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Topic: washington

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January 21, 2015 at 5:35 AM

Washington legislators must protect homeless students in K-12 schools

My column in today’s Seattle Times follows up with Solomon Muche, a young immigrant who overcame homelessness in high school and now studies at the University of Washington. He recently spoke to other kids staying at Mary’s Place about the importance of asking for help and finding opportunities to better their circumstances. Right now, thousands of children without permanent housing are struggling to get through the public education system.

University of Washington freshman Solomon Muche, 17, returns to Mary's Place in downtown Seattle to share his story of transitioning from homelessness to college student on Dec. 31, 2014. (Photo by Thanh Tan/The Seattle Times)

University of Washington freshman Solomon Muche (left), 17, returns to Mary’s Place in downtown Seattle to share his story of transitioning from homelessness to college student on Dec. 31, 2014. In the foreground, his little brother and Mary’s Place Executive Director Marty Hartman watch. (Photo by Thanh Tan/The Seattle Times)

Muche’s success is a testament to that age-old idea that everyone has potential, but they need someone to help them reach their goals. That “someone” for many students in Washington is the homeless student liaison, a position the state Legislature supports on paper and is required to provide under federal law, but has not been able to fund or expand to every district in the state.

Meanwhile, the Washington Legislature was informed on Monday of some bad numbers.  The state’s homeless-student population has jumped from 30,609 kids in the 2012-2013 school year to 32,494 the following academic year. As Seattle Times reporter Joseph O’Sullivan points out in this news story, some of that increase could be attributed to better data gathering. Whatever the reason, the problem is getting worse. Black and Native American kids in the K-12 system are three times more likely to be homeless compared to white students.


Comments | Topics: homelessness, king county, legislature

October 20, 2014 at 6:30 AM

Half a million jobs are coming to Washington. Are we ready for them?

Thinking about taking a class to learn coding? Now might be a good time. Economists project that Washington will add about 500,000 more jobs by 2022 ­­­– reassuring news for a state that is one of the fastest growing population wise in the country. It makes sense that as population grows, so do jobs in response as…


Comments | Topics: employment, job growth, washington

October 6, 2014 at 6:34 AM

Washington’s economy makes gains while household incomes were better off in 1999

Talking about the “good old days” often seems like a waste of time to me, but when looking at household incomes, it turns out the days past were actually better.

Fifteen years ago, households in Washington made more money: the state’s median household income dropped to $58,977 in 2013, an 8 percent decrease compared with $64,009 in 1999 (adjusted for inflation), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

During the same period, Washington’s per capita gross domestic product, which measures economic output based on population, rose to $54,654 per person in 2013 from $50,472 in 1999, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That represents an 8.3 percent increase with various fluctuations over the years.

The top chart shows how median household income for Washington residents has fluctuated since peaking in 1999.  The bottom chart shows how the rate changes year to year. SOURCE: WASHINGTON BUSINESS ALLIANCE.

The top chart shows how median household income for Washington residents has fluctuated since peaking in 1999. The bottom chart shows how the rate changes year to year. SOURCE: WASHINGTON BUSINESS ALLIANCE.

The point is that the state economy is doing better now than in 1999, but pocketbooks are not.


Comments | Topics: economy, median household income, washington

October 2, 2014 at 6:05 AM

Love craft beer? Thank a farmworker, and pay them better

While sitting at many bars, I often picked up a pint of craft beer and proclaimed that beer is made with hops, most of which come from the same place I did: Eastern Washington.

Jose Chavez hauls in Tomahawk-variety hop vines during the final days of the 2014 hops harvest at Loftus on  Sept. 24, 2014 in Yakima.

Craft beers depend on hops. Jose Chavez hauls in Tomahawk-variety hop vines during the final days of the 2014 hops harvest at Loftus on Sept. 24 in Yakima. BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

“Washington is the largest producer of hops in the world,” I told friends or random strangers dozens of times during the 15 years I lived out of state. “We don’t just grow apples, you know.”

Many people were surprised to learn that Washington is the globe’s top source for hops, and this should be a source of pride especially as the craft beer movement is exploding nationwide.

But like many other crops that make up this state’s $49 billion agricultural industry, the workers who pick the crops often reap the least rewards — they deserve better wages.

As The Seattle Times reported Monday, the booming hops business is now suffering from worker shortages that have hit other major Washington crops, like apples and asparagus, in recent years.


Comments | Topics: agriculture, beer, farmworkers

August 27, 2014 at 6:04 AM

What it means for schools to lose control over Title I funds and No Child Left Behind waiver

No one should envy school district leaders right now. Many are in the process of sending letters to parents telling them their child’s school is failing to meet adequate yearly progress. Plus, they’ve lost control over a total of nearly $40 million in Title I funds used to help poor students improve reading and math…


Comments | Topics: Education, nclb, waiver

July 28, 2014 at 6:09 AM

B.C. premier vows sewage treatment for Victoria — someday

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark.

