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Take Note: Some stumping; Others surfing

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Two Seattle parents could move onto the national stage this week when a Presidential candidate endorses their proposed overhaul of Washington State's school system.

Frustrated by what they consider public education's failures, Fawn and Bill Spady last year wrote a ballot initiative that would allow voters in districts to approve what amounts to secession from the state school system. Schools in these "reformed" districts would continue to receive public funding, but they would have to meet only the state's requirements for private schools, which are less stringent than those for public schools.

Also, schools would be run by certified teachers, with administrators and district staff members relegated mostly to leasing space for the schools.

A host of national conservative education thinkers have endorsed the plan.

The Spadys are mum on which Presidential contender will add his name to their cause, but at least two candidates--Republicans Alan Keyes and former U.S. Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander--are slated to be in Seattle this week.

They may never have had the urge to spend a rainy day curled up by the fire reading their children's history textbooks, but some Colorado parents apparently are eager to use the Boulder Valley school district's newest instructional materials.

Unauthorized parental use of schools' Internet accounts, which allow students and teachers to tap into the global computer network, has become a growing problem, district officials say.

In fact, Libby Black, the district's Internet-project coordinator, recently drafted a letter encouraging parents to obtain their own Internet accounts through a local provider.

Boulder Valley, a pioneer in the use of telecommunications, has given roughly 3,500 students and teachers free access to the Internet, for which it pays a flat annual fee.

But recently, officials suspect, more and more parents have been tapping into the network from home to conduct business and otherwise cybersurf--further limiting student access. The 26,000-student district has six modems with Internet access in the schools and plans to increase that number to 32 this summer. But, even then, parents could potentially bump students from the network.

--Drew Lindsay & Peter West

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