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Headlines for Saturday, November 26, 2022



Kansas Pension Fund Takes Small Loss After Investment in Cryptocurrency Company FTX

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) – The Kansas Public Employees Retirement System reported that it had a small investment in the ill-fated cryptocurrency company FTX, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal. Kristen Basso, a KPERS spokesperson, said via email that the fund's investment in FTX and its affiliated companies was $187,400. That accounts for 0.0008% of the pension fund's total holdings as of the end of the 2022 fiscal year in July. Basso said there is no risk to the long-term stability of KPERS as a result of its FTX investment. The FTX international cryptocurrency exchange and its affiliates filed for bankruptcy on November 11. Kansas is not the only state pension fund to have invested in FTX; the Alaska Permanent Fund and pension systems in Washington state and Ontario, Canada also had investments in FTX.


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.


Federal Pell Grants Again Available for Kansas Prisoners

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) -  Expanded college scholarships are coming to prison inmates, and if Kansas is proactive, the state could expand the number and variety of classes offered. Kansas inmates lost access to federal Pell grant funds in 1994. The federal government announced it would bring back those loans next year. Pell grants do not have to be paid back, making it easier for inmates to go to college. The Vera Institute of Justice says colleges across the country are interested in offering courses to inmates and the financial aid expansion could bring a wider range of courses to places including Kansas.  The institute recommends that states like Kansas start working with schools now to expand offerings so inmates can leave prison with an education that will make it easier for them to succeed in the outside world and reduce recidivism.


City of Lawrence Re-Evaluating Plans for Homeless Camp Use During Winter

LAWRENCE, Kan. (WDAF) — A temporary homeless camp in north Lawrence could be staying in use longer than city officials had anticipated. WDAF reports that city's possible shift in its timeline for closing the camp comes the same week as the death of a woman living at the site just north of the Kansas River. On December 1, the city of Lawrence will re-evaluate the temporary support site as its indoor winter emergency shelter opens. That shelter will have 75 beds. Sixty people stay at the North Lawrence campsite right now. The city says it is possible that the outdoor site may have to stay in use because of the number of people who may need services during the winter. The city shared a presentation in response to questions about the campsite. According to that presentation, the long-term goal for shutting down the campsite is March 12, but that date is not viewed as a hard closure deadline.


KBI Investigates Marshall County Homicide

MARYSVILLE, Kan. (KPR) -  The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office are investigating a homicide that deputies discovered early Thursday morning in Marysville. The Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call just after 3:00 a.m. Thanksgiving morning from a man requesting medical assistance for his wife. Deputies found 57-year-old Jennifer Brown dead from apparent gunshot wounds.  After a brief investigation, officers arrested 66-year-old Gerald L. Brown at the scene on suspicion of first-degree murder. He was booked into the Marshall County Jail. 


Kansas Commission Revokes Former Topeka Police Officer's Certification 

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) –  A state commission has revoked the law enforcement certification of former Topeka Police officer Justin Herb, who acknowledged commiting sexual impropriety. According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers' Standards and Training says Herb violated a state law prohibiting law enforcement officers from acting unprofessionally by "exploiting or misusing the position as an officer to establish or attempt to establish a financial, social, sexual, romantic, physical, inmate or emotional relationship." On November 17, Herb and the KSCPOST entered into a "consent agreement of revocation" under which Herb surrendered his license, according to the KSCPOST website. The KSCPOST order states that Herb was a full-time officer with the Topeka Police Department from July 6, 2015, to Oct. 29, 2021. Herb revealed confidential law enforcement information to a woman during their relationship, the order added. Herb and the woman in the case met "on a law enforcement related call in 2019," according to the KSCPOST. The two formed a consensual social and then sexual relationship. The order also says that Herb revealed confidential law enforcement information to the woman during their relationship. 

Gretchen Spiker, the City of Topeka communications director, told the Capital-Journal that city government cooperated fully with KSCPOST on the matter. Herb is the second former Topeka police officer to have his law enforcement certification revoked this year. The KSCPOST in September revoked the certification of former Topeka officer Stephen Dorsey Smith, who it said hit a car while driving drunk in October 2021, then told Topeka police his wife had hit it. Smith resigned before the Topeka Police Department investigation was completed. That probe's eventual findings were sent to KSCPOST, which then exercised its authority to revoke the certification of officers whose actions show they aren't of good moral character sufficient to warrant the public's trust.


KU Study Finds Links Between Health and Access to Financial Services

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - Financial literacy and access to financial services are associated with better health, according to a new study from the University of Kansas. The study looked at the ability to make good financial choices, or financial literacy, combined with the access to financial tools like savings accounts. People who scored higher on those measures tend to be healthier. Sicong “Summer” Sun, an assistant professor at KU’s School of Social Welfare, led the study. She says the findings suggest that better financial outreach programs could help improve public health. “For example, increasing access to banking, retirement accounts and also focusing more on historically marginalized communities.” Sun says people of color, women, and those who are unmarried, unemployed or who don’t have a college degree typically have lower financial access. 


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(link is external) 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.”


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.


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(link is external) 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.


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.)


No. 15 K-State Defeats KU 47-27 to Earn Big 12 Title Shot

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Will Howard threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns, Deuce Vaughn ran for 147 yards and a score, and No. 15 Kansas State routed Kansas 47-27 on Saturday night to earn a shot at payback against TCU in the Big 12 championship game. The Wildcats blew a 28-10 lead in a 38-28 loss to the Horned Frogs during the regular season. The rematch will be played December 3 in Arlington, Texas. Devin Neal had two touchdown runs for the Jayhawks, who despite losing to Kansas State for the 14th consecutive time will be playing in their first bowl game since 2008.


Arkansas Beats No. 25 K-State Women for Paradise Jam Title

ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands (AP) — Chrissy Carr scored 18 points and undefeated Arkansas rolled past previously unbeaten No. 25 Kansas State 69-53 for the Paradise Jam Reef Division title. Arkansas (8-0) built a 38-26 halftime lead and then pulled away in the third quarter, outscoring Kansas State 25-14. Carr had eight points with a pair of 3s in the third as the Razorbacks took a 21-point lead into the final quarter. Jaelyn Glenn scored 14 points to lead Kansas State (7-1).


KU Jayhawks Fall to Tennessee in Battle 4 Atlantis Hoops Tournament

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Santiago Vescovi scored 20 points while No. 22 Tennessee locked down on third-ranked Kansas to beat the reigning national champions 64-50 in the championship game at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Vescovi hit five 3-pointers to drive the offense for the Volunteers and was named the tournament's most valuable player. Tennessee won all three tournament games despite not having leading scorer Josiah-Jordan James due to knee soreness. Jalen Wilson and Joseph Yesefu each scored 14 points for Kansas, which shot 32.1%. The loss ended KU's 17-game winning streak dating to last year's run to the NCAA title.


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(link is external). 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.


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.