The Longview School District has entered the second year of a program designed for older students with special needs who leave the district but still need support and hands-on work experience.
Garett Chong, a special education facilitator at this “Transitional Academy,” has eight students this year, ranging from 18 to 21 years old who have moderate to severe disabilities. The school district rented a classroom at Lower Columbia College to host the program.
Complete with floor-to-ceiling windows, three stories and several labs, the LCC's vocational center will replace several campus buildings to c…
Chong said he helps them learn everyday routines and get the chance to spend time in jobs, like working for a short time in a grocery store. This ensures the program balances in-class learning with time for recreation, work experience and social interactions, he said.
Quality journalism doesn't happen without your help
“The goal is for them to be a part of this community,” Chong said. “We have a wonderful community here in Longview, and for them to be able to learn skills necessary to become as independent as possible (helps them) to be collaborative, to be a part of the community.”
The idea came after the district brainstormed how they could continue serving older students, said Elizabeth West, special education executive director at the Longview School District. The district provides materials for Chong’s students, and LCC offers the classroom and other campus amenities.
“It’s always a conversation of, ‘What happens when the school buses stop coming?’” West said. “LCC is in a perfect geographical location with all the supports of the community. Some students have been able to take classes.”
Special education students are baking and brewing coffee for their teachers. Their teacher says it helps them learn job and social skills.
Local school districts at the outset of the 2023 Washington state Legislature expressed a need to get more funding for its special education programs. Currently, the state pays for 13.5% of a district’s special education students. If a district has more than 13.5% of its population who have special needs, the state does not cover it.
The Longview School District last year reported 1,133 students or 18.2% who are eligible for these services, leaving about 4.7% of special education students the district has to find other ways to support. Superintendent Dan Zorn in January told The Daily News lowering the 13.5% cap — or getting rid of it altogether — would help the district to not rely as much on local taxes or federal funding options.
One bill still under consideration would do exactly that, at least eventually.
Federal funds will run out by September 2024. The school district is preparing for the worst-case scenarios.
House Bill 1436, which passed the Washington state House of Representatives with bipartisan support, would raise the ceiling from 13.5% to 15% between now and 2025. By the 2026-27 school year, the limit would be removed altogether.
A school district is legally responsible for students with special needs after they turn 18, West said.
That is what Chong’s class tries to accomplish. He said many parents have been happy with the results so far and feel their child is getting real-world experience they may not be able to get on their own.
Part of this, he said, is to connect with each student on a personal level. Chong said he likes to learn about their interests, what they might like to do for the day and what type of career or job they would want to pursue.
Students are pursuing not just college, but trade schools, apprenticeships and certification programs in the local economy dominated by engine…
“We build trust, and we build camaraderie,” Chong said. “Honoring their choices is a big deal.”
West said while many programs exist for students with more mild disabilities, those with severe disabilities have not had as much access to vocational or community services.
“Sometimes individuals with more severe disabilities just aren’t exposed. They don’t know what their choices are. ... So it’s not just career exploration; some of it is leisure exploration as well,” West said.
Sydney Brown is a news reporter for The Daily News covering education and environmental issues in Cowlitz County.
NEW YORK — For the first time in three decades, the U.S. has a new favorite dog breed, according to the American Kennel Club.
Adorable in some eyes, deplorable in others, the sturdy, push-faced, perky-eared, world-weary-looking and distinctively droll French bulldog became the nation’s most prevalent purebred dog last year, the club announced Wednesday. Frenchies ousted Labrador retrievers from the top spot after a record 31 years.
“They’re comical, friendly, loving little dogs,” says French Bull Dog Club of America spokesperson Patty Sosa. City-friendly, with modest grooming and exercise needs, she says, “they offer a lot in a small package.”
Yet the Frenchie’s dizzying rise — it wasn’t even a top-75 breed a quarter-century ago — worries its fans, to say nothing of its critics.
The buzzy little bulldogs have been targeted in thefts, including last month’s fatal shooting of a 76-year-old South Carolina breeder and the 2021 shooting of a California dog walker who was squiring singer Lady Gaga’s pets.
There’s concern that demand, plus the premium that some buyers will pay for “exotic” coat colors and textures, is engendering quick-buck breeders and unhealthy dogs. The breed’s popularity is sharpening debate over whether there’s anything healthy about propagating dogs prone to breathing, spinal, eye, and skin conditions.
