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Nick’s Picks | Back to School, Student Debt Relief and a Possible Tax Break

Chiefs Play Packers Thursday Night

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Above image credit: "Kansas City Week in Review" host Nick Haines. (John McGrath | Flatland)

It’s officially the end of summer for every school kid across the metro. This week, Missouri school districts head back to the classroom as do all of our big public universities. 

The University of Kansas, Kansas State University, Johnson County Community College, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Missouri are all beginning new semesters this week.

We know students are heading back amid huge teacher shortages. But parents are also discovering scaled back bus routes due to a lack of drivers and a number of elementary schools are being forced to do without school crossing guards.

In the Kansas City, Kansas, school district the teacher shortage has prompted administrators to get even more creative. At Wyandotte High School they’re going back to virtual learning in some classrooms. 

They’ve hired teachers from as far away as Texas and Utah to connect with students via Zoom.

The KCK district has nearly 50 unfilled teaching positions.

Legal Battle Over Abortion Vote

Is the Kansas abortion amendment vote now finally settled? 

Hardly.

Over the weekend, a partial hand count of votes in the state’s nine largest counties confirmed the lopsided result. But the recall efforts backers are not giving up.

Mark Gietzen, who leads the Kansas Republican Assembly, says he plans to file a lawsuit today seeking a full statewide recount.

He says in Wichita, Sedgwick County election officials failed to meet the deadline to count the ballots and some of the recount happened over the weekend without outside observers present to watch.

Voter ID Law

Missouri’s new photo ID law goes into effect this week.

Starting Sunday, Missouri voters will be required to show a picture ID in order to vote.

Two lawsuits have been filed to block the new law from going into effect.

The NAACP claims it will prevent thousands of Missourians from casting ballots.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who oversees elections, claims it will stop cheating.

He says the new law requires the state to provide a free photo identification card to those who don’t have one.

Seventeen states besides Missouri have enacted photo identification laws. Kansas has required voters to show a picture ID since 2012.

Student Debt Decision

If you’re still trying to pay off college debt, there’s a big announcement you’ll want to know about this week.

President Joe Biden is about to decide whether to extend the freeze on student loan payments or go even further by announcing a new college debt forgiveness program.

The Biden administration is facing pressure from some Democratic lawmakers to cancel up to $50,000 per borrower. The President has championed a more modest proposal that forgives up to $10,000 in debt.

A final decision could come as early as today. The current moratorium on college loan repayment expires on Aug. 31.

‘Money in Your Pocket’

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is calling lawmakers back into session and he’s scheduled an afternoon news conference today to reveal what he wants them to do and when.

You don’t have to wait that long. 

Apparently, Parson will call for lawmakers to pass the largest income tax cut in state history. 

For individual taxpayers that could mean $500 more in your pocket. The income tax cut would put an additional $1,000 in the pockets of married tax filers.

Another part of the plan is to help one of Missouri’s largest industries: agriculture. The governor is proposing a six-year extension of farm tax credits.

Parson says state revenues are up 20% over last year and that it’s time to return “hard-earned dollars back to working Missourians.”

The special session will likely take place around the September veto session in Jefferson City.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson delivered his State of the State address on Jan. 27, 2021.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson delivering his State of the State address on Jan. 27, 2021. (Courtesy | Missouri Governor’s Office)

Kansas Sports Betting Delay?

One of the biggest stories coming out of Kansas is that legalized sports betting is about to start in just over a week’s time. 

But is the Sept. 1 launch date now in question as the state attorney general says he’s discovered “significant legal issues” with the proposed betting rules? 

The disagreement generally involves narrow legal definitions, marketing agreements and advertising rules. 

It’s unclear if the attorney general’s review will delay the state’s proposed go-live date next week.

Climate Clash

A week after new housing rules prompted angry outbursts and at least one arrest at City Hall, members of the Kansas City Council are readying themselves for another clash, this time over climate policy.

After months of debate, the full council is expected to vote on a climate protection plan this week that aims to make Kansas City carbon neutral by 2040.

Environmental activists claim the plan let’s big utility companies off the hook. A sticking point is whether Evergy should be required to decommission its coal-fired power plant in Kansas City.

Meanwhile, social justice advocates worry that the cost of the city’s new climate policies will be borne by those least able to afford price increases. They claim it could increase utility bills, affect rents and even force some residents out of their neighborhoods.

You can weigh in on the city’s new climate plan during a public comment session at City Hall scheduled for this Wednesday at 9 a.m.

Union Station Exhibit Opens

After a three-month delay, Union Station’s latest blockbuster exhibit is finally open to visitors this week.  

“Maya: The Great Jaguar Rises” features more than 300 artifacts that take you through the history and culture of the ancient Mayan people.

The exhibit has been postponed twice due to bureaucratic hurdles in Guatemala. 

The country’s new government had blocked the transportation of ancient artifacts into the United States.

With the dispute now resolved, you can see the new exhibit through December at Union Station.

Union Station and the Kansas City skyline lit up at night.
Kansas City’s downtown skyline with Union Station in the foreground. (Contributed | Union Station/Kentadh Photography)

Week in Music

After two pandemic cancellations, Alicia Keys is finally coming to Kansas City this week. The singer/songwriter plays Starlight Theatre Wednesday night. Keys postponed her August 2020 and August 2021 shows because of COVID.

Chris Botti is also in town Wednesday. The Grammy Award winning trumpeter and composer is heading to Yardley Hall at Johnson County Community College.

Country music fans get to party along with Alan Jackson. He takes the stage at T-Mobile Center on Thursday night. It’s the first time he’s been on the road after being diagnosed with a rare degenerative nerve condition, which he says, “makes getting around difficult.”

And it’s Charlie Parker celebration week. Multiple events are going on around the metro to honor the Kansas City jazz legend who was born 102 years ago this week in KCK.

A free kickoff event Tuesday night at the Plaza branch of the Kansas City Public Library will feature a roundtable discussion examining Parker’s relationship to his hometown. 

This Saturday evening the American Jazz Museum is hosting “In the Yard,” an outdoor jazz concert featuring three local and national acts. 

You can learn more about both events at spotlightcharlieparker.org.

Chiefs Preseason Finale

Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid and the gang are back at Arrowhead Stadium this week for their final preseason game. 

The Chiefs take on the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night. Game time is 8 p.m.

The Chiefs regular season starts Sept. 11 with a matchup against the Arizona Cardinals.

Nick Haines, tracks the week’s most impactful local news stories on “Kansas City Week in Review,” Friday at 7:30 p.m. on Kansas City PBS.

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