving certain educational outcomes like raising the graduation rate and improving test scores. He also said that he believes the LPA study recommended less than it should have, but that both studies indicate the state needs to allocate significantly more money to public education. On Wednesday, the night before Levin's review was released, the House K-12 Education Budget Committee passed out a new funding plan that would phase in only about $522 million in additional money for schools over the next five years. Lawmakers are under a deadline to pass a new funding plan before their scheduled adjournment next week for a break. That's because the Kansas Supreme Court has said the state must file briefs with the court no later than April 30, detailing what lawmakers did to pass a funding plan that will meet constitutional muster. After briefing lawmakers, Levin told reporters that he thinks the court should take the new study into account when it next reviews the case. "It seems like a solid study to me after reviewing it," he said.


Kansas Regulators Seek to Take over 15 Nursing Homes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas regulators are seeking to take over management of 15 nursing homes after the operator of the facilities advised the state it will not be able to make an upcoming payroll.  The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services said Wednesday it has asked 13 district courts to put the facilities in their jurisdiction into receivership while arrangements are made for them to continue providing care for about 845 residents. The agency said Skyline Health Services, which operates the nursing homes, appears to be insolvent.  "Our most pressing concern at this point is stability," KDADS Secretary Tim Keck said in a news release. "We want to ensure the residents of these facilities continue to receive the care they need, and to make sure the staff, which provides that care, continues to be paid."  The facilities are managed by Skyline Health Services, based in Wood Ridge, New Jersey. The company acquired the Kansas nursing homes in 2016.  Mission Health Care has agreed to oversee operation of facilities. Mission operates nursing homes in Kansas, Tennessee, Georgia, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  

Affected Skyline Health nursing homes in Kansas are Chase County Care & Rehabilitation Center, Cottonwood Falls; Downs Care & Rehabilitation Center, Downs; Edwardsville Care & Rehabilitation Center, Edwardsville; El Dorado Care & Rehabilitation Center, El Dorado; Eskridge Care & Rehabilitation Center, Eskridge; Kaw River Care & Rehabilitation Center, Edwardsville; Lansing Care & Rehabilitation Center, Lansing; Neodesha Care & Rehabilitation Center, Neodesha; Parkway Care & Rehabilitation Center, Edwardsville; Pittsburg Care & Rehabilitation Center, Pittsburg; Spring Hill Care & Rehabilitation Center, Spring Hill; Wakefield Care & Rehabilitation Center, Wakefield; Wellington Care & Rehabilitation Center, Wellington; Wichita Care & Rehabilitation Center, Wichita; and Wilson Care & Rehabilitation Center, Wilson.


Former Teacher Arrested at School Where He Once Taught

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence middle school teacher who resigned after he was accused of making racist comments during class has been arrested at the school where he once taught on suspicious of disorderly conduct. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that South Middle School was placed on lockdown for about 10 minutes Thursday after the former teacher showed up unannounced. District spokeswoman Julie Boyle says the man was using swear words and making threatening comments. Police Sergeant Amy Rhoads said in an email that he was arrested on suspicion of criminal trespassing, interference with duties of a police officer as well as disorderly conduct. No one was hurt. The teacher was suspended with pay in fall 2016 after a parent raised concerns and later resigned. The former teacher has denied the allegations.


Professor at Center of Harassment Probe Placed on Leave

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — An Emporia State University professor has been placed on administrative leave after a campus newspaper reported about the findings of a sexual harassment investigation. University President Allison Garrett sent an email Wednesday to students, faculty and staff, saying the psychology professor was the subject of an investigation following a case of "significant community interest." The letter provided no details. The student newspaper, The Bulletin, reported in February that a student reported that the professor tried to kiss her in May 2017 after taking her into a private room. The student provided the paper more than 150 pages of correspondence with administrative officials and official documents. The final summary of the investigation said there was a "preponderance of evidence" that the professor violated the university's sexual conduct policy.


Court Reinstates Lawsuit over Man's Trampling Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A wrongful death lawsuit over an Oklahoma man's 2013 trampling death at a southern Kansas cattle processing facility has been reinstated. The Wichita Eagle reports that the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the ruling Thursday. The appeals court found that a federal judge overlooked the significance of how fencing and pens were configured in ruling that Creekstone Farms Premium Beef was not liable in the death of 57-year-old Richard Gates, of Blackwell, Oklahoma. The appellate court found the pen set-up created what the court called a "blind alley" that caused a cow to turn and run at Gates, who was a truck driver. He had just delivered a load of cattle to the Arkansas City, Kansas, facility when he was knocked down and injured.


Kansas Man Convicted of Killing Estranged Wife Sentenced

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man convicted in the killing of his estranged wife last summer has been sentenced to life in prison.  Television station KSNT reports that say Pedro Enriquez pleaded guilty last month to first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated battery in the death of 33-year-old Viviana Vazquez.  Enriquez was sentenced Thursday.  Prosecutors say Enriquez abducted Vazquez on June 7 from a Topeka home, where their 10-year-old son said he saw Enriquez drag her outside by the hair. Viviana Vazquez's body was found the next day in a wooded area. An autopsy showed she had been strangled.


Ex-Kansas City Medic Accused of Stealing Opioids Indicted

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former Kansas City Fire Department paramedic accused of stealing opioids from ambulances now faces charges in a two-count federal indictment.  Prosecutors say 36-year-old Michael Fostich is charged with a count of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and a count of tampering with a consumer product.  Prosecutors allege that from January through much of December 2016, Fostich lied on patient and state reporting forms about his administration of fentanyl and morphine while on the job. Prosecutors also say he removed fentanyl from vials contained in a fire department narcotics box and replaced the missing drugs with another solution.


