Passage of Kansas School Funding Hike Highlights GOP Split
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have approved an increase in spending on the state's public schools in hopes of meeting a Kansas Supreme Court mandate on education funding. Their rancorous final days of debate highlighted deep divisions among top Republicans. GOP Governor Jeff Colyer publicly endorsed a bill that would phase in a $534 million increase in education funding over five years. He sided with House GOP leaders who largely drafted it. The Senate's GOP leaders favored a plan to phase in a $274 million increase over the same five years. They argued that the bigger plan approved early Sunday and sent to Colyer would force lawmakers to raise taxes within two years. The votes were 21-19 in the Senate and 63-56 in the House. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in October that the state's current education funding of more than $4 billion a year isn't sufficient. Many Democrats said the plan will not satisfy the court.
Attorney for Schools Says Kansas Funding Bill is Inadequate
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An attorney for the school districts that sued Kansas over the adequacy and equity of school funding says the bill passed early Sunday doesn't provide enough money to satisfy the state Supreme Court. Lead school district attorney Alan Rupe said the plan to phase in a $534 million increase over five years does not provide enough money and five years is too long. Rupe said $70 million to $100 million a year would be consumed by inflation. Republican Representative Don Hineman of Dighton said there is no way to phase in $534 million in less than five years with current revenue and there is no willingness among lawmakers to raise taxes. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled last fall that the state isn't spending enough money on its public schools.
Kansas Lawmakers Approve Mental Health Program for Students
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have approved a pilot program to team up schools and community mental health centers to treat some of the state's most at-risk children. The plan was proposed in the House and was folded into a bill that legislators approved early Sunday to increase spending on public schools. It calls for setting aside $10 million to treat and track two pre-selected groups of children in six districts across the state. The availability of mental health treatment across the county has come under scrutiny in the aftermath of mass school shootings, most recently the February attack in Parkland, Florida. Supporters say that by partnering with clinics, schools have access to trained mental health professionals they wouldn't otherwise. Some mental health advocates say $10 million is too little money.
Verruckt Water Slide Designer Says Not Guilty in Boy's Death
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The designer of a waterslide where a 10-year-old Kansas boy was decapitated has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the boy's death. John Schooley, who designed the Verruckt slide for the Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, Kansas, made his first court appearance Monday in the 2016 death of Caleb Schwab. Schooley remains jailed in Wyandotte County after being brought to Kansas from Texas Friday. District Judge Roger Burns declined to lower Schooley's bond from $500,000 to $250,000 and ordered Schooley to surrender his passport. Schooley's attorney, Justin Johnston, declined comment after the brief hearing. Jeff Henry, co-owner of Texas-based Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts, pleaded not guilty last week to second-degree murder in Caleb's death. A trial date for Henry and Schooley has been tentatively set for September 10.
Woman's Body Found in Wichita Liquor Store Dumpster
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police are investigating the death of a woman whose body was found in a dumpster outside a Wichita liquor store. Officer Charley Davidson says a customer found the woman's body Sunday evening near The Cave liquor store. The death is being investigated as a homicide. Davidson says the woman was identified Monday, but her name h as not been released. The death is being investigated as a homicide. The woman suffered blunt force trauma injuries. Investigators believe the woman was killed at a home about a mile from the liquor store.
Report: Kansas Wheat Condition Declining
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new report shows the condition of the Kansas winter wheat crop is declining. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 44 percent of the state's wheat is in poor or very poor shape. Another 43 percent rated as fair. Just 12 percent of the crop is considered in good condition, with 1 percent rated excellent. The deterioration of the Kansas wheat crop comes amid a drought that has left 70 percent of the state's topsoil moisture supplies considered short or very short. Kansas farmers have also begun seeding corn with 2 percent now planted.
Man Whose Dad Died Settles Lawsuit Against Kansas City V-A
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The son of an 84-year-old man who died while being treated at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Kansas City has settled a lawsuit with the hospital. Craig Beemer, of Blue Springs, says he had agreed to a $500,000 settlement in a lawsuit he and his brother filed in September after their father, Navy veteran John Beemer, died in April 2016. The Kansas City Star reports the lawsuit claimed the elder Beemer died after being treated with an antibiotic, Ceftriaxone, which caused a severe reaction. His sons contended John Beemer's medical records indicated he was allergic to the antibiotic. The U.S. Attorney's Office, which represented the hospital, disputed that in court documents. But spokesman Dwayne Rider confirmed Friday that a settlement was reached in the case.
