February 02, 2023

It's Thursday! And it's Groundhog Day. That's when a rodent across the country tells us whether or not we are going to have six more weeks of winter.

  • Seattleites already know it will be winter through June-uary, so that takes a bit of the spice out of Punxsutawney Phil's prediction.

πŸŒ₯ Today's weather: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 50.

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Today's newsletter is 933 words β€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Washington may lower mandatory school age from 8 to 6

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Washington is the only state in the nation that doesn't require kids to go to school until age 8 β€” but that could change this year.

What's happening: A bill in Washington's Legislature would lower the state's compulsory age for school attendance from 8 to 6.

  • With few exceptions, parents of kids not in public or private school would need to document they are offering robust homeschooling by age 6

repoThe big picture: More than half of U.S. states β€” 26 β€” require students to start school by age 6, according to the Education Commission of the States. Others mandate school attendance by either 7 or 5.

Why it matters: State Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island), who chairs the state Senate's education committee and is sponsoring the measure, said Washington has been pushing to get all students proficient in reading by third grade, a milestone viewed as critical to their academic success.

  • But that's a hard goal to reach if students aren't required to go to school until they're already the age of a typical third grader, she said.
  • A 2012 analysis commissioned by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that students who didn't read proficiently by third grade were four times as likely to fail to graduate high school on time.

What they're saying: "We need children to have instruction, however it might be given," Wellman said during a recent public hearing. "I cannot stress how important it is to start learning as early as possible."

The other side: Previous efforts to lower the age for mandatory school attendance have faltered amid opposition from parents.

  • Several parents also testified in opposition to this year's bill, saying it would take away parents' ability to decide what's best for their children.

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2. Seattle police use AI to analyze bodycam footage

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The Seattle Police Department is one of a growing number of police agencies using a new AI system that analyzes officers' body camera footage and flags problematic encounters, Axios' Jennifer A. Kingson writes.

Why it matters: Police departments may be more likely to seek out such tools after five Memphis Police Department officers were charged with second-degree murder and other crimes in the death of Tyre Nichols.

How it works: When police departments sign up with the platform β€” developed by a company called Truleo β€” audio recordings from all officers' body cameras are fed into its system daily for automatic transcription and analysis.

  • The platform reviews the recordings in seconds using natural language processing, highlights good and bad interactions, and sends reports to supervisors.
  • If an officer uses profanity, racial slurs, insults or threats β€” or gets into an inappropriate physical altercation β€” their boss finds out within hours.
  • Problematic phrases β€” like "I can't breathe" or "you're hurting me" β€” get flagged right away.

What they're saying: Seattle Police Department spokesperson Sgt. John O'Neil told Axios Seattle that "it’s too early in the process to speak to measurable outcomes" from the department's use of the technology.

  • "However, we look forward to the possible insights Truleo may provide in the future, and we continue to be committed to data- and evidence-based policing," O'Neil wrote in an email.

The other side: The ACLU of Washington is concerned the technology could potentially be used to ramp up police surveillance, given how much information body cameras pick up even about those not suspected of crimes.

  • "The expansion of this kind of AI technology in general to make classifications and judgments about human behavior poses serious civil liberties and privacy concerns," Jennifer Lee, the ACLU-WA's Technology and Liberty Project manager, told Axios Seattle.

Full story: New AI tool immediately analyzes police bodycam footage

3. Soundgarden nominated for Rock Hall of Fame

Chris Cornell at Lollapalooza in 1992. Photo: Steve Eichner/WireImage

Soundgarden may make it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this year.

Driving the news: The grunge-rock band, which formed in Seattle in the 1980s and is known for tracks like "Black Hole Sun" and "Rusty Cage," was one of 14 acts nominated for the Rock Hall yesterday.

  • The group, headed by the late Chris Cornell, was previously nominated in 2020, but didn't make the final cut.

Our thought bubble: Where's the love for Alice in Chains and Modest Mouse (we claim them, so back off, Portland)?

  • We're also still salty that Tacoma garage rock band The Sonics continues to get snubbed, after being eligible since 1991. (Check out "The Witch," "Strychnine," and, of course, their iconic take on "Louie, Louie.")

What's next: The Rock Hall's 2023 inductees will be announced in May.

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4. Morning Buzz: Farewell to a Storm champion

Breanna Stewart during a game in 2022. Photo: Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

πŸ€ Two-time Seattle Storm champion Breanna Stewart is leaving to join the New York Liberty.

  • Stewart led the league in scoring last year and was twice named the WNBA Finals MVP. (Reuters)

πŸ“‰ REI has joined the recent wave of layoffs, announcing yesterday that it plans to lay off 8% of its corporate staff. (Seattle Times)

πŸ—³ Incumbent Seattle City Councilmember Tammy Morales announced she will run for re-election. (Crosscut)

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5. Charted: Seattle-area rents still high, despite recent downtick

Change in average asking rent for apartments in select markets
Caption: Data: Moody's Analytics; Table: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

We've been sharing good news lately about rents in Seattle starting to trend down. But the overall picture is that local rents still rose last year β€” by a lot.

By the numbers: Of 79 U.S. metropolitan areas, Seattle's saw the second highest increase in rent prices between the fourth quarter of 2021 and the fourth quarter of 2022, according to Moody's Analytics.

  • Average asking rents in the Seattle metro area spiked by 17.1% during that timeframe.
  • Only the Knoxville, Tenn., metro area saw a greater increase β€” a 19.3% jump.

The bottom line: It will take quite a few months of declining rent prices to counteract the big spike we saw in 2022.

Editor's note: An item in Tuesday's newsletter was corrected to reflect that the Green Comet was last seen 50,000 years ago (not that it will be seen again in 50,000 years).

⏱ Melissa still hasn't vacuumed in preparation for her mom's fast-approaching visit.

πŸ“­ Clarridge is is stalking her mailbox with worry since all the "work" clothes she ordered for Axios' DC retreat next week have not yet arrived and she didn't have a Plan B and nothing pre-pandemic fits.

This newsletter was edited by Rachel La Corte and copy edited by Elizabeth Black.