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Noonletter, Nov. 16, 2016

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

Sticker shock

Kansas turned to the nonprofit group Teach For America earlier this year and cut a deal: Find a dozen teachers willing to work in the state in areas where we’re having recruitment problems, including western Kansas, and we’ll pay you $500,000-plus.

In the end, reports Nomin Ujiyediin, the group routed just three teachers, all to Kansas City, Kansas.

Lawmakers are not happy.

Still, the state will pay Teach For America $270,000. That’s $36,000 per teacher hired (the money is all for recruiting and training, not salaries and benefits) for five teachers. It turns out two other teachers who went through the organization started at the district last year, before it was hired by Kansas, but their positions count toward the Teach For America contract.

The state’s cost also includes $80,000 to pay the salary and benefits of a recruiter and $10,000 for a day of professional development — mostly for teachers working in Missouri.

Finals week

The certification of final election results in Johnson and Ellis counties has settled the last three nail-biter races for the Kansas House.

In Northeast Johnson County, Democrat Rui Xu beat incumbent Republican Melissa Rooker, a moderate, by just over a hundred votes. In south Overland Park, Democrat David Benson beat conservative Republican Abraham Rafie by less than a hundred votes.

In a district around Hays, incumbent Democrat Eber Phelps lost his seat to conservative Republican Barbara Wasinger.

Those last three races reflected a trend across the House elections this year, where moderates tended to lose ground to both Democrats and more conservative Republicans.

Super-bankers’ hours

The U.S. Senate has confirmed a Kansas banker to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Michelle “Miki” Bowman was confirmed Thursday on a bipartisan vote in the U.S. Senate. Her nomination was ushered through by Kansas Republican Jerry Moran.

J. Schafer of Kansas Public Radio reports Bowman has served as Kansas Banking Commissioner and worked for Farmers and Drovers Bank in Council Grove. She'll serve on the Federal Reserve Board for the remainder of a term that expires in 2020.

Conflicting flight paths

The projected cost of a new Kansas City airport has already more than doubled to roughly $1.6 billion. That bill will ultimately be passed along to air travelers through fares. Now smaller airlines wanting to run flights from the new terminal worry it will price them out of the market.

Lisa Rodriguez of KCUR reports that airport officials said in early November that adding more gates to the design was pushing up the cost.

In turn, Spirit and Allegiant airlines complained that could force smaller airlines to push up prices and elbow them out of the market.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James, who was at the center of a rocky start for the terminal re-make, now is vowing to get more involved again.

Follow-through is everything

The independent news outfit ProPublica has crunched data on how police handle rape cases in different cities.

The numbers suggest that a rape reported in Wichita is significantly less likely to lead to an arrest than in most other cities in the country (at least those for which the organization could compile statistics).

Here’s ProPublica’s analysis:

Of 347 rape cases opened in 2016, the department cleared 240 cases, or 69 percent. 23 of those cleared cases, or 7 percent, led to an arrest. The remaining 217 cases, 63%, were cleared by exceptional means.  

ProPublica’s analysis finds that the “exceptional means” is a way for police departments to close a case without pursuing justice through criminal charges.

“The designation,” the news organization writes, “allows police to clear cases when they have enough evidence to make an arrest and know who and where the suspect is, but can’t make an arrest for reasons outside their control. Experts say it's supposed to be used sparingly.”

Campus shutdown

Newman University’s campus in Wichita closed down Friday morning because of what the school called “unsubstantiated reports of a threat.”

A campus emergency alert system message told people on campus shortly before 6 a.m. on Friday that the incident was under investigation.

The school’s student newspaper, The Vantage, said the event was triggered about 1 a.m. by rumors on a social media. An email from the school’s provost said those rumors were “that there may be an act of violence on campus today.”

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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