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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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Oklahoma’s gun laws can be confusing. They shift frequently, and state lawmakers often propose legislation to loosen gun laws.

As the U.S. once again takes up a vigorous debate on the place of guns in society, residents of Western Oklahoma may be wondering: What exactly are the laws in the Sooner State?


Texas is the fourth most sinful state in America, according to a new Wallethub study.

The personal finance website reached its findings by ranking all 50 states across 38 key indicators of immorality, including violent crimes per capita, excessive drinking, and share of the population with gambling disorders.

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Speaking at a large conservative political gathering near the nation’s capital last week, Donald Trump reiterated that he would like to see more public-school teachers carrying concealed guns. And as POLITICO reports, the State of Texas may be a model for Trump’s vision of a nation full of gun-toting educators.

Even before releasing their results, consultants hired to guide Kansas lawmakers to a school funding plan that meets legal muster endured a grilling on Friday.

How, wondered lawmakers, would the consultants reach their conclusions on how much money school districts need to help students succeed academically? Why do the consultants seem to be excluding the overhead, non-classroom expenses of running schools from their study? And what about criticism of work they’d done in other states?

A call sets it off.

One of Kansas’ two foster care contractors learns another child has landed in state custody. It has four hours to pick the kid up.

Part 1 of a three-part series.

An alarming number of women die while pregnant or shortly after giving birth in Texas. According to national researchers who say the U.S. as a whole has a serious problem, Texas is an “outlier” when it comes to its high rate of maternal deaths.

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Health care costs for Coloradans are above average, according to a new study, and highest in the state’s eastern plains.

A study by the national Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement found that Colorado’s health care costs are 17 percent above average when compared to Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon and Utah. The cost of outpatient services in Colorado was even higher at 30 percent above average

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A recently implemented program at West Texas A&M University’s School of Music has been gaining a good deal of attention.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, WT’s partnership with Belmont University in Nashville gives students in the Panhandle a pathway toward careers in the music industry. Darrell Bledsoe, coordinator of music business at WT, said the program is exploding in popularity, adding: “It’s amazing.”

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Kansas school districts plan to use the proposed additional $600 million on personnel and programs for at-risk children.

When it comes to packing Statehouse hearings, few groups fill a room more reliably than those pushing for Medicaid expansion.

What they’re less good at, at least so far, is convincing lawmakers and a governor to expand Medicaid eligibility to another 150,000 low-income Kansans.

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Another bill that would have given teachers a pay raise failed on the floor of the Oklahoma Legislature this week.

As it stands now, Oklahoma teachers haven’t received a raise in a decade. As KFOR reports, the bill would have paid for an educator pay increase by raising taxes on tobacco, diesel fuel and wind energy.

U.S. Customs & Border Protection

Xcel Energy crews from West Texas have been hard at work in Puerto Rico, helping to restore power to devastated hurricane victims there, reports The Amarillo Globe-News.

Xcel spokesman Wes Reeves says some crews will be returning this weekend, at which point another energy crew will head out for a three-week deployment.

From Texas Standard.

It’s Valentine’s Day and so we put together a story for you about hearts – not candy hearts or even those filled with chocolate, but human hearts. These days, we know quite a bit about them. It’s been 50 years since the first successful transplant. But, in a way, hearts are also still full of mystery – and I’m not trying to get romantic on you. A doctor in Dallas is trying to solve those mysteries of the heart by studying the organs that no one wants anymore.

High Plains Morning thanks our esteemed guests on Tuesday, who stopped by the studio to announce the $91,000 grant from the Allstate Foundation's Purple Purse Challenge to further nonprofit work for domestic violence survivors in the Texas Panhandle.

We welcomed KathyTortoreo, Director of Crisis Services at Family Support Services and Connie Garcia, Executive Director at Martha’s Home. Both of these women dedicate their time to combat the impact of domestic violence and homelessness on women in their local communities.  FSS and Martha's Home are one of thousands of organizations this year to receive Allstate’s support, which supports the organizations’ missions to empower women and children to create a violence-free world. ***(Our honorary guest was Rex Young, 20-year Allstate Agent in Amarillo, Borger & Pampa, who was not present due to illness. FEEL BETTER, REX!)

Jeffrey Beall

Colorado’s four-year colleges are feeling the sting of the low-cost tuition and unique course offerings of the state’s community colleges.

As The Denver Post reports, the state’s 39 rural colleges are branching out, offering courses in everything from gun-smithing to wind energy and nursing they are delivering those courses at much lower tuition rates.