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National Assessment of Educational Progress

Missouri students scored about as well as Illinois students but trailed their peers in Kansas on a national math and reading assessment, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced Tuesday.

Scores on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress – known colloquially as NAEP and sometimes referred to as the nation’s report card – remained steady, with Missouri fourth and eighth graders doing about as well as they did in 2015.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

The same lab billing arrangement put in place at a small, rural hospital in Unionville, Missouri, is the subject of a federal lawsuit in Georgia that calls it a fraudulent scheme designed to enrich its architects.

The lawsuit, filed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, alleges that since August 2016, a 49-bed hospital in rural north Georgia has billed it more than $174 million for lab tests Blue Cross did not agree to pay for.

Jacqee Gafford / Facebook

The widows may have bonded so strongly because their husbands had been murdered within five years of each other. Or perhaps they were drawn together by the weight of tending to their husbands’ legacies.

Whatever speculation yields, only Coretta Scott King, Myrlie Evers and Betty Shabazz knew why they became and remained friends long after their children were grown.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Consultants hired by the city of Kansas City, Missouri, to assess the wellbeing of the American Jazz Museum on Monday recommended closing the museum temporarily.

The museum, according to the consultants' report, is "in need of complete rethinking, akin to starting a new museum." The report called for a "complete rebirth, starting with its leadership, but continuing with a revamped financial model, visitor experience, and operational infrastructure."

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Nashville-based company that provides health and dental care for the 1,000 inmates at the Jackson County Detention Center has told the county it is pulling out of its three-year contract early.

KCATA

The plans for a rapid bus line along Prospect Avenue in Kansas City are no longer on hold after long-awaited federal funding came through Monday. 

file photo / Kansas News Service

A bill to update state adoption law was sailing through the legislature. Until it wasn’t.

It’s been gummed up because of a faith-based protection provision that would allow adoption agencies to receive state funding while turning away prospective parents who don’t fit with an organization’s religious beliefs.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

The future layout of Kansas City's planned streetcar extension from downtown to the University of Missouri-Kansas City is on a map, with proposed stops and alignment on Main Street revealed at a recent public hearing.

For the most part, the eight suggested streetcar stops mirror those in place for the MAX rapid-transit bus route now serving that stretch of Main, according to Tom Gerend, executive director of the Kansas City Streetcar Authority.

Pete O'Neal

In an interview from his remote village in Tanzania, Kansas City native and self-exiled founder of the Kansas City Chapter of the Black Panthers, Lindsey “Pete” O’Neal, says he regrets some of the actions for which he's been vilified and feared.

Esther Honig / Harvest Public Media

Wearing a heavy smock and rubber boots, Amadedin Eganwa stands over a large conveyor belt that’s carrying unconscious lambs. He faces east, towards Mecca, gently lifts the animal’s head in the same direction and under his breath he quickly says a prayer — bismillahi allahu akbar, or “in God’s name” — before swiftly cutting the lamb’s throat.

Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy

Kansas City’s first single-gender charter school has found its founding principal.

Tara Haskins will lead Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy, which will serve predominantly young women of color in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Lawmakers may not know for months whether a deal to pump half a billion dollars into schools goes far enough to end seven years of court battles over whether the state shortchanges Kansas children.

If it falls short, the Kansas Supreme Court could call them back to Topeka this summer with yet another ultimatum to send even more money to local districts.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

On Friday, 16-year-old Taylor Mills paid a visit to Rep. Kevin Yoder's office in Overland Park, Kansas. Mills, a junior at Blue Valley North High School, was there to invite the Republican congressman to a town hall she and others were organizing after Kansas City's 'March for Our Lives' rally a few weeks ago.

Tanner Martine

In 2016, Simon Fink and his band, Under the Big Oak Tree, performed a holiday concert in their hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri.

One of the songs they played was “The Little Drummer Boy,” which was composed by Katherine K. Davis. As it turned out, she was born and raised in St. Joseph.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

In light of newly passed legislation impacting gun laws and school funding, many college students in Kansas and Missouri may not feel like lawmakers are hearing their concerns. 

Two student lobbyists are hoping to change that.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

There seem to be two competing groups in Kansas City when it comes to deciding how to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

A petition drive, backed by Democratic U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, seeks to rename The Paseo, an iconic Kansas City boulevard, after the slain civil rights leader.

Joe Gratz / Creative Commons-Flickr

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 4:05 p.m. to add a statement from the Shawnee County District Attorney.  

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday threw out the first-degree murder convictions of a woman accused of killing her ex-husband and his fiancée, ruling the prosecutor had engaged in prejudicial misconduct.

In 2012, a Shawnee County jury convicted Dana L. Chandler for the killings of Mike Sisco and Karen Harkness a decade earlier. Both victims were shot at least five times in a bed at Harkness’ Topeka home.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

A battle royale has erupted in tiny Unionville, Missouri, over the town’s endangered community hospital.

