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Noonletter: Sept. 26, 2018

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

Sounds like …

Parents of dyslexic children have long pitched for a dramatic change to reading instruction and the extra teaching help needed to accommodate brains wired a little differently.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen weighs in this week with a story about how they’re on the verge of a breakthrough in Kansas that could bring more phonics-grounded reading instruction for all kids.

A state task force, commissioned by the Legislature and stacked with advocates for phonics, looks poised to make the spelling-rules-heavy structured literacy approach the new standard in Kansas.

Skeptics of that method, notably teachers colleges in the state, were largely left off the task force. They say such a change might not be the right way to go.

Ever more suicidal

Suicide rates are climbing across the country. They’re climbing even faster in Kansas.

The state’s suicide rate is slightly below the national average, but the increase from 1999 to 2016 was more rapid than most of the country.

KMUW’s Nadya Faulx reports on a meeting of the Kansas Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force in Wichita Tuesday. At that session, Antigone Davis, Facebook's Global Head of Safety, said the social media platform has rolled out a series of new tools to offer support to young people thinking of harming themselves. Of course, some speculation suggests bullying over social media — platforms such as Facebook — can push depressed kids to suicide.

The suicide rate for minors in Kansas more than doubled between 2005 and 2015.

Young parents can equal poor kids

About one in 10 parents in Kansas falls between the ages of 18 and 24, a time when many people are still struggling to get their sea legs in an adult world.

That’s why, suggests an Annie E. Casey Foundation report, their children so often live in poverty.

Stephan Bisaha notes that in Kansas, among the children of that young class of parents, about 70 percent are being raised in poverty. That’s several times higher than the rate for all Kansas children.

Dole-ing out a sculpture

Washburn University plans to dedicate a statue to Bob Dole, the longtime U.S. senator from Kansas and one-time Republican nominee for president.

The 95-year-old Dole plans to attend the Friday ceremony in Topeka. He earned a bachelor's degree and a law degree from Washburn after being wounded while serving in the Army during World War II.

Bad TV, 30 sends at a time

Let’s take a quick run through some of the latest Kansas campaign ads. Special thanks to the Washburn University political science faculty for putting themall in one place. (And go here for the school’s particularly comprehensive collection.)

U.S. Rep. Ron Estes, the Republican running for re-election from Wichita, has put out the usual feel-good, here’s-who-I-am spot with country scenes and our man hard at work. Nothing out of the ordinary here, but maybe worth a look if just for the 1970s tux-with-big-bow-tie photo.

Here’s an ad from Emily’s List, the independent abortion rights group that typically puts its money by Democratic women running for office. In this case, it’s backing Sharice Davids and her effort to knock off Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder from his Kansas City-area seat. The consultant clearly thinks President Donald Trump, who lost the district to Hillary Clinton two years ago, can drag down the incumbent.

This one’s direct from the Davids campaign, calling Yoder the “$4 million man” beholden to special interests.

This one’s from House Speaker Paul Ryan’s super PAC, suggesting Davids is no friend to law enforcement.

Now comes Steve Watkins, the Republican looking to take over U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins' seat in the district covering Topeka, Lawrence and much of the eastern quarter of the state. He’d like you to know that he’s a veteran. (Note the language at the bottom of the screen: “Military images do not imply endorsement by the Department of Defense or any service branch.”)

Next up, Brian “Bam” McClendon, the prodigal son returned from (and made wealthy by) Silicon Valley to run for Kansas Secretary of State. He wants to remind you he was a vice president at Google and to show you his smartphone.

Scott Canon is digital editor of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @ScottCanon.

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

As the editor of a statewide news outlet, I aspire to work with our reporters to give Kansans a clear-eyed view of the place they call home. That means delivering hard-hitting stories that expose those things that keep Kansas from being the most vibrant, healthy place it can be. You can reach me at scott@kcur.org or 816-235-8023.
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