It took more than a month, but the premier of British Columbia in Canada has finally answered a letter from Washington’s congressional delegation about the million gallons of raw sewage the city of Victoria flushes every hour into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

And somehow that seems fitting, since it has been more than 20 years since Washington started beating the drum about Victoria’s plumbing problems. No one north of the border seems to be in any particular hurry.

The Democratic members of Washington’s congressional delegation wrote B.C. Premier Christy Clark June 13 to urge that the province find a sewage solution “as soon as possible.” Clark’s rather tardy response promises to hold the southern end of Vancouver Island to a requirement that it develop a new sewage treatment plant. But she fails to address the key question. When, exactly? Will she even be in office? Which century?


Comments | Topics: bc, congressional, poo

June 16, 2014 at 6:09 AM

Influencing lawmakers with free food and booze

Hey taxpayers, are you aware that Washington state lawmakers can each claim a daily allowance of up to $120 when they are in a legislative session? That allotment is supposed to cover three meals, lodging and transportation costs. Chances are pretty slim anyone is getting filthy rich off the practice, and The Associated Press reports it’s still below the $155 per diem allowed for state employees traveling to Thurston County.

The problem is lawmakers don’t have to disclose when they are treated to free meals by outside groups. They get their daily allowance regardless and are permitted to enjoy as much fine dining from lobbyists as they please, so long as those occasions are “infrequent.” Only gifts that exceed $50 are supposed to be reported.

A citizen complaint last summer led the Legislative Ethics Board to take a closer look at the legislative branch’s policies on complimentary food. (Read The Seattle Times’ July 29, 2013 editorial.) The panel advised lawmakers to clarify their own rules. That nudge didn’t lead to action, so the board is taking matters into its own hands.

On Tuesday, June 17, the board will meet in Olympia to consider more defined parameters and seek public comments. Board Counsel Mike O’Connell emailed a PDF file listing the four options under consideration. See the spreadsheet below:

Source: Legislative Ethics Board

Source: Legislative Ethics Board

To avoid the appearance of being influenced by lobbyists with deep pockets and fine dining tastes, lawmakers absolutely should track and reveal when they accept free meals, and lobbyists should do the same.


Comments | Topics: disclosure, legislature, lobbying

June 9, 2014 at 6:25 AM

How to prevent the next SPU shooting

The picture emerging of Aaron Rey Ybarra is crushingly familiar.YbarraCourt

A young man with documented mental health problems (he was twice evaluated for involuntary psychiatric hospitalization) who’d said he “wanted to hurt himself and others“; who hadn’t seen a mental health provider for months and appeared to be taking his medications sporadically; yet was striving for stability, with a new job and sessions at Alcoholics Anonymous.

The picture still needs to be filled out, and the policies to spin out of this tragedy should include a review of state gun laws. But I read Ybarra’s story as a call for an important mental health reform, largely neglected here in Washington.

Ybarra may have been a good candidate for what’s known as Assisted Outpatient Treatment. It involves court-ordered outpatient therapy, with intensive supervision of a treatment plan that can include housing and other help. Patients have to have a serious illness, including hospitalizations, and often have a history of noncompliance with treatment.

New York has a program, known as “Kendra’s Law,” with about 2,500 people, at a cost of $32 million, according to a New York Times story, but it is estimated by Duke University researchers to save about 50 percent per-patient off state Medicaid costs because patients didn’t go to expensive hospitals nearly as often.

From the Duke study, which included New York and surrounding counties:


Comments | Topics: assisted outpatient treatment, gun culture, legislature

June 2, 2014 at 6:07 AM

At least some are asking right questions in Insurance Commissioner case

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler

At least some Olympians seem to be asking the right questions about a rather nasty allegation of misconduct in the Washington Office of the Insurance Commissioner.  Among them is state Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, who plans a hearing June 16 that will put the matter on center stage.

A former Spokane County District Court judge, Padden says he is disturbed at the accusation that has been leveled by administrative law judge Patricia Petersen. She claims her boss in the office threatened her job in order to obtain favorable rulings.

“I just know, from 12 years as a district court judge, that independence is a bedrock principle the entire judiciary should embrace,” Padden says.

Padden is a Republican and Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is a Democrat, but the Senate committee’s inquiry is precisely what Olympia should be doing – poking, prodding, exposing facts and dealing with the central issue of the case. If only those who are more directly responsible felt the same way.


Comments | Topics: insurance commissioner, legislature, mike kreidler

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