HPPR Health, Education & Welfare


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Last year, Amarillo saw another increase in homicides, marking the second year-over-year increase in a row, and the highest homicide total in a decade.

There were 16 total homicides in the city last year, reports The Amarillo Globe-News. That’s five more than in the previous year of 2016, and nine more than in 2015. Last year’s homicide victims ranged in age from eight months to 69 years old. This second year in a row of homicide increases marks the reversal of a trend.

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Yesterday, HPPR reported a story about rampant abuse and neglect in Texas’s juvenile prisons.

Today, The Texas Tribune is reporting that inmates in more than 30 of Texas’s adult prisons may not have been provided with adequate heating during the brutal cold spell that recently blanketed the state.

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Child and civil rights advocates are urging Texas lawmakers to close the state’s juvenile prisons.    

The state has five remaining juvenile lockups, and according to a new report in The Texas Observer, these facilities may be doing more harm than good. The prisons house young inmates who have committed serious or violent offenses. Budget cuts have resulted in staff shortages at these facilities, and that means the juvenile offenders aren’t receiving the attention they need.

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Vegans are finding new ways to survive—and thrive—in the Texas Panhandle, a land traditionally celebrated for its beef production.

Amarillo is, after all, the city that sued Oprah Winfrey in the 1990s for badmouthing hamburgers. Yet a small but mighty group of vegans is learning to make the city meet its needs.

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Last year in Oklahoma, the number of school districts that had gone to four-day school weeks nearly doubled.

As KFOR reports, 20 percent of public schools in Oklahoma are now only open four days a week, due to a crippling budget crisis in the state. Some officials in the state have said they think four-day weeks are a good idea, because of all the money it frees up in the budget.

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Retired Texas teachers will be facing higher health care costs in 2018, reports The Houston Chronicle. Some families of retired educators in the Lone Star State are facing skyrocketing premiums of up to $1,000 a month and beyond.

The high health care costs are even forcing some retired teachers back into the workforce. The problem lies in the fact that TRS-Care, the health care system for retired teachers created in 1985, is on the brink of insolvency.

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For the last 10 years, Texas elected officials have been gradually cutting funding to public schools. As a result, local school costs have been rising--and local property taxes have been rising with them.

The state Legislature has now shifted over $2 billion a year worth of funding that would have gone to public schools to other programs.

From Texas Standard.

As we make the turn from 2017 to 2018, one of the big areas we ought to keep an eye on is the economy. The jobs Texans do in the future will look a little different than they have in the past. That’s of course in part due to the impacts of technology, but it also has to do with the needs of the community.

Dr. Ray Perryman, who heads the economic and financial analysis firm the Perryman Group in Waco, says the biggest gains will be in health care.

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Out here on the High Plains, with all this cold weather and vast emptiness, New Year’s resolutions can feel daunting. That’s why it’s especially daunting to prepare yourself mentally for your resolution.

Business Insider recently spoke to behavioral scientists to learn which techniques they advise to help you stick to your resolution.  

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When it comes to educating workers to prepare for the future, Texas lags behind much of the country, according to The Houston Chronicle.

New statistics from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board show that 350,000 kids left high school last year, including the 6 percent who dropped out. And only 145,000 students graduated with four-year degrees; that’s less than 42 percent of the number who left high school.

When Kansans on Medicaid are incarcerated or treated at residential mental health facilities, their Medicaid benefits are terminated. Mental health advocates hope to change that during the upcoming legislative session by pushing for a bill that would instead suspend those benefits.

After patients or inmates are dropped from Medicaid, it can take weeks or months to reinstate health coverage — a risk for people who need continuous care for mental health conditions.

From Texas Standard.

Texas has been more urban than rural since the 1950s, and though the state’s wide open space has a lot to do with its mystique, rural Texas is often overlooked when it comes to resources.

In a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece for the Texas Observer, Christopher Collins writes about the seven most pressing issues facing rural Texas.

Students at most state universities in Kansas will pay more to live on-campus than if they were to rent an off-campus apartment, according to an analysis by KMUW.

The analysis is based on new room and board rates unanimously approved recently by the Kansas Board of Regents. Pittsburg State University received the smallest increase — less than 1 percent for a dorm room shared by two students — while Wichita State University saw the largest increase at just less than 3 percent.