Trustees of Putnam County Memorial Hospital in the north central community are trying to get rid of the company that took over the ailing institution in 2016 and then ran more than $90 million in questionable lab billings through the hospital.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

As he fights to retain control of Putnam County Memorial Hospital in Unionville, Missouri, Jorge Perez’s woes continue to pile up at other rural hospitals where he was once hailed as a hero.

Last month, in the second of a three-part series, CBS News aired a piece about Empower, a Perez-run company whose affiliates have been involved in many of the rural hospital takeovers orchestrated by Perez and his associates.

H.C. Palmer

H.C. Palmer had graduated from medical school but hadn't yet finished his residency when the Army drafted him in the mid-1960s.

President Lyndon Johnson's administration took 1,500 men from medical training programs across the country and sent them to Vietnam as surgeons.

By August 1965, Palmer found himself in a war zone as part of the First Infantry Division. All these years later, he says he’ll never completely find his way out — nor will others who’ve been similarly exposed to the “many horrific things that happen in war,” he told me in a recent interview.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

The co-owner of Schlitterbahn Waterparks & Resorts has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges related to the death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab on a 17-story waterslide in Kansas City, Kansas. Judge Robert Burns made Jeff Henry  surrender his passport, but he declined to make Henry wear a GPS ankle monitor.

Scott Canon / Kansas News Service

Arm wrestling over a final deal on Kansas school spending begins in earnest Friday after the Senate settled on a figure that’s much lower than the House’s position.

The bill squeaked through after hours of discussion, winning the last vote necessary only after leaders forced lawmakers who initially abstained to weigh in.

Earlier, with the bill’s fate unclear, Republican leaders in the Senate issued stern direction to members of their party. Some were called into a closed-door meeting with Senate President Susan Wagle.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

(This story has been updated.)

Kansas officials have received a court order Friday to expedite their takeover of 15 financially troubled nursing homes. State regulators say they need to move quickly to protect hundreds of elderly and disabled Kansans who reside in the facilities.

Normally, the state would need orders from 15 separate judges to take control of the facilities, which are scattered across the state. But the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services was granted an order from the Kansas Supreme Court on Friday  consolidating all the cases under a single Johnson County District Court judge.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City, Missouri, city leaders on Thursday celebrated what they called major improvements to the urban core: $8 million spent over two years on a program to sell abandoned or dangerous houses for $1 each.

The program, designed to not just clean up neighborhoods but to cut down on crime, showcased one of its first graduates.

Laurie Schwab bought a home on East 29th Terrace in 2016 during the Kansas City, Missouri, Land Bank's $1 sale and has poured $21,000 into it so she can operate it as a transitional living stop for homeless people.

Jimmy Emerson / Flickr-CC

Liberal arts professors at the University of Central Missouri say a proposed reorganization that moves them into the College of Education would weaken instruction in the humanities and social science and threaten the school’s standing as a regional comprehensive university.

But it may be the only way to balance a budget that shrinks every year with declining state appropriations, UCM President Charles Ambrose says.

Kaylin Idora Photography / Flickr — CC

To rock or not to rock?

That is not the question this weekend, thanks to rocking bands, rocking comedy acts and rocking mixed martial arts action.

So are you ready to rock? Those paying attention will recognize the previous sentence as yet another unnecessary query. Never ask – just rock!

1. North Mississippi Allstars

Maj Lindström / Music Box Films

Early on in the documentary “Chavela,” a cabaret owner describes the voice of Chavela Vargas: “She wasn’t a little fountain. She was more like a tremendous canyon.… She sounded as if she’d been born with the wounds of life and death.”

Vargas was born in Costa Rica and moved to Mexico at 17 to pursue music. At first, she presented herself as a traditional, feminine cabaret and ranchera singer, but found the style unnatural and uncomfortable.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media file photo

Farmers at Betty’s Truck Stop near Sweet Springs, Missouri, took their coffee with a side of bad news early Wednesday morning.

In response to the Trump administration's threats to place tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods — including farm implements — China threatened to sanction $50 billion in U.S. exports, this time targeting airplanes, cars, chemicals and soybeans.

“Beans are down 50 cents overnight, and corn’s down 14 because of this trade thing with China,” Jim Bridges said as he took a seat at a large table in the center of the restaurant. Bridges, who grows corn and soybeans, made a few calculations and reckoned his potential losses at about $50,000.

Scott Canon / Kansas News Service

A push to elbow the judiciary out of school spending by rewording the Kansas Constitution cleared a legislative committee Wednesday.

Yet the effort likely won’t get a full House vote this week and could be doomed on a roll call.

It’ll need two-thirds support in both the House and Senate, something that may prove even harder after Democrats and moderate Republicans swept up more seats in the 2016 elections.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

Prosecutors on both sides of the state line that runs through Kansas City announced homicide and other charges Wednesday against a 30-year-old man who had walked free last year after two mistrials on a different murder charge.

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