Missouri Man Sentenced in Killing of Kansas Gun Store Owner

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A third man has been sentenced to life in prison in the killing of a suburban Kansas City gun shop owner during an attempted robbery.  Twenty-two -year-old Nicquan Midgyett, of Kansas City, Missouri, won't be eligible for parole for 29 years Thursday for first-degree murder, attempted aggravated robbery, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery and aggravated battery.  Gunfire erupted during the January 2015 attempt to rob a Shawnee, Kansas, gun store called She's a Pistol, which catered to women. Forty-four-year-old Jon Bieker was killed and three would-be robbers, including Midgyett, were wounded. Bieker's wife also was punched.  Two other defendants, Hakeem Malik and Londro Emanuel Patterson, were sentenced earlier to life in prison. A fourth defendant, De'Anthony Wiley, will be sentenced next month.


Informant: Western Kansas Bomb Plot Formed After Pulse Nightclub Attack

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An FBI informant has testified that a Kansas militia member started trying to recruit other members to attack Muslim immigrants after the 2016 attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  Dan Day told jurors Thursday that Patrick Stein called him after the Orlando attack by a man who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and said he was ready to take action and wanted him to go to a meeting to see "who was with him and who was not." Day says it was the first time he recorded one of the group's meetings for the FBI.  Day told jurors that Stein held three recruitment meetings in an effort to get other members of the Kansas Security Force to join them in killing Somalis.  Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen are charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights in an alleged plot to bomb a mosque and an apartment complex where many Muslim refugees lived in Garden City, in southwest Kansas.


Kansas Water Park Indictments Highlight Patchwork of Rules for Amusement Parks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A second-degree murder charge against the co-designer of a giant Kansas waterslide in the decapitation death of a 10-year-old boy highlight the patchwork of inconsistent rules for amusement parks across the country.  As parks prepare to open for the summer season in many states, at least seven don't require annual inspections of rides.  The giant Verruckt waterslide was a big attraction for the Schlitterbahn park in Kansas City, Kansas, until Caleb Schwab's decapitation in August 2016 forced the ride to shut down.  Federal officials know of 12 deaths at water parks since 2010.  Verruckt was the world's tallest waterslide and was built under nearly non-existent Kansas rules. The boy's death spurred lawmakers to pass a law but a safety expert says the state still is lax compared with many others.


Funeral Service Next Week for Linda Brown, Key Figure in Supreme Court Desegregation Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Funeral services are planned for next week for Linda Brown, who as a Kansas girl, was at the center of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down racial segregation in schools.  Brown died Sunday at the age of 75.  Peaceful Rest Funeral Chapel says the first visitation for Brown will be from 10 am to 7 pm, April 4 at St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church in Topeka.  The celebration of life service will be held at 7 pm after the visitation at the same location.  Her father, Oliver Brown, tried to enroll the family in an all-white school in Topeka. He later became lead plaintiff in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court that ended school segregation.


Missouri Senate Changes Foster Care Rules After Boy's Death

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Senate has approved a measure to make it easier for state agencies to share information about potential child abuse.  The measure, passed Thursday in a 31-0 vote, was partially in response to the death of Adrian Jones, a Kansas boy killed by his father and stepmother in 2015 and whose body was fed to pigs. Jones' family moved between Kansas and Missouri, and lawmakers said increased communication between states, as well as agencies within the states, could help spot similar abuse.  The proposal makes several other changes to the foster care system, including extending the amount of time the Department of Social Services is required to retain abuse records.  The bill, SB 850, now heads to the House.


TSA Says 2 Loaded Guns Found at Wichita Airport This Week

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say two loaded guns have been found at security screening checkpoints at the Wichita airport this week. The Transportation Security Administration tells the Wichita Eagle that a .38 caliber handgun loaded with five rounds was found on Sunday, and a 9mm handgun loaded with six rounds was found on Thursday. A TSA news release says Wichita Airport Police took possession of the weapons and interviewed the individuals after they tried to go through security with the guns at Wichita Eisenhower National Airport. Officials say seven guns have been found by TSA agents at the airport so far in 2018. That compares with four guns found in all of 2017.


KU's Graham, Villanova's Brunson - Among 5 Players Vying for Wooden Award

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Devonte Graham of the University of Kansas, and Jalen Brunson of Villanova, are among five players vying for the John R. Wooden Award as college basketball's player of the year.  Graham and Brunson will square off at the Final Four when their teams meet in the national semifinals on Saturday.  They, along with Deandre Ayton of Arizona, Marvin Bagley III of Duke and Trae Young of Oklahoma, have been invited to Los Angeles for the 42nd annual presentation of the award on April 6 during the College Basketball Awards.  In addition to those five, Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Trevon Bluiett of Xavier, Mikal Bridges of Villanova, Miles Bridges of Michigan State and Jevon Carter of West Virginia were named to the Wooden Award All-American team announced Wednesday.  Voting took place from March 12-19 during the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament.


Kansas-Nova a Head-to-Head of All-Americans

SAN ANTONIO (AP) —  When Villanova and Kansas meet Saturday, it will offer a potential matchup between two Associated Press All-American point guards in Devonte' Graham of the Jayhawks and AP men's college basketball player of the year Jalen Brunson with the Wildcats. And the coaches are looking at it a bit differently. Kansas coach Bill Self said he thinks it'll be "fun for people to see that and certainly fun to coach it." Villanova's Jay Wright offered a light chuckle and a sigh when asked about Self's thought. Wright says he tries "not to think about those types of things and I don't really think I would enjoy any matchup" with Graham — though he said it would be more about enjoying the challenge he presents.

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