The British Veterinary Association has urged people not to buy flat-faced breeds, such as Frenchies. The Netherlands has prohibited breeding very short-snouted dogs, and the country’s agriculture minister aims to outlaw even owning them.
“French bulldogs can be a polarizing topic,” says Dr. Carrie Stefaniak, a Glendale, Wisconsin-based veterinarian who’s on the Frenchie club’s health committee.
She has treated French bulldogs with breathing difficulties, and she stresses that would-be owners need to research breeders and health testing and to recognize that problems can be expensive to treat.
But she’s no Frenchie foe. She owns two and has conditioned them to run agility courses and take hilly hikes.
“These dogs can be very fit, can be very active,” Stefaniak said. “They don’t have to be sedentary dogs that can’t breathe.”
The AKC’s popularity rankings cover about 200 breeds in the nation’s oldest canine registry. The stats are based on nearly 716,500 puppies and other dogs newly registered last year — about 1 in every 7 of them a Frenchie. Registration is voluntary.
The most rarely owned? English foxhounds.
The rankings don’t count mixed-breeds or, at least for now, Labradoodles, puggles, Morkies and other popular “designer” hybrids. The AKC’s top 10 were: French bulldogs, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, German shepherds, poodles, bulldogs, Rottweilers, beagles, dachshunds and German shorthaired pointers.
With roots in England and then France, French bulldogs became chic among American elites around the turn of the 20th century, then faded from favor.
That changed, rapidly, in this century. Social media and celebrity owners (ranging from Leonardo di Caprio to Megan Thee Stallion to U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) gave the dogs fresh exposure. Still more came last year, when U.S. TV audiences watched a Frenchie named Winston take second place at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and then win the National Dog Show hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia.
Last year, about 108,000 newly registered French bulldogs surpassed Labs by over 21,000.
As a longtime breeder and a veterinarian, Dr. Lori Hunt sees Frenchies as ideal companions but their popularity as “a curse, not a blessing.”
“They’re being very exploited” by unscrupulous breeders, she said. The Westlake, Ohio-based vet has seen plenty of Frenchies with problems but rejects arguments that the breed is inherently unhealthy. Some of her own do canine performance sports.
Some other breeds are prone to ailments ranging from hip dysplasia to cancers, and mixed-breed dogs also can get sick. But recently published research involving about 24,600 dogs in Britain suggested that Frenchies have “very different, and largely much poorer” health than do other canines, largely due to the foreshortened, wrinkly face that encapsulates the breed’s je ne sais quoi.
With such findings in mind, the British Veterinary Association has said it “strongly recommends” against buying flat-faced dogs and has campaigned to scrub them from ads and even greeting cards.
The American Veterinary Medical Association is exploring ways to improve flat-faced dogs’ welfare, President Dr. Lori Teller says.
To animal rights and welfare activists, the French bulldog frenzy puts a snorting, panting face on problems with dog breeding in general.
“A lot of the breed characteristics that are bred into these dogs, they’re for looks, not necessarily health and welfare, and Frenchies are probably one of the most exaggerated examples of that,” said Dr. Lorna Grande of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, a professional group affiliated with the Humane Society of the United States.
“It is a welfare issue. These dogs are suffering,” she says.
The AKC notes that its Canine Health Foundation has donated $67 million since 1990 for research and education on many breeds, and the kennel and Frenchie clubs say there have been advances. A new breathing test made its U.S. debut on Frenchies, bulldogs and pugs at a show in January.
For the first time in three decades, the U.S. has a new favorite dog breed, according to the American Kennel Club. Adorable in some eyes, depl…
NEW YORK — Markets shuddered Wednesday on worries about a spreading banking crisis and how badly it will hit the economy, and stocks and bond yields fell on both sides of the Atlantic.
The S&P 500 sank as much as 2.1% before ending the day with a loss of 0.7%, while markets in Europe fell more sharply as shares of Switzerland’s Credit Suisse dropped to a record low. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 280 points, or 0.9%, after dropping as much as 725 points. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.1% after erasing a steep decline.
Markets trimmed their losses toward the end of the day as the Swiss National Bank said it could provide some assistance to Credit Suisse “if needed.”
But that came only after a steep drop for Credit Suisse rattled investors worldwide. Its shares in Switzerland sank 24.2% following reports that its top shareholder won’t pump more money into its investment. The bank has been fighting troubles for years, including losses it took related to the 2021 collapse of investment firm Archegos Capital.
