There were more homeless students in Washington than ever last school year. Figures released today show a record 27,390 homeless kids, nearly half again as many as in 2007-08, when the first count occurred. The one-year gain was 5.1 percent. Job losses, the poor economy and cuts in homeless services all contributed to the increase, according to the state Office of Public Instruction.
It's not just an urban problem either. Together, the big-city school districts of Seattle, Spokane and Tacoma have 4,339 homeless kids. That's far too many, but still less than one-sixth of the statewide total. As Patch in Bellevue notes, suburban Bellevue had 189 students in shelters, bunking with relatives, camping in cars or the like. That included 21 kindergartners. Not an easy way to get off to a good start in school, is it?
Mandatory sick leave
The owner of one local string of coffee shops, Cherry Street, has apparently received a sudden jolt of enthusiasm for the benefits of the city's law mandating paid sick leave for workers. The Stranger reported this afternoon that Cherry Street's Ali Ghambari has started talking up sick leave, just days after the paper blogged pointedly about signs at Cherry Street counters announcing a 1.5 percent surcharge on each order due to the sick leave requirement.
After the first Stranger report, Ghambari told KOMO News that the signs were misunderstood and the city's six-month-old law is "fantastic." Well, welcome to the Fan Club for Humane Workplace Laws. Perhaps he can tell the state Legislature, where the Economic Opportunity Institute has been pushing the idea statewide.
The state Senate today passed two bills making changes to workers compensation practices in the state. The proposals face an uncertain future in the House. Crosscut's John Stang reports:
It will be up to the House to translate a message sent Monday by the Senate with two similar workers comp measures.
SB 5128 would allow all injured workers to choose between a lump settlement and a long-term structured settlement as compensation for major on-the-job injuries. Currently only workers 55 and older have that option, while younger employees have only the long-term structured settlement options. Supporters said the bill would save money; opponents expressed concern about protection of workers' interests.
Meanwhile, SB 5127 would move the the minimum age for choosing a lump sum settlement from 55 to 40. It would also allow workers to include their attorneys in these proceedings.
"I hope the other body [the House] will be able to sort through the chaos we've enacted," said Sen.Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island.
Kirkland open space
Kirkland is on the verge of adding some open space at a good price: six acres for $4,700. Yes, you read that number correctly. The creekside Finn Hill land, picked up in a foreclosure sale, will adjoin an existing 16 acres of publicly owned green space, according to Kirkland Patch. A neighborhood activist hopes that trails could be developed in the recently annexed area, where sidewalks are relatively few and far between.
Downton Abbey for toddlers
Sesame Street got into the Downton Abbey mania today with an amusing "Upside Downton Abbey" video that ought to appeal to the pre-school set. The Downton mania is particularly torrid in Seattle, where the opening episode had the nation's highest viewership. Nationally, only the Super Bowl outdrew the show on Sunday.
The Downton Abbey spoof will remind a lot of formerly young Sesame Street fans of another British import spoof: "Monsterpiece Theater Upstairs Downstairs".
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