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Headlines for Wednesday, January 12, 2022


Kansas Governor Proposes to Set Aside $600 Million, Spend Reserves

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly is proposing that Kansas set aside $600 million of its surplus revenues in a rainy day fund and spend nearly $1.8 billion more in cash reserves on a host of one-time projects. The Democratic governor's budget director on Wednesday outlined proposed spending blueprint for state government through June 2023 to the Republican-controlled Legislature's budget committees. The projects Kelly proposed in her spending blueprint for state government through June 2023 included paying off bonds early and undoing financial maneuvers lawmakers did in previous years to deal with budget shortfalls. She's also proposing a one-time rebate of $250 to all Kansans who filed state income tax returns last year. The governor's budget director is releasing more details today (WED) about the governor's proposals.


Kansas Governor Delivers State of the State Speech: Seeks College Tuition Freeze, Recounts Accomplishments, Calls State Healthier

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly is calling for another freeze in tuition at Kansas colleges. Her State of the State address Tuesday evening to a joint session of the Legislature also portrayed Kansas as booming economically and previewed what are likely to be major themes in her reelection campaign. The Democratic governor didn’t provide details about her college tuition proposal in her speech. Legislators and the board overseeing the state's higher education system have already tried to contain those costs. Kelly also is pushing to eliminate the state’s sales tax on groceries and give a $250 income tax rebate to Kansas residents. She's also pushing, once again, for Medicaid expansion.  Her proposals come as she faces a tough reelection race. (Read more.)

(Listen to Jim McLean's report on the State of the State speech.)


Kansas Reduces Requirements for Substitute Teachers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas education officials are temporarily reducing requirements for substitute teachers. The Kansas State Board of Education said its action Wednesday was designed to keep schools open during a worsening staff shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The declaration removes a requirement that those seeking an emergency substitute license have a minimum of 60 semester credit hours from a regionally accredited college or university. The changes will be in force only until June 1, when the more stringent requirements will return.  Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson said during the state board meeting that he knew of four school districts considering closing because they don't have enough staff.

(–Earlier Reporting–)

State Board of Education Approves Changes to Substitute Teacher Work Requirements 

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) – The Kansas Board of Education has now make it easier to work as a substitute teacher in Kansas. Public radio station KMUW reports that officials hope the change will ease staffing shortages in schools. A new temporary emergency license would allow anyone 18 and older with a high school diploma to work as a substitute. They would also have to pass a fingerprint and background check and show proof that a district wants to hire them. It does away with a previous requirement that subs have at least 60 hours of college coursework. Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson says lowering standards isn’t ideal but that COVID-related shortages are at crisis levels. He said that he knows of four school districts that don't have enough staff to operate. Temporary licenses will be good through June 1st. After that, the state board plans to reevaluate the change.

Kansas BOE to Vote on Emergency Declaration Amid Substitute Teacher Shortage

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The Kansas State Board of Education is set to vote today (WED) on an emergency declaration to help fill the shortage of substitute teachers.  KWCH TV reports that, under the proposal, applicants would no longer need the minimum of 60 credit hours from an accredited college or university. They will only need to be 18 years or older with a high school diploma or GED, have a verified employment commitment from a district or system, be fingerprinted and pass a background check.  Any license granted through the emergency declaration would expire June 1, 2022.  “Although this is far from an ideal or perfect solution, we have to offer relief to Kansas teachers and schools,” said Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson. “The COVID-19 pandemic has stretched our teacher ranks thin, and there simply aren’t enough licensed individuals to fill substitute roles when our educators are sick or otherwise have to be out of the classroom. This is nothing more than a temporary solution to address an emergency need.”


Stressed Kansas and Missouri Hospitals Hunt for Ventilators

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Doctors in Kansas and Missouri are hunting down ventilators and running out of monoclonal antibodies as COVID-19 patient counts hit pandemic highs at a growing number of hospitals. Health officials for hospitals in the Kansas City and Wichita areas issued a desperate plea Wednesday for people to wear masks and avoid crowds. And the situation is so bad in the St. Louis area that health officials there are urging people just to stay home. The strain has prevented bigger, city hospitals from accepting as many rural transfer patients as they otherwise might, including patients who need treatment for heart attacks, strokes, serious car accidents or other non-COVID-19 reasons.


Man Arrested in Deaths of Victims Found in Kansas, Oklahoma

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been arrested in the 2019 robbery, kidnapping and shooting deaths of two men whose bodies were found hours apart in an Oklahoma ditch and a Kansas trailer. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says 30-year-old Ralph Thomas Salas Jr., of Liberal, was booked into the Seward County Jail in Kansas on Monday. The KBI says the investigation began when a farmer found 25-year-old Timothy Martin's body in the ditch on his property in Texas County, Oklahoma, near the state's border with Kansas. Later that night, the body of Martin's former roommate, 31-year-old Erick Salas, was found in a trailer west of Liberal. The KBI says Ralph Salas and Erick Salas weren't related.


