HPPR Health, Education & Welfare

Health

‐state policy‐impact of federal policy‐rural health care delivery‐access & availability

Education

‐state policy‐programs and opportunities‐access & availability

Welfare

‐state policies‐income levels‐wellness‐quality of life

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.

From Texas Standard.

Teachers have walked off the job in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma – and there are rumblings that Arizona could be next. Their demands in each state vary, but they can be boiled down to wanting a bigger piece of the pie, either for themselves or the schools they work in.

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Public schools across the state of Oklahoma shut down yesterday, as teachers protested years of spending cuts and low wages.

As The Washington Post reports, thousands of Educators gathered at the Oklahoma State Capitol and waved flags and Banners, while chanting and carrying signs that read: “Don’t make me use my TEACHER voice,” and “STRAIGHT OUTTA SUPPLIES.”

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The Oklahoma Senate passed three bills that will help fund a teacher pay raise in Oklahoma.

As KOSU reports, the legislation increases teacher salaries an average of $6,000, and if signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin, it will be the first teacher pay raise in a decade.

Included in the legislation is an increase in taxes on oil and gas production, cigarettes and motor fuel and a bill that limits itemized deductions for Oklahoma taxpayers. 

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.

That would allow another company to take over operations pending arrangements to either sell the homes or close them.

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When a Texas A&M University professor recommended to Kansas lawmakers that they increase school by 44 percent, it got some Texas public education advocates wondering how her study would play out in the Lone Star State.

Some of the state’s leading physicians vetted ideas this weekend to reduce the deaths of women while pregnant or shortly after giving birth.

Lance Cpl. Scott Whiting

Child Advocates are charging Texas public schools with punishing the state's youngest students too harshly.

As The Austin American-Statesman reports, last year Texas passed a law saying that students in Pre-K through second grade could only be suspended if they brought a gun to school, or committed drug offenses or acts of violence.

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.

Jenny Inzerillo

A large crowd of marchers made their way through downtown Amarillo this weekend, in hopes of spurring action among lawmakers to tighten gun restrictions.

As KVII reports, Amarillo's March for our Lives protest was part of a larger worldwide movement, with the largest march happening on the mall in the nation's capital.

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A week ahead of their potential walk out, Oklahoma teachers have taken to posting pay stubs on the internet to show what they believed to be egregious financial treatment on behalf of the state.

As KFOR reports, the average starting salary for a teacher in Oklahoma is just over $31,000 a year, one of the lowest rates in the nation.

Eight measles cases have now been identified in Johnson County, with another two in Linn and Miami counties, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Health departments in the three counties have pinpointed where and when the individuals were infected. Because people can acquire measles anywhere from a week to three weeks after exposure, KDHE said there are concerns that additional cases may be identified.

The agency is urging people who are ill or exhibiting symptoms to remain at home unless they’re seeking medical care.

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The arrival of spring break didn’t stop teachers in Oklahoma from pursuing their quest for higher pay.

As KFOR reports, this week many teachers traded in their vacations to instead visit the state capitol, in hopes of convincing Oklahoma lawmakers to raise their compensation and staving off a statewide walkout on April 2nd.

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.

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.

Almost 1,000 veterans in Missouri, Kansas and Illinois were denied care at non-VA facilities because their wait times were incorrectly reported, an audit released last week concludes.

The report, by the Office of Inspector General for the Veterans Health Administration, found that 18 percent of appointments for new patients at VA facilities in the three states had wait times longer than 30 days. The facilities' own electronic scheduling systems, however, showed only 10 percent had wait times of more than 30 days.

KUT/Texas Tribune

Lambda Legal has settled with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in the case of Passion Star, a transgender woman who claimed prison officials didn’t protect her from sexual and physical abuse while incarcerated in male prisons.

From The Texas Tribune:

(This story has been updated.)

Getting most Kansas schoolchildren doing well enough in math and reading to stay on track for college could cost an extra $2 billion a year — or roughly half what the state already spends on aid to local schools.

The figure comes from a report released Friday that lawmakers commissioned to help them judge the costs of getting better classroom results and to comply with a Kansas Supreme Court order.