“They’ve had issues,” said Anthony Saglimbene, chief market strategist at Ameriprise. “It’s just coming at a time when there’s more uncertainty and there’s less confidence in the banking system.”
Wall Street’s harsh spotlight has intensified across the banking industry recently on worries about what may crack next following the second- and third-largest bank failures in U.S. history over the last week. Stocks of U.S. banks tumbled again Wednesday after enjoying a brief, one-day respite on Tuesday.
The heaviest losses were focused on smaller and midsize banks, which are seen as more at risk of having customers try to pull their money out en masse. Larger banks also fell, but not by quite as much.
First Republic Bank sank 21.4%, a day after soaring 27%. JPMorgan Chase slid 4.7%.
Many analysts were quick to say the current weakness for banks looks nowhere near as bad as the 2008 crisis that torpedoed the global economy. But worries are nevertheless rising that pain spreading through the banking system could spark a downturn.
“When you have worries about contagion and a financial crisis, there is increasing risk of a global recession,” Saglimbene said, pointing to the first drop in the price of U.S. crude oil below $70 per barrel since late 2021. A weaker economy would burn less fuel.
“The regional banks are so important to small businesses, midsized businesses” by providing loans, he said. “They’re a centerpiece of the economy.”
Much of the damage for banks is seen as the result of the Federal Reserve’s fastest barrage of hikes to interest rates in decades. The Fed has pulled its key overnight rate to a range of 4.50% to 4.75%, up from virtually zero at the start of last year, in hopes of driving down painfully high inflation.
Higher rates can tame inflation by slowing the economy, but they raise the risk of a recession later on. They also hurt prices for stocks, bonds and other investments. That latter factor was one of the issues hurting Silicon Valley Bank, which collapsed Friday, because high rates forced down the value of its bond investments.
The Fed’s rate hikes over the past year have shocked the system following years of historically easy conditions. In his annual letter to investors, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink pointed to prior eras of rising rates that led to “spectacular financial flameouts,” such as the yearslong savings and loan crisis.
“We don’t know yet whether the consequences of easy money and regulatory changes will cascade throughout the U.S. regional banking sector (akin to the S&L Crisis) with more seizures and shutdowns coming,” he wrote.
Some of this week’s wildest action has been in the bond market, where traders are rushing to guess what all the chaos will mean for future Fed action. On one hand, stress in the financial system could push the Fed to hold off on hiking rates again at its meeting next week, or at least refrain from the larger rate hike it had been potentially signaling.
On the other hand, inflation is still high. While taking it easier on interest rates could give more breathing space to banks and the economy, the fear is such a move by the Fed could also give inflation more oxygen.
Weaker-than-expected economic reports released Wednesday may have allayed some of those worries. One showed that inflation at the wholesale level slowed by much more last month than economists expected. It’s still high at a 4.6% level versus a year earlier, but that was better than the 5.4% that was forecast.
Other data showed that U.S. spending at retailers fell by more than expected last month. Such data could raise worries about a recession on the horizon, but they may also take some pressure off inflation in the near term.
That caused the yield on the two-year Treasury to plummet. It tends to track expectations for the Fed, and it dropped to 3.89% from 4.25% late Tuesday. That’s a massive move for the bond market. The two-year yield was above 5% just a week ago, at its highest level since 2007.
In Europe, indexes tumbled on weakness from banks. France’s CAC 40 dropped 3.6%, and Germany’s DAX lost 3.3%. The FTSE 100 in London fell 3.8%.
On Wall Street, companies in the oil and gas business had the sharpest stock drops. Helping to cushion the blow were gains for several Big Tech stocks. They’ve had their own struggles recently, but they tend to benefit from lower interest rates.
All told, the S&P 500 fell 27.36 points to 3,891.93. The Dow lost 280.83 to 31,874.57, while the Nasdaq rose 5.90 to 11,434.05.
Russia has weathered sweeping Western economic sanctions better than many expected. Economic life for everyday Russians hasn’t changed that mu…
WASHINGTON — A new “good neighbor” rule issued by the Environmental Protection Agency will restrict smokestack emissions from power plants and other industrial sources that burden downwind areas with smog-causing pollution they can’t control. Nearly two dozen states will have to cut harmful industrial emissions of nitrogen oxide and other pollutants to improve air quality for millions of people living in downwind communities.