Army Offers Reward in Fort Riley Woman's Killing Last Fall

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Army is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the death of a Fort Riley woman last fall. The Army's Criminal Investigation Division is seeking information in the death of 22-year-old Enfinnity Hayes. The Geary County Sheriff's Office says Hayes and her husband were at a Milford State Park Shelter on October 3 when a man tried to rob them. The man shot Hayes. Her husband drove her to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.


Kansas Governor Raised, Spent More Last Year than Presumed GOP Foe

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly raised more cash last year, spent more money and entered this year with more funds than her presumed Republican opponent ahead of a tough reelection race in Kansas. Campaign finance reports filed Monday by the campaigns for Kelly and Attorney General Derek Schmidt suggest their contest could be unusually expensive for Kansas. Their reports covered last year. Kelly reported raising more than $2 million. That’s almost $412,000 or 25% more than the $1.6 million Schmidt raised after launching his campaign in March. But Kelly also spent $762,000 last year when Schmidt spent roughly $331,000. Kelly entered this year with $1.9 million, and Schmidt had $1.3 million.


U.S. Senate Hearing on Pandemic Gets Testy: Dr. Fauci Criticizes Senators Roger Marshall and Rand Paul 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, angrily accused a senator Tuesday of making false accusations that are leading to threats against him. Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has repeatedly said Fauci lies about the pandemic and in a hearing Tuesday also claimed that Fauci tried to discredit scientists who disagreed with him. The feud overshadowed a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee designed to examine if policy changes are needed while the U.S. is battling the highly contagious omicron variant.  Later in Tuesday’s hearing, Fauci was heard muttering “what a moron” after Kansas Senator Roger Marshall accused him of hiding financial disclosure forms. .


Partisan Divide on COVID Policy Widens in State Legislatures

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Political divisions about coronavirus policies are evident as state lawmakers across the country are beginning their third year of sessions dealing with another spike in COVID-19 cases. In some Democratic-led states, lawmakers are meeting remotely or requiring proof of vaccination for members to appear in person. By contrast, legislatures in many Republican states are convening fully in person with few — if any — virus precautions. Some Republican lawmakers are proposing bills that would outlaw vaccine mandates in workplaces and schools. The director of the American Public Health Association says the “intellectual schism” at state capitols is a disturbing development.


Seven-Year-Old Boy Dies, Two Others Injured in Topeka Fire

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 7-year-old Topeka boy has died after fire broke out at a home. Firefighters were called just before 7 am Monday and were told residents were possibly trapped. The fire department says crews searched the home despite heavy fire and smoke coming from the first floor. A woman and the child were rescued and taken to a hospital. The child, identified as Alexander Servantez, died. Two other people got out on their own. One has non-life-threatening injuries, and the other was unhurt. The cause of the fire remains under investigation but foul play is not suspected.


KBI: Murder/Suicide Leaves Three Dead in Central Kansas

LARNED, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) - The triple homicide of a family in Larned over the weekend has been ruled a murder-suicide.  The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says that just about 3 am on Saturday, Jon Smith arrived in a pickup truck at the home of his estranged wife, Shala Smith, carrying a shotgun. The KBI says evidence suggests he shot and killed both Shala Smith and Carver Smith, his 12-year-old son, before killing himself.

(AP version)

Deaths in Central Kansas Ruled Double Homicide, Suicide

LARNED, Kan. (AP) — Authorities investigating a triple homicide in central Kansas have determined that a man fatally shot his estranged wife and his 12-year-old son before killing himself. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says 44-year-old Jon Smith arrived at Shala Smith's Larned home around 3 am Saturday and entered alone, carrying a shotgun. The release said that evidence indicates that he shot his wife, who also was 44, and his son, Carver Smith, before shooting himself. Their bodies were found that night.


Mask Resistance Remains Strong Despite Latest COVID-19 Surge

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita school board meeting was canceled this week when new members refused to wear masks and elected officials in the Topeka area rejected a plea from health officials to mandate them. Even as a surge in COVID-19 cases has strained hospitals and sent absences soaring in school districts, most of the state was plowing ahead with few, if any, new restrictions. University of Kansas Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer on Monday told faculty and staff members that classes will start “on time and in person,” with the addition of a stricter mask policy for instructors.


University of Missouri Board Rejects Mask Mandate Request

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri's governing board has rejected a request from the university system's president to enact temporary mask mandates on the Columbia campus. Mun Choi, president of the University of Missouri system, asked the Board of Curators for a two-week mask mandate with classes scheduled to start next week amid a growing number of COVID-19 cases. The vote took place Tuesday. Curators said they were skeptical that the mask mandate would affect the increase in cases. The system currently recommends wearing masks. Two private colleges in Columbia will start classes online because of a surge in COVID-19 cases.


