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Failure to Launch 

When it comes to planned sex-ed curriculum change, Spokane Public Schools backs out; plus, another 44 patrol officers for SPD?

click to enlarge Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl

LET'S (NOT) TALK ABOUT SEX

After a months-long process to add the item into the school board meeting agenda, Spokane Public Schools came close to changing its SEXUAL EDUCATION CURRICULUM. But at the last minute — days before the meeting — the district pulled the curriculum adoption out.

At the June 28 board meeting, the school board was expected to approve a sexual education curriculum called "Get Real," developed by Planned Parenthood and published by a nonprofit called Education, Training and Research that provides science-based health and education programs. Two days before the meeting, however, district administration decided to remove the item from the meeting, says SPS spokesman Kevin Morrison.

"I'm glad that they pulled it and appear to be open to taking a little bit more time," says Stephanie Cates, Spokane County Republican Party chairwoman. "We hope that they reach out more broadly to the community to get public input."

A Human Growth and Development citizens advisory committee, comprised of around 15 to 18 members and representing various local agencies, spent months narrowing down curricula that would align with state standards. The committee settled on the "Get Real" curriculum for grades 6 through 9. According to the ETR website, the curriculum focuses on abstinence from sex being the healthiest choice to avoid sexually transmitted disease or pregnancy, promotes relationship skills, and highlights the importance of parents educating kids.

When the item was added to the agenda, the curriculum was "widely supported," Morrison says.

"Nobody was aware of any issues until [Monday] afternoon," he says. On Monday, one member of the committee that recommended the curriculum decided to withdraw support for it. The district administration decided to pull the item from the agenda, because there was no reason to rush the process, says Morrison.

On Facebook, the Spokane County Republican Party urged people to attend the meeting and voice opposition to the sex-ed curriculum, saying it would "confuse countless children in our city" and "alienate many people of faith in our district."

Cates declined to cite any specific part of the curriculum that Republicans objected to, but said the main problem is Planned Parenthood's influence: "We believe that Planned Parenthood really has no place in our schools." (WILSON CRISCIONE)

FORTY-FOUR SHORT?

The Spokane Police Department could use another 44 PATROL OFFICERS, according to preliminary analysis of how cops in Spokane could spend their time. The final report by researcher and consultant Tim Freesmeyer will be released in late July, but city councilmembers were briefed on the study earlier this week.

The analysis "lays the foundation for a discussion on proper staffing levels for the patrol division, allocation of those resources, shift lengths, and what the community expectations are of their police department," says SPD Chief Craig Meidl.

The long-anticipated study, commissioned by SPD using a fedderal grant, analyzed Spokane patrol officers' time and workload using a "30/30 split" model. If officers are expected to split their time evenly between "proactive" and "reactive" policing, then the department needs to increase the patrol staff by 44 percent, or 25 percent. That increase could cost the city up to $5.5 million, according to the Spokesman-Review.

The study could be significant in the city's upcoming negotiations with the Spokane Police Guild, the union representing officers. The city's 2017 budget added four new resource officers, for a total of about $500,000. Within the past few years, SPD has added 35 officers, not all within patrol.

"What we need to do going forward now is get with the mayor's team, Chief Meidl and his team and decide what's best for Spokane," says Councilperson Lori Kinnear, chair of the city's Public Safety Committee. While Kinnear agrees that Spokane could use more patrol officers, she notes that other areas within SPD could also use more help, such as the records department.

"We have to be looking at this in terms of the whole agency, not just patrol, which was the focus of the study," she says. (MITCH RYALS)

THE WAGE STUDY GAP

For the last few years, the research regarding MINIMUM WAGE HIKES has resulted in gloating by their proponents, as the apocalyptic warnings of job loss raised by opponents never came to pass. Even as the city's minimum wage has marched rapidly toward $15 an hour, Seattle's economy has been booming and unemployment has been extremely low.

On Monday, that narrative was dealt a blow: An ideologically diverse group of University of Washington professors, using the sort of detailed state employment data that is rare in studies of the minimum wage, issued their latest report about Seattle's minimum wage experiment.

The leap from $11 an hour to $13 an hour in January 2016, the team estimated, increased wages for low-wage employees by 3 percent, but decreased hours by 9 percent. The overall result? Low-wage workers, on average, receive about $125 less because of the minimum wage hike.

The previous week, the city of Seattle trumpeted a study by UC Berkeley's Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics that it had commissioned. That study looked at only restaurant workers as a proxy for minimum wage workers, and found that the hike increased wages without hurting employment. (DANIEL WALTERS)

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