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Headlines for Thursday, November 24, 2022



Kansas K-12 Enrollment Up for 2nd Straight Year

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Students are trickling back into public and private schools in Kansas, after a steep decline in enrollment during the first part of the COVID pandemic. Kansas public schools lost about 16,000 kindergarten through high school students during the pandemic. New figures from the State Department of Education show that about half that number has now returned. The department says K-12 public school enrollment increased by about 1 percent from last year.  Public schools are still about 8,000 students below pre-pandemic levels. Private school enrollment also increased this year and is back to pre-pandemic levels. Mark Tallman with the Kansas Association of School Boards says the enrollment figures may also indicate that more families are homeschooling. But lower birth rates also affect enrollment. “How much of where we are now was due to the COVID loss, how much of it is due to other factors, and how much of it is simply due to demographics is hard to say.”  The remaining students could be at unaccredited private schools, including home schools that are not required to report enrollment data.


Tribal "Sister" Park Opens Near Nebraska Border

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (HPM) - A tribal nation on the border of Kansas and Nebraska has made a historic agreement with the National Park Service. The Iowa Tribe of Kansas has signed an agreement with the National Park Service to share expertise with the Effigy Mounds National Monument, in northeastern Iowa. The new “sister park” relationship is the first of its kind in the country. Lance Foster, the vice chairman of the Iowa Tribe, says the agreement recognizes that the Ioway Tribal National Park operates independently of the National Parks Service. “It's a nation to nation agreement that we will help you, you help us,” Foster said. “We recognize each other's sovereignty in that sense.”  Until now, the National Parks Service only made sister parks arrangements with parks in foreign countries. The two parks will work together to share Indigenous and Western knowledge, as well as management and ecotourism strategies. 


Topeka Father Faces Murder Charge in Death of Baby

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A Topeka father will face trial for the murder of a 6-month-old girl. WIBW reports that Tray’vonne Da’mont Jones, has been bound over for trial this week. He has been charged in relation to the death of an infant earlier in 2022. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay says that on March 30, emergency medical services were called to the 1400 block of SW Byron Ave. with reports of a child that was not breathing. The 6-month-old girl, identified as Brielle Jones, had suffered from apparent blunt-force trauma. She was taken to a local hospital and died about an hour later. The child’s mother was also taken to the hospital for treatment of apparent blunt-force trauma-related injuries. Jones was identified as the father of the child and was arrested at the scene. Several charges were filed against Jones related to domestic abuse at the time of the incident. Now, the court has found probable cause to believe Jones should be tried for first degree murder and numerous other aggravated charges of aggravated battery, child abuse, and domestic battery. The jury trial has been set to begin on April 24. Jones remains in custody on a $1 million bond.


Authorities Will Not Charge Man for Killing Burglar

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (KCTV) - A Leavenworth man will not be charged after fatally shooting an individual who broke into his vehicle and then tried to break into his home on September 22. KCTV reports that Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson said that a number of factors were considered in making the decision, including the resident's right to self-defense. Thompson said state law grants citizens rights regarding self defense and defense of a dwelling, place of work or vehicle with no duty to retreat. The resident, who has not been named, told police he was awakened by someone trying to break into his truck. When the intuder began pounding on the front door of the resident's home, the resident fired a pistol three times through the door. An autopsy ultimately concluded those shots are what led to the death of the intruder, 33-year-old Corey Anderson, of Leavenworth. After the shooting, the resident called 911 right away, unloaded his pistol and waited for the police. Thompson said the county attorney's office concluded that a reasonable person would believe they could defend themselves from the intruder.  “Due to all of this," Thompson said, "we do not believe we legally and ethically can file charges.”


