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Going into Overtime 

Lawmakers in Olympia are still trying to make a deal; plus, a yet-to-open school hits a snag

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Budget Impasse 

A second Special Session is set to start this week after lawmakers failed to agree on a new two-year operating budget.

Negotiations between the Republican-controlled Senate and Democrat-run House stalled over the last 30 days as Republicans demanded policy reforms and Democrats asked for new revenue streams through taxes.

“Both sides are trying, but have had limited success to reach some agreement,” says Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “But [Democrats] have so far refused to consider anything but more and more taxes.”

On Saturday, Senate Republicans approved their own budget plan in response to the House Democrats’ proposal. While both budgets would leave nearly $600 million in reserves, the Senate plan spends more on public education than the House ($1.526 billion compared to $1.349 billion), but significantly less on social services ($167 million compared to $353.3 million).

Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, criticizes the Senate GOP budget, saying it was “not an effort toward compromise.”

“The Senate Republican budget is a bad budget for Spokane,” Billig says. “It cuts services that so many in our community rely on as they work their way out of poverty.”

The Legislature must reach a budget deal before July 1 to avoid a government shutdown.

— DEANNA PAN

Crowd Control

The new Jefferson Elementary hasn’t even opened yet, but it’s already faced an overcrowding problem.

Recently, the school principal sent out a letter announcing that, due to space issues, the entire “Designated Instruction” program for students with disabilities would be moving to Grant Elementary. Parents were incensed.

“They just built a brand new building for Jefferson,” Tami Leitz, a parent of a girl with Down Syndrome, says. “Now they’re saying, ‘Oh, we don’t have space for you.’ … This was really poor planning on the part of Spokane Public Schools.”

Amid growing concern, Superintendent Shelley Redinger decided to reverse the decision: Thanks to some reworking of classroom space, the DI program could stay at Jefferson. Parents like Leitz breathed a sigh of relief.

But the overcrowding issue remains. School officials say the district did spend a lot of time planning, but two things happened: The district decided to move toward all-day kindergarten, taking up another classroom. And a higher number of students decided to “choice” into Jefferson. Families not in the boundaries of Jefferson had asked if their children could be sent to Jefferson anyway.

“Maybe it’s the old adage,” Associate Superintendent Mark Anderson says, “build it and they will come.”

— DANIEL WALTERS


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