Most everyone knows someone adversely affected by student debt: More than 40 million Americans are shouldering a crippling $1.3 trillion in loans.

That burden is obstructing careers, families, dreams, employment and even retirement.

Uncle Sam and Wall Street have made lots of money off the crisis.

"My goal for this special session is to keep the schools open," said Sam Brownback, Republican governor of Kansas, talking about a high-stakes gathering today in Topeka.

He called lawmakers back from their vacations for a special session after the state's Supreme Court doubled-down on its demand that they make school funding more equitable across districts or risk a calamitous funding freeze.

"We cannot allow our children to be caught in a constitutional struggle between branches of government," Brownback said. But that's exactly what's happened.

Yesterday on Capitol Hill, Tina Meins and other survivors of gun violence joined Democratic senators to push for tougher gun control laws. In the San Bernardino mass killing last year, Meins' father and 13 of his co-workers were shot to death.

"In mere seconds, my life and the lives of my mother and sister were irrevocably changed," she says.

A few years ago, a man came to pastor Wes Helm at Springcreek Church in Garland, Texas, and opened up about his financial troubles. Helm looked through the man's budget and noticed one major monthly expense: a payday loan fee three times more than the amount of the loan itself.

The American Red Cross spent a quarter of the money people donated after the 2010 Haiti earthquake — or almost $125 million — on its own internal expenses, far more than the charity previously had disclosed, according to a report released Thursday by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.

The report also says the charity's top officials stonewalled congressional investigators and released incomplete information about its Haiti program to the public. It concludes "there are substantial and fundamental concerns about [the Red Cross] as an organization."

For years, Heartland Regional Medical Center, a nonprofit hospital in the small city of St. Joseph, Mo., had quietly sued thousands of its low-income patients over their unpaid bills.

But after an investigation by NPR and ProPublica prompted further scrutiny by Sen. Charles Grassley, the hospital overhauled its financial assistance policy late last year and forgave the debts of thousands of former patients.

According to a report by the Vera Institute for Justice, there are more than 3,000 local jails in America, holding more than 730,000 people on any given day. Nancy Fishman, a project director at the Vera Institute, tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that jails "have impacted a huge number of Americans ... many more than are impacted by state prisons."

Need knee replacement surgery? It may be worthwhile to head for Tucson.

That's because the average price for a knee replacement in the Arizona city is $21,976, about $38,000 less than it would in Sacramento, Calif. That's according to a report issued Wednesday by the Health Care Cost Institute.

Investing for retirement doesn't have to be hard. You read up on how to put together a diverse mix of low-cost index funds, bonds, etc. Then keep setting aside all you can into that retirement account. Easy.

But when you actually retire and start spending that money, that's like going from playing checkers to playing chess. It can get a lot harder.

(This post was last updated at 6:15 p.m. EDT.)

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced on Wednesday that the countenance of abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman will grace a new $20 bill.

The decision caps a public campaign asking for a woman to be placed on American paper currency and months of deliberation by the Treasury to replace either Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill or Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.

A few months ago, the U.S. military gave Zabihullah Niazi $3,000. He lost his left eye and left arm when an American AC-130 gunship repeatedly fired shells into the hospital in which he worked in northern Afghanistan.

The money was what officials term a "condolence payment," an expression of sympathy and sorrow for injuring Niazi when the U.S. military mistakenly hit the Kunduz hospital, killing 42 people.

Let's begin with a choice.

Say there's a check in the mail. It's meant to help you run your household. You can use it to keep the lights on, the water running and food on the table. Would you rather that check be for $9,794 or $28,639?

It's not a trick question. It's the story of America's schools in two numbers.

When Robin Bunevich and her boyfriend, Alex Rivas, decided to buy a place together, they knew they wanted to live in their favorite neighborhood, Astoria, Queens. They found the perfect two-bedroom, two-bath apartment last year. The purchase was a big, exciting step for the couple, who had previously been renting a place together. And just as they were getting ready to start the new chapter together, the process also had them thinking about what would happen if they broke up.

Police needed most of Monday afternoon to arrest all of the sit-down protesters outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington at a demonstration in favor of changing the rules on political money, voting rights and redistricting.

After more than a year of study, the White House on Wednesday finalized tougher requirements for retirement investment advisers.

The changes are intended to help Americans build bigger nest eggs while reducing fees and sales commissions they pay to advisers — keeping more money in workers retirement accounts instead of advisers pockets.

Critics say the changes will create burdensome legal requirements that could squeeze out brokers who earn commissions from working with small investors.