The final rule, issued Wednesday, will save thousands of lives, keep tens of thousands of people out of the hospital, prevent millions of asthma attacks and reduce sick days, according to the agency.
“Every community deserves fresh air to breathe. We know air pollution doesn’t stop at the state line,’’ said EPA Administrator Michael Regan.
The rule will take effect in May for power plants and “lock in significant pollution reductions to ensure cleaner air and deliver public health protections for those who’ve suffered far too long from air-quality related impacts and illness,” Regan said. The limits on industrial sites take effect in 2026.
States that contribute to ground-level ozone, or smog, are required to submit plans ensuring that coal-fired power plants and other industrial sites don’t add significantly to air pollution in other states. In cases where a state has not submitted a “good neighbor” plan — or where EPA disapproves a state plan — the federal plan would take effect to ensure downwind states are protected.
A 2015 rule set by EPA blocks states from adding to ozone pollution in other localities. The rule applies mostly to states in the South and Midwest that contribute to air pollution along the East Coast. Some states, such as Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Wisconsin, both contribute to downwind pollution and receive it from other states.
Environmental and public health advocates hailed the final rule as a life-saving measure that will significantly cut air pollution that crosses state lines, harming people who live hundreds of miles away from power plants, cement factories, steel mills and other industrial polluters.
“Too many communities breathe unhealthy air because pollution from power plants and industrial sources blows across state lines,’’ said Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association. “This rule will curb emissions that contribute to unhealthy levels of ozone in downwind communities and help achieve cleaner air for people who live near polluting sources.’’
The National Mining Association slammed the rule as part of an ongoing, cumulative effort by the EPA under President Joe Biden to force the closure of coal-fired power plants across the country.
“With each rule that targets well-operating coal plants – the very same plants that are called on to keep the lights on when renewables or natural gas are unavailable and consumer demand soars – our electricity grid becomes increasingly vulnerable to crippling supply shortfalls,’’ said Conor Bernstein, vice president of the mining group.
The cross-state pollution rule, combined with rules on wastewater pollution, mercury and air toxics, and rules expected on greenhouse gas emissions, “make it impossible for utilities to make decisions based on the merits of what keeps the lights on, forcing those utilities to make decisions solely based on the EPA’s agenda,’’ Bernstein said.
He faulted EPA for failing to consider what he called “America’s energy reality.’’ As a result, “Americans and American businesses will continue to pay increasingly more for electricity that is less and less reliable,’’ Bernstein said. “Even worse, the EPA is unilaterally making these decisions for the states.’’
Regan disputed that, saying EPA considered thousands of comments on the rule, including from the power industry.
“We have worked with a lot of our grid operators and our regional planning organizations that focus on managing electricity. And we have really prioritized reliability,’’ he told reporters in a conference call Wednesday.
Regan dismissed complaints by West Virginia Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito that the rule could threaten electricity affordability and reliability in their state and others.
The rule gives power plants flexibility for how to comply, including longstanding emissions trading programs and scrubbers used by many power plants, EPA said.
“This rule has some built-in features that we believe allows for us to achieve our public health goals, but also doesn’t jeopardize reliability,’’ Regan said.
Electricity produced from coal has dropped dramatically in the U.S. over the past decade and-a-half, thanks to competition from cheap and abundant natural gas, declining prices for renewable energy and environmental regulations. Many plants have been shuttered, and a further 23% of the country’s operating coal-powered fleet is scheduled to retire by 2029, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Ground-level ozone, which forms when industrial pollutants chemically react in the presence of sunlight, can cause respiratory problems, including asthma and chronic bronchitis. People with compromised immune systems, the elderly and children playing outdoors are particularly vulnerable.
A 2021 report by the lung association found that more than 123 million Americans lived in counties that experienced repeated instances of unhealthy ozone levels. Climate change will likely exacerbate the problem by causing more hot sunny days conducive to high ozone levels.
Hayden Hashimoto, a lawyer for the Boston-based Clean Air Task Force, said the new rule will protect residents of downwind states — including many in the East Coast — from smog caused by inadequate pollution controls in upwind states in the Midwest.
“Downwind states that have already reduced their emissions have been left in the untenable position of trying to solve air quality problems that have been largely caused by upwind sources” from nearby states, he said.
Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.