As the State Turns

By Johnny Beaver

stateturnssymbolElection Update

Candidates argue about… everything. Look at ’em go, woo!

Meanwhile, gubernatorial incumbent John Kitzhaber has attempted to get out in front of the recent outing of his fiance as having had a sham marriage. What’s a sham marriage, you say? Well, let’s just say that First Lady Cylvia Hayes married an Ethiopian teenager (to grant citizenship) in 1997 in exchange for a fat wad of cash. And by “get out in front” of it, I meant that Kitzhaber has been recently seen trying to stop a speeding tractor trailer with his bare hands. And this time it wasn’t even a member of the Cover Oregon fleet. Good times.

In other news, Senator Jeff Merkley has managed to raise nearly $2.15 million over the last three months. There’s a good chance that this has broken the Oregon political fundraising record for a quarter. Granted, the Koch brothers had dumped about a million and a half more than that into advertising in order to give Merkley’s challenger, Monica Wehby, an edge. Because money is awesome, this edge may help Oregon voters forget about the fact that Wehby is kind of a nut, having been accused of stalking and harassment multiple times, as well as getting caught plagiarizing the bejesus out of various authors to pack her website’s health care plan. The cherry on that sundae was a quote incorrectly attributed to Thomas Jefferson.

I suppose a thanks is in order, Supreme Court. Citizens United was a totally boss ruling. Now quick, everyone, pretend that money can’t break our great democracy.

Cover Oregon Circles the Bowl

Though Oregon’s health care exchange website is now managed by the federal government as well as the Oregon Health Authority, Cover Oregon’s board is clinging to life—why? Nobody knows. At their most recent meeting, chair Liz Baxter said that because Cover Oregon was created by the legislature, said legislature should make all decisions regarding its future. Let me translate: “We’re not going anywhere until every last bit of nonsense has been spent to keep it intact.”

Whatever the purpose, this is likely to be a short-lived gesture, as the next session will see a bill designed to obliterate them.

Move Over, Ebola

Despite widespread panic and the sales of bottled water and Little Debbie’s snack cakes skyrocketing, Ebola may not be your biggest worry. The enterovirus, a respiratory illness that is one of the base components behind polio, has now reared its ugly head in four Oregonian cases. Currently about 700 cases have popped up in 46 states since the middle of August. Though it is seasonal and expected to see a decline later in fall, that’s not much help to those who will contract it and experience the coughing, body aches, breathing issues, runny nose, and even the ability to spread the virus via poop. It spreads other ways, too, of course. Saliva, mucus, etc.

Like most illnesses, the young, the old, and those with weakened immune systems are at the highest disadvantage. While it’s unlikely to cause fatalities in the manner of influenza or Ebola, this bug is no slouch and can definitely land you in the hospital. Worse yet, it’s actually here, spreading about.

The Heat Is On

Heralding some much-needed flexibility from federal education requirements, the U.S. Department of Education has given Oregon a one-year waiver that’ll allow teacher performance evaluations to be conducted without the inclusion of new standardized test scores. Since the much-maligned No Child Left Behind Act went into play, teachers have been struggling to implement the new Common Core system regarding math and English.

These new standards, while bathed in good intentions (and great ideas, if you look into them), have been confusing as hell to students, parents, and teachers alike—and the battle for integration exists among various threats, financial and otherwise. Though the new waiver has granted the state $51 million to use to help improve education for low-income families, just last year Oregon was in danger of losing its waiver over indecision in terms of applying student growth factors to both teacher and principal evaluations. No one seems willing to say it, but this indecision likely has to do with trying to enact a policy known as No Teacher, School, or Student Left Behind.

If this all sounds like a blind rat race, you’re not alone in your observation. Despite mountains of evidence against the efficacy of standardized testing, it seems as if the goal of the U.S. Department of Education is to merely create accountability rather than improvement.