The women’s health care program in Texas still has a long way to go.

According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Healthy Texas Women, the state’s family-planning program and the breast exam and cervical cancer screening program served about 250,000 women last year. In 2010, the year before Planned Parenthood was removed from the programs, the state served more than 350,000 women.

From Texas Standard.

President Donald Trump has declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. The Texas Department of State Health Services says more than 1,100 Texans died from opioids in 2016. Cities and counties across the state have had to increase services to meet the demand.

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A school district on the edge of Amarillo is now allowing certain teachers to carry concealed weapons, leaving some to wonder if the rest of Amarillo’s schools may be next.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, the 900-student Highland Park ISD on Amarillo’s eastern edge has posted signs reading that the district, “has adopted policies that allow certain employees to carry concealed weapons on school property for the protection of our students and staff.”

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Oklahoma’s state employees announced this weekend that they will join the state’s teachers in a walkout early next month if lawmakers do not meet the teachers’ demands for increased pay and school funding.

As The Oklahoman reports, the Oklahoma Public Employees Association board of directors met on Saturday and approved a work stoppage plan if the state legislature doesn’t agree to $213 million in state employee pay raises by April 2.

Students in Kansas are bearing more than two-thirds of the cost of their education at public universities in the state.

That’s a sharp increase over the last 16 years. In 2001, revenue from tuition was little more than a third of the cost of education — about 35 percent. Today it's just over 71 percent.

The new head of Kansas’ troubled child welfare agency got a unanimous vote of confidence from a legislative committee Friday.

Even the agency's staunchest critics think Gina Meier-Hummel will sail through a confirmation vote from the full Senate to head the Department for Children and Families.

“I can’t imagine that she will” face any serious opposition, said Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat running for governor, and one of several lawmakers who called for the ouster of Meier-Hummel’s predecessor, former DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore.

From Texas Standard.

A woman who once oversaw the youthful offenders program at a Texas prison in Brazoria alleges that “a culture of cover-up” exists at the state’s Department of Criminal Justice, or TDCJ. The would-be whistleblower told Lauren McGaughy of the Dallas Morning News that Texas teens who are placed in the program are in danger, because of a cycle of abuse. The concerns detailed by former program supervisor Dominique Mitchell have been ignored and reporting of incidents discouraged, according to Mitchell.

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West Virginia teachers had a big win this week after state legislators met demands for a 5% increase for all educators and school administrators statewide.

Now, the next battleground in the teacher pay debate looks to be the state of Oklahoma.

As The Oklahoman reports, state lawmakers have three weeks to approve $800 million in additional public school funding, including money for teacher pay raises, or educators across the state are going to walk off the job.

Members of the Kansas House have voted to reinstate some job protections for teachers. The bill would promise teachers an impartial hearing before they can be fired.

Lawmakers eliminated the due process protections — sometimes referred to as teacher tenure — in 2014. Republican Rep. Mary Martha Good said reversing that decision will help recruit teachers and keep them in Kansas.

“This process has worked effectively for many years," she said. "Our teachers need to feel supported and protected.”

Republicans in the Kansas House on Tuesday unveiled a plan they say will make schools safer.

Really more of a plan to get a plan, it calls for the Kansas State Department of Education and state emergency response and law enforcement agencies to develop statewide standards for “safe and secure school buildings.”

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The Arickaree School District in northeast Colorado is find ways that technology can help solve the state’s teacher shortage, which involves a collaboration with a Denver school.

As The Denver Post reports, a couple of times a week, teachers and students from the high-performing 1,800-student STEM School Highlands Ranch use video and teleconferencing know-how to reach across about 100 miles of prairie to the 100-student Arickaree School District in Anton, Colorado.

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Colorado’s auto insurance premiums are the third-fastest rising in the US, according to a new survey.  

As The Denver Post reports, Colorado’s average premium increased by 54.2 percent between 2011 and 2017, but other High Plains states didn’t fare much better. The average premium in Texas rose by 44.3 percent and Kansas’ saw a 36.3 percent increase. Oklahoma saw a 20.5 decrease in the average premium over that time period.

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