HPPR Health, Education & Welfare

Health

‐state policy‐impact of federal policy‐rural health care delivery‐access & availability

Education

‐state policy‐programs and opportunities‐access & availability

Welfare

‐state policies‐income levels‐wellness‐quality of life

The Oklahoman

The teacher crisis in Oklahoma doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon, reports The Oklahoman.

Last year, Oklahoma was forced to certify 1,100 emergency teachers to plug unfilled jobs due to low pay and teachers moving out of state. This year, the state Board of Education has already approved 224 more emergency certificates. Emergency teachers are hired without the traditional training expected of a public-school teacher. These last-minute stop-gap educators are forced to learn on the job.

Dustyn Rappe / Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma will soon make its statewide reading test more difficult, and the change could result in more students being forced to repeat the third grade.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, the important, high-stakes test is already difficult for some. Last year, 12 percent of Oklahoma third graders received a grade of “unsatisfactory.”

CELIA LLOPIS-JEPSEN / KANSAS NEWS SERVICE

In his 26 years at Meade Unified School District 226, a 400-student district southwest of Dodge City, Superintendent Kenneth Harshberger has watched the educational landscape change. 
Teachers are harder to recruit — even for elementary jobs, which were traditionally easier to fill. 
“The first time I tried to hire an elementary teacher 25, 26 years ago, we had over 100 applicants,” he recalled. “Now I can’t get five applicants.” 

MEG WINGERTER / KANSAS NEWS SERVICE

Editor’s note: Kansas privatized its foster care system in 1997 after a lawsuit revealed widespread problems. Twenty years later, the number of Kansas children in foster care has shot up — topping 7,100 in April — and lawmakers approved the creation of a task force to examine the system. The Kansas News Service investigated problems in the foster care system and possible solutions. This is the fifth story in a series.

By Meg Wingerter

When evening falls, Brian Hunt makes his way to a comfortable chair in a sun room on the south side of his house near La Cygne, Kansas. But he’s not settling in to relax. He’s going to work.

Wallethub

In an increasingly complex world, people want to make sure their communities are safe. To that end, the personal-financial website WalletHub has compiled a list ranking states in order of safety—and the High Plains put in a rather poor showing.

Not a single state in the HPPR listening region appeared in the top half of states when it comes to safety. Colorado performed the best among HPPR states, falling at number 29 on the list.

Creative Commons

The number of kids who participate in Oklahoma's Federal summer-meal program declined again last year.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, participation levels in the summer meal program were already very low, even before the drop.

Last year, fewer than five out of every 100 eligible children took advantage of the free or reduced-price lunches. That number constitutes a decrease of a nine percent from the previous year.

CC0 Public Domain

Kansas’ universities will see increased tuition for the 2017-18 academic year.

The Kansas Board of Regents passed tuition increases for state universities, according to a press release issued Thursday.

Eben McCue / StateImpact Oklahoma

For decades, the oil and gas industry has been promoting the benefits of fossil fuels in America’s public-school classrooms.

As StateImpact Oklahoma reports, companies like BP and Shell have spent millions of dollars on K-12 curricula, speakers, and after-school programs, all designed to paint oil, gas, and coal in a rosy light.

Wikimedia Commons

West Texas A&M University in Canyon took a big hit this week, as the budget approved by Governor Greg Abbott slashed funding to the school by almost $2 million.

Meanwhile, the A&M flagship university in College Station received a hefty increase of $14 million in funding.

Programs receiving cuts at WT include agricultural research and small-business development. The Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum also had its funding slashed.

Traffic-related deaths on the uptick in Kansas

Jun 13, 2017
POLHUDSON.LOHUDBLOGS.COM

There’s a troubling new trend in Kansas – traffic fatalities.

As the Wichita Eagle reports, through the end of May, there have been 174 traffic deaths across Kansas, according to AAA, representing a 13 percent increase over the same period from a year ago and a 44 percent jump from 2015. It is the most fatalities in the state through any May of the past five years.

A spokesperson with AAA said it works out to an average of one per day.

Kansas scores 15th among the 50 states for overall child well-being, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2017 “Kids Count” report.

The state’s relatively high overall ranking is driven by its No. 7 ranking for kids’ economic well-being, based on indicators like housing affordability and employment security for parents.

LM Otero / Houston Chronicle

Health officials announced last week that the threat from the Zika virus in Texas is much lower than it was last year. As The Houston Chronicle reports, the mosquito-borne disease has ebbed in Central and South America, and the risk of mosquitos carrying the virus across the Texas border has lessened.

Likewise, the number of international travelers carrying the disease into the United States is expected to wane this year. But, not all medical professionals are expressing optimism.

