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COURTESY DHM - John Horvick
April 01, 2020

Survey confirms COVID anxiety

by Dick Hughes/ For Oregon Capital Bureau
The data released by DHM Research in Portland undercut the narrative prominent in national media that young people as blasé about COVID-19 and feeling invulnerable.
April 01, 2020

Model: Social distancing working

by Dick Hughes/ For Oregon Capital Bureau
Under Oregon's current social distancing restrictions, the modeling suggests 200 to 1,200 people would be actively infected on May 2.
PMG FILE PHOTO - Oregon State Police don't plan to stop people from traveling, but they would like people to limit their trips.
March 26, 2020

State police: Stay-at-home order isn't martial law

by Dick Hughes/Oregon Capital Bureau
Police won't stop you from driving, but popular destinations ask visitors to stay away until pandemic has passed.
PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Medical supplies like N95 masks and gowns being donated by Medical Teams International to Providence Global Partnerships. The Oregon Health Authority is releasing more detailed data on COVID-19 patients.
March 25, 2020

New data sheds light on COVID-19 patients

by Dick Hughes/Oregon Capital Bureau
Oregon's Health Authority had released cumulative data from Jan. 24, plus daily updates on confirmed cases, testing and deaths.
March 25, 2020

Oregon extends income tax deadline to July 15

by Dick Hughes/Oregon Capital Bureau
Some legislators worry a delay could create up to a $1.5 billion hole in the state budget.
March 23, 2020

Is Oregon 'governable?'

by Jake Thomas & Sam Stites/Oregon Capital Bureau
The 2019 Legislature devolved into a debacle when Republicans didn't show up to play. Is that the new playbook for the state?
EO MEDIA GROUP - A tent outside the emergency room entrance at St. Charles Redmond will be used to triage incoming patients who have respiratory symptoms.
March 19, 2020

Brown pressured to issue shelter-in-place order

by Jake Thomas/ Oregon Capital Bureau
The hospital association is asking Gov. Kate Brown to issue a shelter-in-place order that would confine most people to their homes. Brown isn't planning on an order but that could change.
JONATHAN HOUSE/PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Gov. Kate Brown says she's worried about how her messages about COVID-19 are received in rural Oregon.
March 19, 2020

Brown worries how message is received in Eastern Oregon

by Dick Hughes/ For Oregon Capital Bureau
Brown said officials in Eastern Oregon had urged her not to take that action, pointing out that many local residents depended on such restaurants for their daily meals and social interaction.
EO MEDIA GROUP - School districts are reeling from the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Mar 19, 2020 748

State education system reeling from outbreak

Online learning, graduation requirements and equity all topics of discussion for Oregon's education leaders.
COURTESY PHOTO: CAPITAL PRESS - The Jackman-Long Building at the Oregon State Fair and Exposition Center is the site of an emergency hospital being built by the state.
Mar 18, 2020 895

State's newest 'hospital' pops up at fairgrounds

Oregon Medical Station is a mobile emergency hospital that the state purchased several years ago in case of a health crisis.
PMG FILE PHOTO - Coffee Beer in Southeast Portland is one of the small businesses that could be hard hit by an economic shutdown caused by fears of the coronavirus.
Mar 17, 2020 615

Oregon economic advisory council looks for ways to ease virus' impact

Representatives from business and labor groups say infusing cash into businesses statewide a top priority.
PMG FILE PHOTO - Oregon lawmakers could return to the Capitol in the next few weeks for a specail session to deal with the state's COVID-19 response.
Mar 16, 2020 86

Special session looms as virus hammers economy

State leaders are waiting to see how what the federal response shapes up before lawmakers return to the Capitol.
JONATHAN HOUSE/ PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Gov. Kate Brown, at a press conference Thursday, said schools won't close, but gathers were canceled. Later in the day she closed schools.
Mar 13, 2020 192

In about face, Brown orders schools closed

On the same day she called it a 'last resort,' Brown says staffing shortages and health concerns prompted the move.
OREGON CAPITAL BUREAU: JAKE THOMAS - Gov. Kate Brown, flanked by students and supporters, signed a sweeping executive order on climate change Tuesday morning, March 10.
Mar 12, 2020 1133

Oregon governor: Exec order on climate change sidesteps stymied Legislature

Governor said actions needed in response to legislative inaction and to protect future generations; Republicans plan a legal challenge.
JAKE THOMAS/OREGON CAPITAL BUREAU - Gov. Kate Brown details steps Oregon is taking to limit the spread of COVID-19 at a press conference in Portland on March 12, 2020.
Mar 12, 2020 157

Brown orders measures to combat coronavirus outbreak

Gov. Kate Brown has signed an executive order banning social gatherings. Public health officials said Oregon could see 75,000 cases by mid-May unless action is taken.
PMG FILE PHOTO - Nkenge Harmon Johnson, chief executive officer of the Urban League of Portland, decided against seeking the Senate District 10 seat held by the late Jackie Winters.
Mar 11, 2020 125

