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Noonletter, Nov. 14, 2018

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

Regulate us, please

In 2013, a coalition of school districts formed. They’d be laboratories for new ideas. If they could show the state they were serious enough about making classrooms work in new and better ways, they’d be freed from some state rules — notably, who they could hire as teachers and how much testing they had to run their students through.

The state law outlining the special status was limited to a small number of school districts. Ultimately, Blue Valley, Kansas City, Fredonia, Concordia, Hugoton, Marysville and McPherson schools signed up.

Now those districts are walking away. And teachers unions — protecting their membership against competition from educators with less training — are pleased.

Stephan Bisaha explains that the districts say the state has relaxed rules for all districts and the work of keeping their special, “innovative” status was just too much trouble.

Take my guilty plea, please

A Los Angeles man pleaded guilty Tuesday in a deadly Wichita swatting case. Swatting is used by online gamers to prank each other, or to seek vengeance. Someone calls a 911 line to report a false emergency that prompts police to send tactical, or SWAT, teams to a target’s home.

Tyler Barriss, the Associated Press reports, pleaded guilty to making a false report resulting in a death, cyberstalking and conspiracy. The deal with prosecutors will send him to prison for at least 20 years.

Barriss’ false report last year launched Wichita police to the home of Andrew Finch expecting to find a potentially violent crisis. Finch was fatally shot as he came onto his front porch.

A dry state

Farmers and other big water users in the state seem to be getting the message that the supply could effectively run out.

At a governor’s conference on Tuesday, Kansas Water Office Director Tracy Streeter said the agency has had some success in getting people to conserve water in the Ogallala Aquifer — the vast, fast-depleting underground reservoir — in western Kansas. But, Brian Grimmett reports, Streeter says the pace of improvement needs to speed up.

“Farms have proven that we can save water and we can maintain the economy with less water,” he said. “We know that now. So it’s just a matter of getting the masses to buy in.”

Another kind of dry

Kansas is fast becoming surrounded by states where marijuana is legal. Colorado was a pioneer in medical marijuana and was the first state to let people buy it merely for the buzz.

In June, Oklahoma voters approved the used of medical marijuana. Sales haven’t started and specific rules aren’t in place, but medicinal weed is coming there.

This month, Missouri voters approved cannabis use with a doctor’s prescription. Many physicians in the state say too little is known about the efficacy of cannabis as a drug and what dosages make sense. But there’s little doubt that, as in other states, some doctors will build practices around prescribing pot.

Credit National Council of State Legislatures

And in the most populous county on the Kansas border, the local prosecutor now says she’ll no longer prosecute most marijuana possession cases.

Nebraska has yet to legalize weed and Kansas politicians don’t seem inclined to authorize sales any time soon. Kansas does allow the sale and use of a cannabis extract, CBD, with purported medical properties — but only if the THC that gets people high is stripped away.

The map is closing in. In 33 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico, some form of marijuana is legal. The center of the country is now the exception.

West(ern) world

They can herd and whistle and might prevent injuries that come from working with large not-so-smart animals.

Harvest Public Media tells us Robot cowboys are coming.

Credit Cargill
A robotic ranch hand in a feedlot.

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 to ksnewsservice.org.

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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