Dale Denwalt / The Journal-Record

Despite a years-long crisis that has led to dozens of rural hospital closures across the U.S., there are signs of life for at least one facility in Western Oklahoma.

CC0 Public Domain

Increased income limits through U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development may increase opportunities for rural families to own their own home.

As the High Plains Journal reports, the USDA announced the new 2017 income limits for its direct and guaranteed home ownership loan programs that may make more households eligible to obtain 100 percent financing.

Emily Wendler / KOSU

This year, Oklahoma lawmakers indicated once again that they were going to give teachers in the state raises. And, once again, the state Legislature failed to deliver.

The House even passed two budgets, one containing educator raises and one without them—and ultimately passed the one without raises.

Lawmakers couldn’t even pass a $1,000 teacher raise to keep up with inflation.

NC ND / Creative Commons

A new report finds that the Texas prison populace has been growing smaller, ever since reforms were instituted ten years ago.

Stuart Seeger / Flickr Creative Commons

During the legislative term that concluded last week, Texas lawmakers approved a measure that would legalize certain unrecognized stem cell therapies.

As STAT.com reports, this means Texas is the first state legislature to explicitly give these experimental treatments the go-ahead.

But the deal isn’t done yet; Gov. Greg Abbott still has to sign the bill.

amarillo.com

The Amarillo Independent School District voted this week to give all Amarillo public school teachers a $1,500 raise, reports The Amarillo Globe-News.

The Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees voted for the raises unanimously, 6-0. The plan gives raises to all AISD employees, not just teachers, and it comes with a price tag of over $5 million.

KVII

The Texas Legislature passed a new budget last week, and the plan included a healthy chunk of change for Texas Tech University's proposed veterinary school in Amarillo.

Shawn Sheehan / The Washington Post

Low teacher pay in Oklahoma has led to a high-profile defection. This week Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year announced he’s moving to Texas.

Shawn Sheehan currently teaches special education in Norman, and in addition to winning the award last year he was also a finalist for National Teacher of the Year.

Sheehan says he loves teaching, and wouldn’t want to do anything else, but he just can’t do it in Oklahoma anymore. As a result, he and his wife have accepted positions in Texas, where teachers are paid at much higher rates.

Colorado teachers to receive gun training

May 29, 2017
CC0 Public Domain

Colorado teachers will soon receive gun training, which is being welcomed by school officials in rural areas who say teachers and others need to be trained to stop armed assailants since local law enforcement easily could be miles and miles away.

NTSB/Amarillo.com

The National Travel Safety Board has released documents related to a massive train collision last year that occurred outside of Panhandle, Texas. The accident resulted in the deaths of two train conductors and an engineer.

As Colorado Public Radio reports, after the reforms of the Affordable Care Act, Colorado’s uninsured rate dropped from 14.3 percent in 2013 to 6.7 percent in 2015 and about 500,000 people in the state gained health insurance coverage and about 400,000 people got covered through expanded eligibility of Medicaid.

Community After School Program

Many working parents in Oklahoma are having a hard time affording programs to occupy their children while they’re working, according to OklahomaWatch.

Both after-school programs and summer camps can be extremely costly, which means they sometimes aren’t an option for parents struggling to make ends meet.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The threat of the Zika virus is likely to return to Texas this summer, and, as KUT reports, one of the biggest difficulties health experts are coming up against is a gap in knowledge among citizens. A recent study conducted by the University of Texas’s Medical Branch has found that many vulnerable Texas women aren’t aware of their risk for infection.

NewsOK.com

According to a new study, life expectancies in some parts of Oklahoma are growing at a more rapid pace than in others.

NewsOK reports that the Oklahoma Panhandle has exhibited a marked increase in life expectancy since 1980, showing a gain of between four and five percent, one of the strongest surges in the state.

Lindsay Pierce / The Denver Post

The United Health Foundation has released its rankings of the healthiest and least healthy states for seniors, and the results show Colorado seniors to be much healthier than their counterparts in other states in the HPPR listening area.

Creative Commons

Law enforcement can be a thankless job. Even so, there are almost a million cops in America, most of whom work diligently to protect their communities.

The personal finance website Wallethub has produced a list of the best and worst states to be a police officer.

Editor5807 / Creative Commons

A new reports shows that bad roads in Oklahoma are costing taxpayers $5 billion annually.

As News 9 reports, the study by the national transportation group TRIP finds that Oklahomans currently spend almost $2 billion dollars on fixing their cars. Another billion is spent on traffic accidents, and the state sees yet another $2 billion in lost productivity yearly, due to traffic jams and delays.

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