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Oklahoma’s prisons have long been overcrowded and underfunded. For example, the state’s three women’s prisons are at 129 percent of capacity.

To make matters worse, there is a shortage of corrections officers in the state.

Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh recently called the state prison system “a sinking ship.”

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If you’re traveling through Texas this holiday season and planning to use the left lane, here’s a friendly reminder from KHOU in Houston: It is illegal in the State of Texas to drive slowly in the left lane.

Many Texans aren’t aware of the law, as it’s not enforced often. But according to state law, you should always drive in the right lane unless you’re passing another car.


Amarillo school superintendent Dana West last week announced that the Amarillo Independent School District would be making use of the former Hastings Distribution Center on Plains Boulevard in Amarillo.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, AISD plans to convert the 200,000-square-foot building into a high school academy for science, technology, engineering and math students. It’s not yet known how exactly the academy will operate, or whether it will operate full-time or part-time.

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According to state and federal surveys, the rate of marijuana use among Colorado youths is dropping – despite the fact that the drug is legal in the state. And crime statistics across the state back that up. Yet law enforcement officers who have direct contact with younger people paint a different picture.

The former legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas thinks a practice among some school boards of restricting patron complaints at public meetings eventually will end up in court.

Doug Bonney, legal director emeritus for ACLU Kansas, said if barring complaints about school board members, the superintendent or employees is common, that doesn’t make it right.

Colorado Funds CHIP For Another Month

Dec 24, 2017

Colorado’s version of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is alive for another day.

As The Denver Post reports, Colorado lawmakers approved in emergency funding to run the Children’s Health Plans Plus (CHP+) for an extra month, if necessary, amid concerns that a short-term extension of the program’s funding OK’d by Congress won’t arrive soon enough to help.

Kansas colleges and universities could be facing steep state funding cuts in 2018.

A legislative committee discussing possibilities for balancing the state budget put the Regents on notice Wednesday, asking how an 18 percent cut would affect higher education.

“This system will look very different from the one we’ve enjoyed for a long time," answered Board of Regents President Blake Flanders.

Flanders says a cut that big would be a shock to the system.

“If we’re asked about cuts at about this level of cuts we always take it seriously," Flanders says.

From Texas Standard.

Multiple school districts in north and northeast Texas were notified by the Texas Department of Agriculture recently that they were likely exposed to a data breach. The warning estimates that personal information of some 700 students across 39 districts could have been leaked when an employee’s state-issued laptop was hit with a ransomware attack.

Public Domain

The Amarillo Independent School District will send students to school early again next summer, according to The Amarillo Globe-News.

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According to a new study, the average graduation rate of Texas charter schools students is almost 30 percentage points lower than that of traditional public schools.

As Houston Public Media reports, the 2017 study from the Texas Education Agency showed that fewer than two out of every three Texas charter school students graduated on time.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will pay out almost $7 billion this year through two safety-net programs that offer farmers some assistance during tough financial times.

While most of it goes to farmers who grow corn, soybeans, wheat and other crops, K-12 public schools also get a sliver of the total payout. That’s a benefit for often rural districts that are struggling due to state legislatures trimming back their cut of education funding.


Every year, America’s elderly population increases as baby boomers get older. That increase could mean a rise in elder abuse, if steps aren’t taken to ensure our elderly are taken care of. Some states are doing this better than others.

The personal finance website Wallethub set out to find which states have the best protections for the elderly, and the results were mixed for High Plains states.

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The presidents of two Texas universities—one public and one private—published an editorial in The Dallas Morning News this week, warning that the congressional tax bill will hurt Texas students and universities if it passes.

Misawa AFB

Oklahoma’s school districts got an early Christmas present this week, as it was announced that districts statewide would receive a $2 million grant.

As KOKH reports, the donation is being provided by the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board. The grant will go toward educating Oklahoma students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, better known as the STEM subjects.

In the summer of 2005, the Legislature butted heads with the Kansas Supreme Court over a ruling that ordered an influx of money to public education.

The result? Kansas came closer than ever to a constitutional crisis.


Last week, the Texas Tech Board of Regents approved a plan to study the feasibility of building a facility to house a new school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.


The State of Texas has come through at the 11th hour with funding for one more month of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Lawmakers came through with the money, in order to avoid having to send out Christmas notifications to nearly half a million children that they would be losing their health care.