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Wednesday, January 24, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Frank Brouillet dies; led schools

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Long before the phrase "leave no child behind" became an education buzzword, Frank "Buster" Brouillet used his influence as a legislator and the state's top education official to champion the cause of disadvantaged students.

Those efforts, along with helping create the state's community-college system, were some of the biggest accomplishments in a long career that included 16 years in the state Legislature and 16 years as superintendent of public instruction.

"He was one of our foremost leaders and statesmen for education," said Marc Gaspard, executive director of the Higher Education Coordinating Board and a close friend.

Mr. Brouillet died Saturday of complications from leukemia. He was 72.

Mr. Brouillet was born in Puyallup and never left. His father drove milk and bread trucks and was an egg inspector. After high school, where Mr. Brouillet was a basketball and football star, he had a chance to attend military academies in Annapolis and West Point. But he opted for Washington State University and later graduated from the University of Puget Sound.

After serving in the Army, he returned home and worked as a teacher. Later he earned a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Washington.

In 1956, Mr. Brouillet won a seat in Puyallup's 25th Legislative District. He served as chairman of the Joint Committee on Education and the House budget committee.

During that time, little education legislation got passed without Mr. Brouillet's support, said Ralph Julnes, who worked for him in the Legislature and later became his administrative assistant at the state superintendent's office. "He was Mr. Education in his years in the Legislature," Julnes said.

As a legislator, Mr. Brouillet sponsored a bill that required school districts to provide special-education services for students - which Julnes said made Washington one of the few states to require such services before the federal government did.

As superintendent of public instruction Mr. Brouillet worked to make sure districts established good programs for students with special needs and improved education for migrant students and minority students.

"He championed that as a legislator, and he worked very, very hard as state superintendent to make sure districts served all children, disabled or not," said Mona Bailey, former assistant state superintendent under Mr. Brouillet and a former Seattle School District deputy superintendent.

"He definitely was ahead of his time."

Mr. Brouillet wasn't afraid to take a stand and once refused Gov. Dixy Lee Ray's request to cut the schools budget by 5 percent. And at a time when most high-level education officials were white and male, Mr. Brouillet hired women and minorities, including Bailey.

"He definitely broke the glass ceiling in his own cabinet," she said.

His critics charged he was too close to the education establishment because he had been a teacher and president of the Washington Education Association.

He resisted education trends and focused on getting more money to districts so they could do their jobs better, Julnes said. That's much different from the climate today, with a much stronger emphasis on holding schools accountable for results.

In a foreward to a state oral history of Mr. Brouillet, Julnes wrote: "While it was unspoken, we both knew the political winds in Washington education were shifting and it was time to depart."

Despite his high-powered work, Mr. Brouillet's son Marc said his father always made time to go to his children's activities and often took them along when he traveled. He was, at heart, a small-town family man, friends said.

"He obviously was a very important person, but he didn't think of himself in those terms. That was part of his charm," Gaspard said.

Mr. Brouillet ran for the state House again in 1988 but lost. He then became president of Pierce College. In the 1990s, he had also been a member of the state Higher Education Coordinating Board and director of the Education Department at University of Washington's Tacoma campus.

Mr. Brouillet is survived by his wife, Marge; his sons, Marc of Puyallup and Blair of Switzerland; his brother, Billy of Tacoma; and two grandchildren.

His memorial service, scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday, will be held, at his wish, in the auditorium at Puyallup High School, where he gave a graduation speech in 1946.

The family requests that contributions be made to the Buster's Books program at Brouillet Elementary in Puyallup or to a charity of choice. Buster's Books donations can be sent to the Broulliet Elementary PTA, 17207 94th Ave. E., Puyallup, WA 98375.

More information about Mr. Brouillet is available on the state's oral-history Web site, www.secstate.wa.gov/oralhist/default.htm.

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