Man Wanted Sons Protected from Missing Wichita Boy's Stepmom
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Twelve days before a Wichita woman reported her 5-year-old stepson missing, the father of her two young sons told police he was concerned for their safety. The Wichita Eagle reports court records show the boys' father filed a police report in early February saying one of the boys had red marks on his chest after he returned home from visiting Emily Glass. The report said the man later asked a Butler County court to suspend Glass's parenting time with her sons. On February 17, Glass reported her 5-year-old stepson, Lucas Hernandez, was missing from their rental home. Despite an extensive search and publicity, the boy has not been found. Glass is jailed in Sedgwick County on charges of endangering a child, her 1-year-old daughter. She has not been charged in Lucas's disappearance.
Kansas Investigator Suspects Missing Teen's Car Went into Creek
LINWOOD, Kan. (AP) — A retired Kansas Bureau of Investigation special agent believes a teenage boy who disappeared 30 years ago after attending a party in rural northeastern Kansas likely drove off a bridge into a creek that swept the vehicle away, but he can't prove his theory Timothy Dennis investigated the disappearance of Randy Leach for more than a decade before retiring in 2010, The Kansas City Star reports. "It's the ones you don't solve that haunt you," Dennis said. The 17-year-old Leach went missing in April 1988 after borrowing his mother's car and attending a party near his home in the small town of Linwood. Witnesses told police that Randy was either drunk or high at the party. At the time of his disappearance, theories abounded involving a drug overdose, dismemberment, the occult, and death by hanging — in a cave. Leach's parents sued to see some of the investigative records, but a judge denied their request earlier this year. Dennis believes the truth is less sinister. He suspects the teen drove the car off a single-lane bridge with no guardrails on its approach and tumbled into Stranger Creek. The bridge, which has since been demolished, was on a quiet back road. Dennis suspects Randy took that route because it was less likely to be patrolled by police. Divers did find a vehicle in Stranger Creek, but it wasn't Randy's mother's car. The dive team late found a different vehicle that had been pushed by the current past the massive pilings of a railway bridge. The discovery drastically dimmed Dennis' hopes for the case. "It went from a manageable search area to an unreasonable area," Dennis said, "because if the current could push (a vehicle) this far, what's to keep it from pushing it 100 feet, 100 yards, 100 miles?" Stranger Creek feeds into the Kansas River, and the search extended there. But the river's shallowness and sandiness deterred efforts. Dennis said he closed almost all of the approximately 75 homicide or death cases assigned to him in his 24-year career, and he feels he did everything he could to achieve a breakthrough in the Randy Leach case. "I prided myself with having a reputation of closing cases, and I thought I could close this one, but I couldn't," he said. "In my heart of hearts I think this is it, but I can't prove it."
Kansas Firefighter, Another Man Die in 2-Car Collision
COFFEYVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Coffeyville firefighter and another man died when two pickup trucks collided. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the crash occurred Sunday afternoon on Route 166 west of Coffeyville. The patrol says a pickup heading east went left of center and hit and oncoming truck. Both drivers, 44-year-old Derek Messner, of Coffeyville, and 57-year-old Garry Bush Jr, of Caney, died at the scene. Messner was a lieutenant with the Coffeyville Fire Department. A 55-year-old woman who was a passenger in Bush's truck was hospitalized in Joplin with serious injuries.
Kansas Burial Scheduled for Navy Pilot Who Was Shot Down in 1943
MAIZE, Kan. (AP) — A Navy pilot whose plane was shot down during World War II will be buried next week in Kansas after his plane was found on a reef. The Wichita Eagle reports that Lt. Irvin Edmund Rink was 25 in 1943 when Japanese fighter planes took down his F4F-4 Wildcat plane in the Russell Islands near Guadalcanal. In 2008, a diver recovered human remains, which eventually were identified as Rink's. He'll be buried next to his parents April 16 at a cemetery in Maize, which is on the outskirts of Wichita. He was 10 when his family moved to a farm near Maize. Rink was born in Dixon County, Nebraska, in the northeast corner of the state. Irvin learned to fly while earning his bachelor's degree from the University of Kansas.
Kansas Space Museum Finalizes Renovation Project
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The renovation of a space museum in Kansas will include four mission control consoles, once used by NASA engineers to guide astronauts to the moon. The Hutchinson News reports that the Cosmosphere's $151,500 remodel will also include improvements to the flight room and mission control room. New technology and software integrated into the room's machines will allow students to be more interactive. Work on the museum is expected to be completed by April 19, in time for the Cosmosphere's educational camp for the private Missouri school, Barstow School. The renovation is part of a capital campaign to use fundraised money. Cosmosphere President and CEO Jim Remar says the museum needs to raise another $1.4 million to complete the planned renovations on the educational side.
