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Ahead of the Curve 

Spokane Public Schools want to start a charter school; plus, lawmakers’ voting records from Olympia

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Chartering a Course

There are 295 school districts across the state of Washington. And so far only one, Spokane Public Schools, has opted to become a charter school authorizer. One reason, Superintendent Shelley Redinger says, is because local district leadership has experience in the charter school world.

“When I was in Oregon as a superintendent, we jumped on board early and turned in an application [to authorize a charter school],” Redinger says. School board president Bob Douthitt had a child at a charter school, and Deana Brower, the most recently elected school board member, once worked at a charter school.

Charter schools are non-traditional schools funded by public money, but often run by separate nonprofit organizations.

“We actually have some staff that approached us saying they would like to help lead a charter school,” Redinger says. Otherwise, she says, the district would look for an outside charter management organization with a “proven track record” to run the school.

Charters typically have more flexibility than traditional schools, but have ranged in quality and success. Yet, Redinger says, charters have done best when they focus on at-risk students, and Spokane’s first charter school would do the same, specifically recruiting low-income and diverse students.

“We want new techniques and strategies to reach at-risk students and close the achievement gap,” she says.

However, a new lawsuit was recently filed by the Washington Education Association and other groups, challenging the constitutionality of the charter school law that voter’s passed last fall. But Redinger doesn’t expect the lawsuit to stop future charter schools in Washington.

“We aren’t the first state in the nation to have charter schools. We’re one of the last,” Redinger says. “If there are any decisions to come out of the lawsuit, it would be to change the language.”

The district aims to have a charter school open by the fall of 2014.

— DANIEL WALTERS

Missing Votes

With more than 600 recorded roll call votes in both the Washington state House and Senate, most lawmakers maintained a decent voting record this year, according to a newly released report by WashingtonVotes.org.

The database shows missed roll call votes during the 2013 regular and special sessions. Only 10 legislators missed 50 or more votes while 53 had a perfect record.

Rep. Larry Crouse, R-Spokane Valley, was one of the outliers: He missed 121 votes out 694, including the vote for the 2013-15 capital budget.

“This has been a very difficult session for me, healthwise,” Crouse explains. He told The Inlander that he had surgery shortly after he was sworn in and got food poisoning later.

“And then I got sick,” he adds. “I got just about everything you could.”

Toward the end of the regular session in March, Crouse says his wife, Peggy, fell seriously ill, so he missed both the first and second special session to take care of her. He’s currently at the Mayo Clinic with her in Rochester, Minn.

Crouse, who turns 69 in December, says he’s seriously considering retiring after undergoing numerous surgeries in the past few years. “I just kind of feel like I’ve been doing the job, but I haven’t doing it at the level I have in the past,” he says.

Here’s how other area lawmakers’ voting records compared: Sen. Michael Baumgartner missed 10 votes. Rep. Kevin Parker missed two. Rep. Matt Shea missed one. Not missing any: Sen. Andy Billig; Sen. Mike Padden; Rep. Timm Ormsby; and Rep. Marcus Riccelli.

— DEANNA PAN

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