Communicating with Loved Ones in Kansas Prisons Can Be Pricey

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS)- Some parents spend $50 a week talking to their children in the Kansas prison system. And the desire to talk to them grows stronger as the holidays approach, even if some families can’t afford to call. The Kansas News Service reports that a phone call costs 14 cents per minute. One email costs 25 cents. A video call runs about $10. Inmates and their families on tight budgets say those costs are keeping families apart. Joi Wickliffe is a project director at the University of Kansas Medical Center who’s spent eight years researching inside prisons. She says some inmates are starved for connection. "They always say, oh, my gosh! I'm glad you found me. I'm so happy somebody thought about me," Wickliffe said. Kansas prison officials say they do let low-income inmates send four letters a month for free.Trish Gaston spends $50 a week talking to her children in the Kansas prison system. She considers herself lucky because others can’t afford to do so. Gaston says constant communication is needed because it’ll help her kids once they are released. “We all make mistakes, we've all done things wrong," she said. "They are serving their time but they still have a right to be treated as human beings and have contact with their loved ones.” Federal legislation could soon reduce the cost of communicating with prison inmates. ( Read more.)


Kansas Wants TV Station's Interviews with Women Who Complained About Highway Patrol

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - An attorney for the state of Kansas is seeking a Kansas City TV station’s interviews with women who accused the Kansas Highway Patrol of gender discrimination. The Kansas News Service reports that the unusual move could violate a state law protecting freedom of the press. In a court filing, the attorney demands all recordings of interviews Kansas City TV station KMBC conducted with the five women suing the state for alleged discrimination. The subpoena was filed despite Kansas law protecting journalists from legal jeopardy for refusing to disclose information. KMBC interviewed the women after they filed a lawsuit against the patrol and the Highway Patrol's superintendent, Herman Jones.


Did Kansas Make a Poor Bet? Sports Gambling Generated $270,000 from $350 Million in Placed Bets

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Legalized sports gambling has generated barely $270,000 from the $350 million that Kansans have spent placing bets. A report from the New York Times says the low tax revenues stem from the gambling industry pouring money into lobbying state lawmakers. The newspaper reports that led to a provision that lets casinos write-off the money they spend on promotions, such as offering new users free bets. State Representative Pat Proctor, a Fort Leavenworth Republican who voted against the legislation that made sports betting legal, says it’s been a bad deal for Kansans. “Even if we decide we are going to make tax dollars on the back of people's hardship and struggles with addiction, we're not getting any tax money from this," he said. The report also says that none of the tax revenue Kansas has brought in so far has gone toward programs to prevent gambling addiction.

State Representative John Barker, the Abilene Republican who sponsored the legislation that legalized sports betting, says he doesn’t know what accounts for the low tax revenue number. But he stands by his bill. “I'm not sure it's a sweetheart deal," he said. "I think we did what most other states have done. And, of course, as with many bills that we passed, if it's bad, we can fix it the following year." Estimates from the Kansas Lottery earlier this year predicted sports betting would bring in $10 million a year for the state by 2025.


Survey Reveals Most Popular Thanksgiving Side Dishes in Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - A survey reveals the most popular Thanksgiving side dishes in Kansas. The website BetKansas.com used Google Trends to come up with - what it says - were the most searched for Thanksgiving side dishes in Kansas. The most popular item? Green bean casserole, followed by mashed potatoes, macaroni & cheese, stuffing and sweet potato casserole. The data were collected in November 2021 but presumably, the top five results are still quite popular. Green bean casserole itself was invented in a Campbells Soup test kitchen in 1955 in an effort to boost the sale of Cream of Mushroom soup. ( Read more.)


Price of Thanksgiving Turkeys Goes Up

UNDATED (HPM) - More than 8 million turkeys have died or been destroyed because of bird flu this year. That, along with inflation, is pushing up turkey prices. According to Harvest Public Media, a 16-pound turkey costs about $5 more than last year. That figure comes from the American Farm Bureau Federation. And while industry groups say there are plenty of turkeys available this holiday season despite bird flu, they may be a bit smaller than in previous years. Iowa State University’s Chad Hart says some turkeys were harvested earlier than normal to help fill Thanksgiving demand. "We will have a selection of larger birds available," Hart said, "but they won’t be quite as prevalent. And we’ll have a few that were started, say, in September, trying to make up for some of those lost flocks, that are going to be right there in the case along with them." But Hart says by Christmastime, size will be less of an issue.


