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Getting Paid

Washington to raise its minimum wage; plus, Spokane approves another charter school

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A Higher Wage

Starting Jan. 1, the minimum wage in Washington — already the nation's highest — will rise 15 cents to $9.47 an hour, the Department of Labor and Industries announced on Tuesday.

Thanks to INITIATIVE 688, passed by voters in 1998, the DOL is required to calculate the minimum wage every year on Sept. 30 to keep up with the rising rate of inflation. The new minimum wage is adjusted using the Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners and clerical workers — a measure that tracks the average change in prices of more than 200 types of goods and services paid for by low-wage households.

Still, living-wage advocates argue that even $9.47 an hour isn't enough for low-income families trying to get by. According to a study released last month by the Alliance for a Just Society, single adults in Washington must make $15.99 an hour in order to meet their basic needs, pay taxes and save 10 percent of their incomes in case of emergencies. In Spokane County alone, the living wage is $14.20 an hour, the study says.

"For us, a living wage really is not just surviving," says Allyson Fredericksen, a policy associate at the Alliance for a Just Society. "It's having that ability to feel stable and not have to worry every month where that money is coming from."

The DOL says the increased minimum wage will impact more than 67,000 workers across the state, who will take home an additional $312 a year. (DEANNA PAN)

Rules of the Road

The Spokane City Council may have found a way to temporarily hush the simmering bitterness between the city's taxi drivers and new services UBER and LYFT. The two app-based ridesharing services came to town in the spring, angering traditional taxi companies who say they don't pay many of the fees or follow the same rules taxi drivers do.

In two votes Monday night, the council unanimously approved agreements outlining how Uber and Lyft will operate in the city and loosening some taxi regulations. The agreements require that Uber and Lyft pay the city 10 cents per ride and follow safety rules like vehicle inspections and zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policies. They also ban those companies from soliciting rides or picking up people hailing rides from the streets. The council will revisit the rules in nine months. For taxis, the rule changes allow more mechanics in town to offer taxi inspections and create a new temporary taxi license to exempt drivers from city license fees (about $500) for their first 60 days of driving in order to make sure they're a good fit for the company.

About 20 Lyft supporters sat in council chambers Monday in support of the changes and Bill Boomer, representing one of the city's taxi associations, urged the council to make sure the rules are enforced, especially the ban on rideshare drivers parking in taxi zones. (HEIDI GROOVER)

International Education

Chalk up another CHARTER SCHOOL for Spokane. Last year, the district approved Pride Prep, a project-based, tech-savvy charter. Last Wednesday, the Board of Directors of Spokane Public Schools approved a new charter school, the Spokane International Academy. Already, interest is high.

"Yesterday, I had about 30 emails looking to enroll their kids in our school," former Mead School District teacher Travis Franklin, the Academy's founder, said last Friday.

The Academy is the sort of school — high standards, language immersion and international travel — that appeals to elite, wealthy and hyper-involved parents. But Franklin also wants to focus on low-income and refugee students.

By putting the school in the economically depressed Hillyard neighborhood, Franklin hopes it will be easier to attract low-income families. He's also begun to talk with local refugees about the school. The Academy will use the rigorous, internationally lauded Cambridge curriculum, concentrating in particular on teaching foreign languages from an early age. (DANIEL WALTERS)

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