Kansas News Service | KCUR

Kansas News Service

The Kansas News Service produces essential enterprise reporting, diving deep and connecting the dots regarding the policies, issues and events that affect the health of Kansans and their communities. The team is based at KCUR and collaborates with public media stations and other news outlets across Kansas. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

The Kansas News Service is made possible by a group of funding organizations, led by the Kansas Health Foundation. Other funders include United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, Sunflower Foundation, REACH Healthcare Foundation and the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City. Additional support comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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file photo / Kansas News Service

A report meant to guide Kansas school spending appears to have overshot the mark by more than half a billion dollars.

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A polarizing debate over the role of faith-based adoption organizations, and their ability to exclude same-sex couples, has tangled an update of Kansas adoption and foster care laws.

A bill needed to revise the rules passed the House without a dissenting vote in late February. But it drew opposition in the Senate this week when a controversial amendment was added.

A key witness in the trial involving three Kansas men accused of planning an attack on Somali immigrants testified Thursday that the group was actively recruiting people to help carry out the alleged plot.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Republicans in the Kansas House have unveiled a school funding proposal to send an added half billion dollars to local districts in the next five years. A committee advanced the plan Wednesday night to the full House for consideration.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas officials are moving to protect more than 800 vulnerable residents of 15 financially troubled nursing homes across the state.

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is seeking court orders to put the facilities — currently operated by a New Jersey company — into receivership.

file photo / KCUR

Schlitterbahn, the amusement park under indictment over the 2016 death of a lawmaker’s son on its signature waterslide, now finds itself subject to a full state audit.

A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Labor said Wednesday the audit is set to take place before the park’s scheduled opening for the summer season on May 25.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach committed ethical violations during the just-completed trial over the state’s voter registration law, a Kansas immigration lawyer alleges in a bar complaint.

Matthew Hoppock, who practices in Overland Park, said he was duty-bound to file the complaint as an officer of the court.

“I have to,” he told KCUR. “Any licensed attorney in Kansas who thinks another attorney has broken the rules is required to.”

The Kansas Senate has passed a bill that increases the penalties for people who make “swatting” calls.

The bill was sparked by a swatting incident in December in which Andrew Finch was killed by Wichita Police responding to a fake call about a hostage situation at his address.

Swatting involves making a false 911 call to draw law enforcement to an address.

Finch was shot when he came onto his porch to investigate the police activity outside. Police have said Finch disobeyed police commands and was reaching towards his waistband when he was shot.

file photo / Kansas News Service

At school, Kansas students learn what to do in case a shooter attacks. Lock classroom doors. Turn out the lights. Huddle out of view from the window in the door.

In the Statehouse, lawmakers are searching for consensus on better ways to prevent, or cut short, school shootings. Arm teachers? Fortify schools? Train kids about guns?

On Tuesday, the feelings clashed in a committee hearing and on the floor of the Kansas House just days after gun control activists drew crowds to March for Our Lives protests in Kansas City, Wichita, Topeka and across the country.

Schlitterbahn

A second indictment unsealed Tuesday charges two designers of the Schlitterbahn water slide that killed 10-year-old Caleb Schwab with reckless second-degree murder.

Jeffrey Wayne Henry, a co-owner of Schlitterbahn, and John Timothy Schooley, allegedly the lead designer of the slide, were named in the indictment unsealed in Wyandotte County. Henry was arrested on Monday in Cameron County, Texas, on a Kansas warrant and is being held in jail there. Schooley was not in custody.

Updated at 2:00 a.m. ET Tuesday

Linda Brown, who as a schoolgirl was at the center of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that rejected racial segregation in American schools, died in Topeka, Kan., Sunday afternoon. She was 76.

Her sister, Cheryl Brown Henderson, confirmed the death to The Topeka Capital-Journal.

file photo / Harvest Public Media

Lawmakers in the Kansas House rejected an effort Monday to allow medical marijuana in the state.

But they advanced a plan to allow the sale of some products made from cannabis — if the high-producing compounds have been removed.

The discussion over legalizing cannabis for medical purposes came as lawmakers considered regular updates to the state’s drug laws.

Cameron County, Texas, Sheriff's Office

The co-owner of the Schlitterbahn water park was arrested in Cameron County, Texas, Monday in connection with the death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab on the Verruckt water slide in August 2016.

Jeffrey Wayne Henry, also described as a designer of the slide in an indictment handed up by a Wyandotte County grand jury on Friday, was arrested by U.S. marshals on a Kansas warrant.

The ex-girlfriend of one of the men accused of plotting an attack against immigrants in Garden City says the men spent months studying how to make homemade explosives.  

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Even in the wake of national and local protests, students and others pushing for tighter gun laws say, state and federal lawmakers from Kansas refuse to tackle even “common sense” firearm rules.

Thousands rallied across the state over the weekend. They called for stronger background checks. They pushed an assault weapons ban. And they pleaded for laws to extract guns from homes where suicide and domestic violence appear imminent.

courtesy the Schwab family.