Lawrence Holiday Lighting Event Set for Friday

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) – The City of Lawrence has announced that its annual downtown holiday lighting event and Santa Rescue will take place Friday evening from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Events will take place in front of Weaver's Department Store at 910 Massachusetts Street. The lighting ceremony will take place at 6:20 p.m. Massachusetts Street will be closed to traffic from 5 to 7 p.m. from 8th to 10th Streets, and 9th Street will be closed between Vermont and Massachusetts Streets. The event is co-sponsored by the Lawrence Central Rotary and the Lawrence Kid's Calendar Santa Rescue, and will feature Hank Booth as master of ceremonies along with Lawrence Mayor Courtney Shipley. The Rotary Club will have a special mailbox set up to collect letters to Santa. Unfortunately, Santa will not be able to stay to greet the crowd, as he needs to travel back to the North Pole to work with the elves to prepare for the holiday.


Longtime Director of Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department to Retire 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (WDAF) – Dan Partridge, the health director for the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, has announced his plans to retire after more than 15 years in the job. He will remain in the position until June of 2023.  WDAF reports that it's the latest retirement announcement in a trend that's been seen in local, state, and federal government public health positions. Dr. Rex Archer of the Kansas City Health Department left his position in August 2021. Dr. Samni Areola from the Johnson County, Kansas Health Department announced he would step down at the beginning of the month. At the federal level, Dr. Anthony Fauci gave his final White House briefing earlier this week and announced that he would be stepping down in December. Partridge pointed to COVID-19 as having changed public health as a profession, after the pandemic elevated the profile of health department directors and exposed them to greater public criticism. He said that continuing epidemics in the Lawrence-Douglas County area would need attention in the coming years, including obesity, addiction, and suicide.  


KPR Still Seeking Kansas Statehouse Bureau Chief to Join Station's Award-Winning News Team

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Public Radio, located at the University of Kansas, is looking for a new Kansas Statehouse Bureau Chief to cover all aspects of state government in Topeka for KPR and its statewide reporting partners. This exciting position requires skill, professional experience and curiosity. To apply, log on to:   https://employment.ku.edu/staff/23463BR. A review of applications began in October and will continue until a robust pool of qualified applicants is identified.

KU is an EO/AAE. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), age, national origin, disability, genetic information or protected Veteran status.


Cybersecurity Threats Affecting Midwest Farmers

UNDATED (HPM) - The FBI warns that cyber criminals are increasingly targeting U.S. farms with ransomware. Harvest Public Media reports that the threat is especially high during the time-sensitive harvest season. Agriculture increasingly relies on things that are hackable – data, artificial intelligence and the GPS systems that help farmers grow crops. FBI Special Agent Eugene Kowel says holding that technology hostage can yield a big payday - especially during harvest, when farmers are in a time crunch and might pay a ransom to get back to work. Kowel couldn’t talk about current threats, but says last year, cyber-attacks hit six grain companies, including in the Iowa-Nebraska region. He said those attacks jeopardized the nation's food supply. "We do believe the cooperatives were targeted," he said. "And we did assess that the attacks were purposely launched to coincide with the planting and harvest season. Kowel says the FBI was able to stop the hackers before they harmed the grain companies. "So, whether or not you live in an agricultural state or live far from an agricultural state, the ramifications of cyber intrusions in the agricultural sphere affect everybody," he said. Kowel says the threats will only grow as technology advances and things like autonomous tractors get into fields.


Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Season Underway in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The Salvation Army's iconic Red Kettles and bells are back in service for a new holiday season. KSNT reports that the kettles and bell-ringers are now stationed at retailers across Topeka. The theme for this year’s campaign is “Hope Marches On.” The kettles will be out in Topeka through December 24. This year, there are more options to donate via smartphone. Donors can use Paypal, Venmo, Apple Pay and Google Pay, or at DonateTopeka.com.