Reward Offered for Information in Miniature Horse Shooting
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A $1,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the person who killed a miniature horse. The 9-year-old horse, called Misty, was found shot to death March 31 in a pasture near Salina. The horse was one of five miniature horses that were part of a petting zoo owned by Ronda and Randy Russell. The Salina Journal reports the Russells offered a $500 reward, which was matched by an anonymous donor. The horse had bullet wounds in its cheek and neck. Ronda Russell said Misty and other miniature horses, miniature donkeys and six pygmy goats visited area parades, nursing homes and preschools, festivals and other events. The Russells didn't hear the rifle shots although Misty was near their home.
Spirit AeroSystems to Lease Space at Wichita University
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Spirit AeroSystems will lease space in a new building at Wichita State University's Innovation Campus. The aircraft manufacturing company will occupy an 8,000-square-foot (2438-meter) office on the second floor of the new Partnership 2 Building. Tom Gentile the company's CEO. He tells The Wichita Eagle that the new space first physical location on the school's campus. Gentile says the space will assist with recruiting new engineers and interns. He says the university's engineering students will help Spirit with its new product development work and longer-term research projects. Spirit plans to assign between 25 and 30 people to the building, but Gentile says they'll spend their working hours between the university's campus and the company's plant. Officials say it will take up to three months to finish the constructing Spirit's office space.
Third Person Sentenced to Life for Shooting of Kansas Deputy
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A third man has been sentenced to life in prison for shooting and wounding a Wyandotte County Sheriff's deputy in 2015. Wyandotte County prosecutors say 21-year-old Charles Bowser was sentenced Friday to life plus 37 years for attempted capital murder and other charges. Deputy Scott Wood, who was off-duty, was shot several times at a 7-Eleven in Kansas City, Kansas, during an attempted robbery. He spent two weeks in the hospital before being released. In February 2016, Dyron King and Cecil Meggerson were found guilty of attempted capital murder in Wood's shooting.
Tribe Regains Reservation Land from Nebraska Conservancy
RULO, Neb. (AP) — A Native American tribe has regained ownership of river bluffs, hardwood forest and tall grass prairie along the Missouri River through an agreement with the Nature Conservancy of Nebraska. The Omaha World-Herald reports that the conservancy recently transferred 160 acres of Richardson County bluff land to the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska. The tribe and the conservancy agreed to a conservation easement, which prevents development incompatible with the land's ecological value. Mace Hack, the conservancy's state director, says the site is a rare habitat where mature hardwood forest coexists with tall grass prairie. He says the overlapping ecosystems magnify the variety of plants and animals living there. Tribal Vice Chairman Alan Kelley says the land's return helps with tribal healing. He says they'll restore and preserve it.
Massive Oklahoma Teacher Protests Expected to Enter 2nd Week
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma lawmakers are slated to return to the state Capitol amid a second week of massive teacher demonstrations for more classroom money. Leaders of Oklahoma's largest teacher's union said protests would continue Monday unless lawmakers approve a repeal of a capital gains tax exemption and the governor vetoes a repeal of a proposed lodging tax. The $5-per-night lodging tax would generate about $50 million annually. It's faced opposition from chambers of commerce and the hospitality industry. Axing the capital gains tax deduction would generate about $120 million annually. The Senate Friday sent Gov. Mary Fallin two bills projected to generate $40 million more annually for education by expanding tribal gambling and taxing certain internet sales. Teachers said that wasn't enough. Fallin already approved raising teacher pay by about $6,100.
Columbia Bank Holds "Adulting" Classes for Millennials
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A Columbia bank is hosting a series of "adulting" classes for millennials to learn the ins and outs of grown-up responsibilities, such as buying a house or paying off credit card debt. The Columbia Missourian reports that more than 30 millennials, between the ages of 20 and 35, attended a class on home ownership from mortgage specialists this week. It's the Central Bank of Boone County's latest offering in a series called "The Art of Adulting." The bank surveyed millennial staff and compiled seminars on topics that the generation often finds intimidating. Registered nurse Katie Burton has attended two of the bank's "adulting" classes. The 30-year-old says the classes have made her more attentive to her 401(k) program and says she's making more informed investing decisions.