Hickman seniors join Presidential Scholar semifinalists

Two Hickman High School seniors are one step away from receiving one of the nation’s top academic honors.

Gov. Matt Blunt announced on Thursday that Vellore Arthi and Benjamin Shelton are among Missouri’s 10 Presidential Scholar Semifinalists.

House passes $19 billion budget

JEFFERSON CITY — Funding cuts to social services and several state departments fueled increases to education in a $19 billion state budget passed through the House on Thursday.

With most of the contentious discussion engulfing the lower chamber earlier in the week, debate remained low-key until Rep. John Burnett, D-Kansas City, went beyond the standard Democratic critique of the Republican budget.

Students stand close to Sting

An MU athletics van waited on Hitt Street on Thursday to whisk away more than the usual players.

Sting, an international pop star, gave an exclusive performance to 30 hand-picked students, five faculty and several staff members from the MU School of Music before being quickly escorted to the waiting vehicle to prepare for his concert at Mizzou Arena on Thursday evening.

Children in car during police chase

A brief police chase involving a car with a man and two children ended when the man crashed the car, according to the Columbia Police Department.

Police Capt. Zim Schwartze said a man fled the scene of a domestic-violence call on Thursday.

Rush to beat the deadline

Les McMillen already knows he won’t get out of the office until midnight tonight.

The tax consultant’s latest appointment is set for 10 p.m. with one of his longtime clients, who said she always procrastinates when it comes to taxes.

Filling a need for funds

When local performer Victoria Day, 41, contacted Kathy Windmoeller to ask if the Mid-Missouri Breast Cancer Awareness Group could use some money, Windmoeller’s thrilled response was immediate.

“Victoria e-mailed me and asked, ‘Would we like to have money donated to our group?’ ” Windmoeller said. “And I said, ‘Yes!’ No one has ever done that before.”

Schools’ last day May 27

Good weather means students attending Columbia’s public schools will greet summer vacation early this year after school officials decided to change the last day of school from June 3 to May 27.

Chris Mallory, assistant superintendent for secondary education and school communications, said this is the earliest school has let out in many years but not the first time school has ended in concurrence with Memorial Day weekend.

Trade office targeted for cuts

In a time of tight budgets, state officials are reconsidering how to spend taxpayers’ money to support the state’s businesses abroad.

To help Missouri businesses compete in international markets, the state maintains trade and investment offices in five countries. Officials, however, hope to save $121,000 in the next budget year by closing the Missouri International Trade and Investment Office in Seoul, South Korea.

Budget policy expert: Social Security plan ‘bad deal’ for young people

When it comes to the Social Security debate, John Irons thinks “facts are good.”

Irons, director for tax and budget policy for the Center for American Progress, presented facts and analysis on Social Security privatization Wednesday night in Conservation Auditorium at MU. Irons also summarized President Bush’s plan for Social Security reform.

Cut to legislators’ health care fails

JEFFERSON CITY — Rep. Trent Skaggs wants Missouri lawmakers to feel the squeeze in this year’s state budget cuts.

Debate erupted in the House on Wednesday after Skaggs, D-North Kansas City, presented an amendment that would cut elected officials’ health insurance benefits in order to save money for other services targeted for cuts.

Harg-area residents, Sapp agree on concerns

Arguments between concerned neighbors and a prominent developer over a proposed development east of Columbia may be coming to an end.

Harg-area residents and Billy Sapp negotiated terms Wednesday that could make his 1,000-acre development proposal a reality.

Possible removal of awning echoes owners’ opinions

Carrie Gartner, the director of Columbia’s downtown Special Business District, said the recent vote in support of removing the canopy that covers downtown businesses between Seventh and Hitt streets reflects a change in the way business owners think about their properties.

“We’re saying we should go with our strengths,” Gartner said.

Senate approves private funding for First Steps

JEFFERSON CITY — A bill placing financial responsibility for the First Steps program into the hands of private insurance providers and families won first-round approval in the Senate on Wednesday.

First Steps provides in-home therapy and services to children younger than 3 who have developmental disabilities. The program could lose its state funding to Medicaid and budget cuts that Gov. Matt Blunt has proposed.

Hindman recognizes victims’ privileges

Mayor Darwin Hindman named this week Crime Victims’ Rights Week for Columbia during a ceremony honoring the 25th anniversary of the National Victims’ Rights Week at the Reynolds Alumni Center on Wednesday night.

“Justice isn’t served until the victims are,” Hindman said.

Suspect in two shootings arrested after tips to police

A man recently featured on Columbia’s most-wanted list was arrested without incident Wednesday.

Koda A. Coats, 18, was the third suspect arrested in connection with two related shootings April 6.

Art in the Archives

Flying french fries and a bright yellow abstract sculpture already greet patrons of the Columbia Public Library. Now, three new works will add to the welcome.

The pieces the library has acquired over the past year — a brightly painted hanging screen, an abstract sculpture and a bronze bust — were introduced at a reception Wednesday afternoon.

County to aid waste enterprise

The Boone County Commission agreed Tuesday to help fund plans for an environmental study and find a site for a wastewater treatment plant in southern Boone County.

The study would look at streams in the Two Mile Prairie area to determine whether they are suitable to carry sewage, said Ashland City Administrator Ken Eftink.

Senators debate how to fund new school formula

JEFFERSON CITY — Now that the Senate has given initial approval to legislation rewriting the state’s funding formula for public schools, the debate turns to how to pay for the new system.

The Senate plan, passed late Tuesday after nearly nine hours of debate, would increase basic state aid for schools from $2.4 billion to about $3.1 billion, not counting items paid separately, such as transportation aid. The new formula would be phased in over five years, starting in the 2006-07 school year.

Bush lauds Grant teacher

President Bush commended Grant Elementary School teacher Gail Underwood in a citation “for embodying excellence in teaching, for devotion to the learning needs of the students, and for upholding the high standards that exemplify American education at its finest.”

For that, Underwood, who teaches math, won the 2004 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching for Missouri and a $10,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

Teachers to get pay raise

For the fourth year in a row, the Columbia Board of Education will dip into its reserves and increase teachers’ salaries by $600 for the 2005-2006 school year.

The board voted Monday to approve the administration’s recommendation on teachers’ contracts and give them a base salary increase of $300, costing the district $935,000.