A grand jury indictment stemming from the death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab at the Schlitterbahn park alleges designers and park officials ignored minimum industry safety standards in their race to build the world's tallest water slide.  

The 47-page indictment says that Schlitterbahn’s private construction company was co-owned by a high school dropout, Jeffrey Wayne Henry, with no technical or engineering credentials.

file photo / Kansas News Service

A report commissioned by the Kansas Legislature made clear just how much it might cost to improve student outcomes at public schools.

It’s so expensive, says a new lobbying group, that it threatens the quality of Kansas roads, health care and other government functions.

That fledgling outfit wants to amend the state constitution, freeing lawmakers to dodge steep hikes in school spending. External experts argue that added money would be needed to fulfill promises to graduate high school students better prepared for college or the workplace.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

(This story has been updated with additional information about the criminal charges.)

A Wyandotte County grand jury has indicted Schlitterbahn Waterpark and one of its former officials on involuntary manslaughter charges in connection with the death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab on the Verruckt water slide in August 2016.

The individual, Tyler Austin Miles, 29, is being held on a $50,000 bond at the Wyandotte County jail. Miles was Schlitterbahn's water park operations director before he left last year.

Robert J. Dole Federal Courthouse

Much was at stake in the two-plus weeks in Kansas City, Kansas, federal court where Secretary of State Kris Kobach defended the strict voter registration law he spearheaded and his office’s execution of those rules.

The case holds potential national ramifications for how difficult states can make voter registration, and for shedding light on whether enough illegal ballots get cast to justify tougher proof-of-citizenship rules.

Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office

Federal prosecutors told jurors Thursday that three men charged with plotting to bomb an apartment complex and mosque in western Kansas were motivated by their hate of Muslim immigrants.

“They wanted to send the message that Muslims are not welcome here — not in Garden City, not in Kansas, not in America,” prosecutor Risa Berkower said.

Her opening statement in the Wichita trial laid out a case that only the work of federal agents stopped, the trio from carrying out a bombing the day after the Nov. 8, 2016, presidential election.

File photo

This story was updated at 5:26 p.m. to include the comments of Planned Parenthood Great Plains' regional director of public policy. 

The state of Kansas wants the United States Supreme Court to review a decision preventing it from terminating its Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood.

In a petition filed on Thursday, it argues that a federal appeals court was wrong when it decided that Medicaid patients have a right to challenge a state’s termination of their Medicaid provider.

file photo / KCUR 89.3 FM

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach got a tongue lashing Tuesday from the judge who will decide whether he violated federal law by blocking tens of thousands of voter applications.

Federal Chief District Judge Julie Robinson, a George W. Bush appointee, accused Kobach of engaging in “gamesmanship” and skirting her orders.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

Kansas Lawmakers moved Tuesday to make a bill to release information about the deaths of children in state custody more transparent.

In response to several high-profile cases where a child had been brought to the attention of the Department for Children and Families and later died, the bill requires the agency to release information about kids who die as a result of abuse or neglect.

DCF

A bill before Kansas lawmakers says faith-based child agencies should not be required to place children in families if it conflicts with the religious values of the organization.

The private groups currently can choose not to serve some people, such as single parents or same-sex couples.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers are considering creating a watchdog based outside the state’s child welfare agency, but with access to inside information.

A bill to create a child advocate to review the Department for Children and Families comes after years of horror stories of abused children who ended up injured, missing or dead.

Sharma-Crawford Attorneys at Law

Syed Jamal, the Bangladeshi-born scientist whom the federal government is trying to deport, must be released from jail, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

For an increasing number of voters, choosing between red and blue feels like no choice.

Elections in Kansas this year could serve as a proving ground for a fed-up electorate made up of folks who might be disgusted enough to form a new political party.

That possibility drives Scott Morgan to travel the state in search of converts to his Party of the Center, what he calls “a safe and sane alternative to the craziness” of the Republicans and Democrats.

Distinctively, candidates of the new party wouldn’t need to agree much with each other about the issues that typically distinguish Republicans from Democrats — just hold a common desire to break from the way politics works now.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Now that Republican leaders have a report they commissioned on school funding, it’s not clear they’ll pursue its recommendations to spend more for better student performance.

Lawmakers continued digging into the numbers Monday and quizzed the study’s authors for the first time since the document was unveiled Friday.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas’ child welfare agency wants to hire a second full-time investigator to track down kids missing from the state’s foster system.

The move comes in the wake of reports last October, when the Department for Children and Families was run by Phyllis Gilmore, that the agency had lost track of three sisters who’d run away from a Tonganoxie foster home.

Jeff and Laura Jacobsen / Kansas Athletics

Coming out of the weekend, lots of fans in Lawrence and Manhattan were thrilled as their basketball teams advanced in the NCAA tournament.

But that also means some coaches are putting extra money in their pockets.

Most big time college coaches have lucrative bonuses in their contracts.

Kansas State University's Bruce Weber has already done very well.

He has earned an additional $344,000 dollars for making the Sweet 16, according to his contract.

Weber’s contract calls for a 16 percent bonus on top of his $2.15 million salary.

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