Author

Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the Kansas Press Association’s journalist of the year. He has written award-winning news stories about the instability of the Kansas foster care system, misconduct by government officials, sexual abuse, technology, education, and the Legislature. He previously spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. A lifelong Kansan, he graduated from Emporia State University in 2004 as a Shepherd Scholar with a degree in English.

Senators forge bipartisan deal to aid Kansas businesses impacted by pandemic

By: - April 6, 2021

TOPEKA — A new Senate plan would redirect a portion of federal COVID-19 aid from the state and counties to small businesses impacted by public health orders during the pandemic. The bipartisan compromise between Sen. Mark Steffen, a Hutchinson Republican, and Sen. Tom Holland, a Baldwin City Democrat, emerged during a committee hearing Tuesday. The […]

‘We’ve got to do something’: Senate moves forward with plan for oversight of Kansas foster care system

By: - April 2, 2021

TOPEKA — Sen. Molly Baumgardner says the first call she received as an elected senator was about the foster care system in Kansas. The Republican from Louisburg recalls reading newspaper reports before she was elected that detailed “horrific” neglect and abuse of Kansas children. Seven years later, those stories are still being reported. “What bothers […]

Kansas GOP-controlled legislative council spikes Kelly’s refreshed mask mandate

By: and - April 1, 2021

Kansas Senate president considers Gov. Kelly's reissuance of mask mandate an April Fool's joke; Legislature intends to spike her order.

Sen. Pat Pettey, D-Kansas City, Kansas, questioned wisdom of a Senate amendment forbidding KDHE from expanding a list of required child vaccinations, including a possible COVID-19 shot. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Kansas Senate passes bill requiring civics test for high schoolers

By: - March 31, 2021

TOPEKA — Sen. Pat Pettey raised concerns during Senate debate Wednesday with jettisoning “what really works to help students learn” in favor of requiring high schoolers to pass a 60-question civics test before they receive a diploma. Pettey, a Democrat and retired teacher from Kansas City, lectured Ellinwood Republican Sen. Alicia Straub about the Kansas […]

Kansas foster care provider to repay $9.4M in unused tax dollars

By: - March 30, 2021

TOPEKA — Saint Francis Ministries has agreed to repay $9.4 million in Kansas tax dollars that weren’t spent in Kansas, the Department for Children and Families announced Tuesday. The money comes from a grant paid by DCF between October 2019 and February 2021, when the grant was revised. Tuesday’s announcement follows months of revelations about […]

Senate panel advances plan to install child advocate under Kansas attorney general

By: - March 29, 2021

TOPEKA — A Senate panel advanced legislation Monday that would install a child advocate in the Kansas Attorney General’s Office to investigate and report on problems in the foster care system. Republicans on the committee revised the plan in an attempt to address concerns raised about turning the position into a hyper-political tool in next […]

Topeka group uses Children’s Cabinet grant to launch academy in child care desert

By: - March 28, 2021

TOPEKA — Nikki Ramirez-Jennings wants to transform the reputation of a southeast Topeka community known to outsiders for its crime and poverty. She knows what people say about the Hi-Crest neighborhood, with nicknames like the Dirty South and Felony Acres. News media rarely focus on the good things that happen here. And she knows what […]

Kansas Attorney General’s Office scoffs at ACLU’s ‘grossly exaggerated’ fee request for voter rights case

By: - March 27, 2021

TOPEKA — The Kansas Attorney General’s Office says attorneys involved in the American Civil Liberties Union’s five-year legal battle over voter rights in Kansas are asking to be repaid for “grossly excessive” fees. The dispute over a proposed $4 million price tag comes from the state’s defense of an unconstitutional law that required residents to […]

Court record shows Kansas Senate majority leader drove 90 mph in wrong direction while drunk

By: - March 26, 2021

TOPEKA — Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop was charged Friday with drunk driving and felony fleeing from police while traveling 90 mph in the wrong direction on Interstate 70 in Topeka. The complaint filed in district court by the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office indicates the early morning escapade on March 16 ended after Suellentrop […]

Kansas makes COVID-19 vaccines available to all adults starting next week

By: - March 26, 2021

TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly announced Friday the state will make COVID-19 vaccines available to all adults starting next week. The accelerated rollout comes just days after the state opened up vaccines to critical workers and individuals with health conditions that make them vulnerable to the virus. This policy shift reflects an expected increase in […]

Push for oversight of Kansas foster care system plows into partisan minefield

By: - March 23, 2021

TOPEKA — Senate President Ty Masterson stated the obvious Tuesday for senators considering legislation to create an Office of the Child Advocate that would investigate and report on problems in the foster care system. Those problems, Masterson told the Senate Judiciary Committee, exist under every governor regardless of political affiliation. The system needs independent oversight, […]

Kansas House advances plan to require in-person K-12 learning for just this school year

By: - March 22, 2021

TOPEKA — Rep. Valdenia Winn wasn’t amused Monday when the House erupted in laughter as she expressed her concerns with forcing K-12 educators to provide in-person learning for the remainder of the school year. The Kansas City Democrat was addressing comments made by Rep. Sean Tarwater, a Republican from Stillwell who had pointed out the […]