Urban League CEO Johnson won't run for Marion County Senate seat

Post held by the late Jackie Winters attracts Republican incumbent Boles and two local Democrats to May primary.
COURTESY PHOTO: MULTNOMAH COUNTY - Candidates lined up for the May 19 primary election in several key races around the state.
Mar 11, 2020 521

Candidates line up as Oregon's election season heats up

Key House and Senate races could be highly contested as Republicans hope to gain ground on Democratic supermajorities.
PMG FILE PHOTO - Oregon lawmakers left dozens of bills without a vote when they abruptly adjourned March 5.
Mar 09, 2020 434

Abrupt session ending left pile of bills in its wake

Lawmakers' quick exit left unfinished business in the House and Senate, including funding for housing projects and wildfire fight.
SAM STITES/ OREGON CAPITAL BUREAU - House Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney talk with reporters after ending the 2020 session.
Mar 05, 2020 1436

Democrats end the 2020 session

It was an abrupt conclusion to a session trademarked by stalemate and bitter partisan divisions.
COURTESY PHOTO: INTEL CORP. - Intel Corp.'s Oregon microchip plants could be affected by the coronavirus.
Mar 04, 2020 649

Will coronavirus outbreak make Oregon's economy sick?

Quarantines would hurt Oregon's economy, but the expanding virus could also hurt state's largest export market: China.

Capital Chatter: 5 New Year's proposals

In the interest of stirring the political pot, Dick Hughes offers possibly provocative proposals for education in Oregon.

I've never been one to make New Year's resolutions or annual predictions. Instead, in the interest of stirring the political pot, I offer five possibly provocative proposals for education in Oregon.

1. Kill the idea that teachers and other educators have been underpaid.

Salaries are based not on one's worth to society but on the number of people deemed available and competent to fill the job. That's why Joe and Josephine Pro Athlete make more than you and I do -- although Joe is paid zillions more than Josephine, which is unconscionable.

However, there are caveats.

As the pool of qualified job applicants dwindles, school districts must innovate. Raising salaries is one approach, especially when union and district leadership agree to put the money into entry-level salaries.

Labor-management negotiations probably would look far different if the priorities were set by potential job applicants and new employees. For example, ditching the traditional seniority system for job placements, work schedules or other areas could make a district far more attractive to new hires. So could offering free childcare to young couples.

A related issue is that working-class Oregonians, like their kin across the country, cannot afford to buy homes. Student loans are one reason. Until Congress acts — if it does — the Oregon Legislature and school districts could take matters into their own hands by offering loan repayments. Should the state launch a program to support people going into education, rural health care or other desired jobs that meet the state's goals?

2. Require a full academic year of student teaching — and pay the student teachers, or at least cover their tuition cost.

Teaching is really hard work. Student teaching is time-consuming. However, future teachers need the experience of preparing for the school year, opening the year, going through the ups and downs, and closing the year.

One term of student teaching is inadequate. There is too much to learn, especially about classroom management.

Better-prepared teachers will be more effective teachers and more likely to last longer.

3. Bring back sabbaticals.

It's true that teachers and many other school employees get summers "off" and vacations during the year. But the good teachers, counselors and administrators put in an incredible amount of unpaid time during those supposed vacations.

Burnout is real. Research suggests that if a student starts the day in a class led by a teacher suffering from burnout, that student's learning will suffer throughout the rest of the day. Districts axed sabbaticals to save money, but people should be encouraged to take extended time off to get a fresh take on life and learn new skills.

This would be one way to retain experienced teachers.

4. Allow Oregon's community colleges and small institutions to unite.

Small private colleges are in a financial bind. Meanwhile, the regional state universities struggle to maintain their places.

Why not allow a community college to join with a regional or private university? That might bring down student costs while maintaining diversity in offerings, including varied approaches to teacher training.

I know, I know, there would be all sorts of things to work through. But are you going to be naysayer or a "Let's do it"?

5. Make classes relevant.

In my era, boring classes seemed acceptable. That won't cut it anymore. Dropping out no longer is considered appropriate.

The key is for each student to have a reason to come to school each day. That calls for profound redesign of curriculum and teaching methods to make classes interesting, perhaps transforming basic science into "crime science analysis," economics into "how to be a music mogul" and English composition into "how to create and produce a screenplay."

We've come to our senses by recognizing that career and technical education classes have tremendous value. It is common for 90% of CTE students to graduate, as Gov. Kate Brown frequently touts. What she and others don't say enough, however, is that music, theater, sports and other programs also can achieve those levels. For each student, the answer may be different – but it always involves a caring adult.

North Salem High School sought to raise its graduation rate through identifying a trusted adult to serve as an advocate for each student at risk of dropping out. For many advocates, that meant checking in daily with their student.

The school's goal was to boost the graduation rate 10 points within four years. It was accomplished in one year.

Dick Hughes, who writes the weekly Capital Chatter column, has been covering the Oregon political scene since 1976. Contact him at,, or