Missouri Bill Would Ban Critical Race Theory in Schools

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Republican lawmakers are pushing to ban critical race theory in K-12 Missouri schools and give parents and guardians more control over what their children learn. Lawmakers pitched the bills during a state House committee hearing Tuesday. Republican Rep. Nick Schroer's legislation would prohibit teachers from using critical race theory, a framework for examining the effects race and racism have on the nation's institutions. Rep. Doug Richey’s bill would allow parents and guardians to censor class materials provided to their children “based on such parent’s beliefs regarding morality, sexuality, religion, or other issues related to the well-being, education, and upbringing of such parent’s child.”


Kids' Low COVID-19 Vaccination Rates Called "Gut Punch"

UNDATED, (AP) - Suspicion, misinformation and other factors have combined to produce what authorities say are alarmingly low COVID-19 vaccination rates in U.S. children ages 5 to 11. As of Tuesday, just over 17% of these youngsters were fully vaccinated, more than two months after shots for them became available. There was a pre-holiday surge after the shots were introduced last fall, but the numbers have crept up slowly since then, and omicron’s out-of-control spread appears to have had little effect. One doctor says the low rates and rising hospitalizations among children are a “gut punch."


DCF Extending Pandemic SNAP Benefits 

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — The Kansas Department for Children and Families is extending the emergency food benefits offered during the COVID-19 pandemic. The increase raises the maximum food stamp benefit through the SNAP program for more than 60,000 Kansas families. Emergency food assistance will continue through July 31 or whenever the federal public health emergency ends. The emergency benefits allowed under the federal rules bring an average of an additional $232 a month for SNAP recipients. The federal government is paying the additional $15 million a month in Kansas benefits. Department for Children and Families Secretary Laura Howard says these benefits are crucial for some families to access food. 


Kansas City Public School District Earns Full Accreditation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri state education officials say the Kansas City public school district has earned full accreditation, effective immediately. Tuesday's announcement means the district will be fully accredited for the first time since 2000. The State Board of Education said the district has improved its academics and instructional systems and has gained stability in its leadership. Since losing its accreditation in 2000, the district has been provisionally accredited then lost that accreditation again. The district regained its partial accreditation in 2014. School district officials said the district has improved its four-year graduation rate from 68.7% in 2016 to 77.8% in 2021, as well as significantly increasing the number of students taking advance courses.


Man Given 4 Consecutive Life Sentences for Child Sex Abuse

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 40-year-old Wichita man has been sentenced to four consecutive life sentences for sexually assaulting a young girl. Jeremiah Orange was sentenced last week for abusing a girl during the summer of 2016 while she and her mother were staying with him. He was convicted in November of two counts of rape and two counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. The four life sentences each have parole eligibility after 25 years. District Judge Jeffrey Syrios said each of the four sentences represent a separate act against the child.


Kansas Woman Gets Probation for Role in Riot at U.S. Capitol

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP/KPR) — A Kansas woman has been sentenced to two years of probation for her role in the January 6, 2021 riot at the nation's Capitol. Esther Schwemmer, of Leavenworth, also must perform community service and pay $500 in restitution for damage to the Capitol building. The Kansas City Star reports that the sentence was handed down Monday. Schwemmer said that she hopes in time, she can forgive herself. Schwemmer and her friend Jennifer Ruth Parks attended then-President Donald Trump’s rally before following the crowd to the Capitol. Parks, of Leavenworth, received a similar sentence in December. Eight Kansas residents have been charged in connection with the Capitol riot. 


Trail Would Connect 2 Kansas City, Kansas History Sites

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Plans are underway to connect a Civil War-era commercial port on the Missouri river and a Kansas City, Kansas, park where Lewis and Clark once camped. KCUR reports that the proposed Northeast Kansas City, Kansas, Heritage Trail came to life when the Groundwork Northeast Revitalization Group partnered with the Unified Government to apply for a grant from the Mid-America Regional Council. They were awarded $108,000, supplemented by a $30,000 match from the UG. The south end of the trail will be Kaw Point Park, part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail at the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers. The north end will be the Quindaro Townsite, one of three National Commemorative Sites in the National Park System.


Sporting KC's Pulido Needs Knee Surgery and Will Miss MLS Season

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Mexican forward Alan Pulido needs knee surgery and will miss Sporting Kansas City’s entire 2022 Major League Soccer season. The team says Pulido will have surgery on Monday in Los Angeles. Expected recovery time is nine months to a year. Pulido had eight goals in 21 league games last year in his second season with Kansas City. He played previously for Tigers, Greece’s Levadiakos and Olympiakos and Chivas. He has five goals in 20 appearances for Mexico. He was on the 2014 World Cup roster but did not get in a game.


Benny Feilhaber Hired as Coach of 3rd-Tier Sporting KC II

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Former U.S. midfielder Benny Feilhaber has been hired as head coach of Sporting Kansas City II, a farm team in the new third tier MLS Next Pro. The 36-year-old, whose tiebreaking goal on a 22-yard volley beat Mexico in the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup final, had 44 appearances for the U.S., including at the 2010 World Cup. He spent nine seasons in Major League Soccer, playing for Kansas City from 2013-17 and again in 2019, his final season. He retired from playing in March 2020 and became an assistant coach at UCLA, his alma mater.


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! 

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