According to KSNT, the kettle has been around for decades, but the idea first came from Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee in the 1890s. He wanted to make a difference for those facing poverty in San Francisco. When thinking about how to fund a Christmas dinner for those struggling to make ends meet, he remembered the idea of a “Simpson’s Pot.” When McFee was a sailor in England, he remembered how boats would come in and people would toss money in the pot to help those who needed it. He started doing the same thing, and soon enough was able to help feed people at Christmas time. Anyone interested in signing up to be a bell ringer at one of the kettle locations can sign up at RegistertoRing.com. The website gives volunteers the option to ring bells as a group, individual or conduct an online fundraiser.


No. 3 Kansas Survives OT Scare from Wisconsin, 69-68

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Bobby Pettiford Jr. made a twisting reverse layup off a loose rebound with 0.2 seconds left in overtime to give No. 3 Kansas a 69-68 win over Wisconsin in a Battle 4 Atlantis semifinal. Jalen Wilson scored 29 points and had 14 rebounds for the reigning national champion Jayhawks and Kevin McCullar Jr. had 18 points and nine rebounds — and a 3 to force overtime. Tyler Wahl led the Badgers with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Most of his points camein the second half, in what at times seemed to be an almost one-man comeback.


Johnson Lifts Kansas State Past LSU, 61-59, for Cayman Title

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (AP) — Keyontae Johnson scored 16 points and his jumper with five seconds left allowed Kansas State to remain undefeated and hand LSU its first loss, 61-59 in the championship game of the Cayman Islands Classic. Adam Miller gave LSU the lead, 59-57 with his layup with 1:15 left, but Markquis Nowell answered with a jumper with 49 seconds to go. The Tigers’ KJ Williams turned over the ball 15 seconds later, the Wildcats ran the clock down before Johnson took a feed from Desi Sills and buried the winning shot.


AP Source: KU Gives Coach Lance Leipold 2-Year Extension

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP/LJW) — Kansas and football coach Lance Leipold have agreed to a two-year contract extension to keep him with the Jayhawks through the 2029 season. That's according to a person familiar with the terms of the deal who spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday night because the school had not announced the extension. Leipold had a year added to his original contract on Sept. 1 as a reward for a two-win first season that raised hopes that the football program might finally return to relevance. But after a 5-0 start had the Jayhawks ranked in the AP Top 25, and a sixth win made them bowl-eligible, the school made an aggressive move to lock up Leipold. ( Read more in the Lawrence Journal-World.)


K-State Faces KU with Big 12 Title Game Possibly at Stake

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State will know before Saturday whether it needs to beat Kansas in the Sunflower Showdown to earn a rematch with unbeaten TCU in the Big 12 championship game. If Baylor can knock off Texas on Friday, the No. 15 Wildcats will have their spot in Arlington. Otherwise, it will be up to Kansas State to beat the Jayhawks for the 14th consecutive time to play for the conference title, and it figures to be the toughest of any of them. The Wildcats are as good as they've ever been under fourth-year coach Chris Klieman, but Kansas is as good as it's been under any coach in more than a decade. The Jayhawks already have clinched a bowl game for the first time since 2008.


Power Shifting in Big 12 Conference as Changes Loom 

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Changes are afoot in the Big 12, even before Oklahoma and Texas depart for the Southeastern Conference. Fourth-ranked TCU has replaced the Sooners as the Big 12 team in the running for a College Football Playoff spot. The Horned Frogs already are in the conference title game heading into their regular-season finale against Iowa State. No. 15 Kansas State is a surprise contender for the other spot in the title game. The Wildcats would get in if No. 24 Texas loses to Baylor on Friday. If Texas wins, Kansas State would need to beat Kansas on Saturday night to qualify.


These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre, and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members.  Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.