Too many Oregon high school students are not prepared for college and careers

With the billions of dollars Oregon is pouring into K-12 education you’d expect students approaching high school graduation would be well-prepared for college and careers. If you go by their just released scores on the ACT college entrance exam, too many are not. 

Although Oregon public universities no longer require ACT scores for admission, and many test dates were postponed or canceled due to the global pandemic, 42% of Oregon students in the high school graduating class of 2020 still took the test, according to comprehensive data provided by ACT. 

Their performance was discouraging, mores in the cases where their performance is actually getting worse over time. With a maximum possible score of 36, the Oregon students’ average Composite score was 21, continuing a largely declining score over the past five years. Oregon did better than the 20.6 national average Composite score in 2020, but the national score was the lowest in the past 10 years.

Some analyses have concluded that exams like ACT, if combined with a student’s grade point average and other factors, can help predict student success in college. On the other hand, some critics of the tests assert that the data shows standardized tests discriminate against minority and lower income students.

A key calculation from the ACT exams is a benchmark score. That’s the minimum score needed on an ACT subject-area test to indicate a 50% chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75% chance of obtaining a C or higher in the corresponding credit-bearing college courses. The courses include English Composition, Algebra, Social Science, Biology, STEM and ELA. 

The portion of Oregon students meeting the College and Career Readiness Benchmarks by subject in 2020 was: English – 60%; science – 50%; reading – 47%; math – 36%. Only 28% of ACT-tested students in Oregon met all four College Readiness Benchmarks.

Surely Oregon could do better.

ACT encourages educators to focus on trends over time, not year-to-year changes, because trend lines offer more insight into what is happening in a state. So here are trend numbers. It’s a lot of data, but it’s worth a look to get a good picture of where Oregon stands.

Over the past five years, the percent of Oregon test takers meeting three or four of the College Readiness Benchmarks has generally declined:


The percent of test-taking Oregon students completing a core high school curriculum (4 years of English and 3 years each of math, science and social studies) has generally been declining over the past five years, too:


So has the percentage of Oregon test-takers meeting or exceeding College Readiness Benchmarks in each course area.

Five Year Trends – Percent of Oregon Students Who Met College Readiness Benchmarks

Test YearEnglishScienceReadingMathMet all 4 Benchmarks

“Our findings once again indicate that taking core courses in high school dramatically increases a student’s likelihood for success after graduation,” said ACT CEO Marten Roorda. “That’s why we need to ensure that all students of all backgrounds have access to rigorous courses and that we are supporting them not only academically, but socially and emotionally as well.”

Declines in ACT scores have been particularly notable for minority groups in Oregon, with the exception of Asians.

Five Year Trends – Average Composite Score in Oregon by Race/Ethnicity

American Indian/17.717.717.416.515.8
Alaska Native
Native Hawaiian/18.217.617.317.117.2
Other Pacific Islander

Nationally, over half of ACT-tested underserved students met none of the four College and Career Readiness Benchmarks. “That’s unacceptable, and we must do better,” said ACT CEO Janet Godwin. “COVID-19 will only exacerbate these gaps and more students will miss out on opportunities to find success.”

The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education took particular note of the fact that for the third year in a row, the average national score for African American students dropped in 2020.

This year, the national average composite score of Blacks was 16.7, significantly lower than the 22.0 average score for whites. Only 30% of Black test takers were rated ready for college-level courses in English, compared to 69% of whites, and only 12% of Blacks were rated college-ready in math, compared to 46 percent of whites. In science, just 12% of Blacks were ready for college-level courses in science, compared to 45 percent of whites. In reading, just 19 percent of Blacks achieved the minimal benchmark for college readiness compared to 54 percent of whites.

The most striking statistic is that only 6% of all Black test takers in Oregon and nationally were rated ready for college-level courses in all four areas of English, mathematics, science, and reading. Whites were more than six times as likely as Blacks to be prepared for college-level work in all four areas.

The Oregon Department says its top priority is “Graduating our students college and career ready.” It’s clear there’s a lot of work to do.

Outside money is undermining local political control

In an effort to portray herself as the down-home candidate in her contest against Democrat Sarah Gideon, Republican Senator Susan Collins sent out a text message on Oct. 21 saying Gideon has more donors from Portland, OR than Portland, ME. As of mid-October 2020, Gideon’s out-of-state contributions, $41.8 million, represented 92.3% of her total contributions.

Collins neglected to mention that 91.80 % ($11.9 million) of the donations she’s received during 2019-20 have come from outside Maine, according to, the website of the Center for Responsive Politics. That made her one of the top 10 senate recipients of contributions outside of their state during that period.

Think about that. The winner of a critical Maine Senate race that could determine which party controls the Senate may well be determined by people who don’t even live in Maine.

Political races across the country are increasingly being funded by people from other places.

In today’s contentious political campaigns, out-of-state contributions overwhelmingly dominate the higher end of fundraising for Democrats and Republicans. It’s part of the nationalization of all politics in the United States.

In Oregon, the strongest evidence of out-of-state influence on a campaign is in the race between incumbent Democrat Congressman Peter DeFazio and Republican Alek Skarlatos. Out-of-state residents have contributed 41.9% of the money raised by DeFazio; for Skarlatos, the out-of-state share is 68.6%, according to

DeFazio (L) vs. Skarlatos

Out-of-state money is also playing an increasingly important role in ballot measure battles.

In Oregon, the key backer of Measure 110 on the 2020 ballot is Drug Policy Action, a New York City-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit advocacy group that supports marijuana legalization and more lenient punishments for drug possession, use, and sale.

The group is the advocacy and political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit that was also behind Oregon’s 2014 measure legalizing recreational cannabis.

The Drug Policy Alliance has received major funding from billionaire investor George Soros, has long been involved in pushing for an end the legal war on drugs.

The next largest contributor is the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative of Palo Alto, CA, which has contributed $500,000. The Initiative is a charity established by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan.

Out-of-state political contributions come from companies with local interests, networks of politically aligned people scattered across the country, and liberal and conservative national groups mobilizing to influence state-level elections.

Oregon tried to limit out-of-district political contributions in 1994 through Ballot Measure 6, which amended the state constitution to allow candidates to ”use or direct only contributions which originate from individuals who at the time of their donation were residents of the electoral district of the public office sought by the candidate.” (Oregon Constitution Art. II, § 22). The measure imposed a 10 percent cap on the total amount of money a candidate could accept from contributors residing outside the district.

When the measure went to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the state  asserted two interests, preventing the appearance of corruption and ensuring a republican form of government, as justifications for the out-of-district ban. The state could restrict out-of-district residents’ right to vote in the district, the court held, but could not restrict such residents’ right to express themselves about the election, including by contributing money.

In August 1998, the court struck down the Oregon ballot initiative in a 2-1 decision (VanNatta v. Keisling, 151 F.3d 1215 9th Cir.1998).

“Who should really have a say in how each state is run?”, asks Dan Weiner, senior counsel at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.  “It used to be that, at least at the state level, the interests of constituents vastly outweighed any interests coming from elsewhere around the country. But that’s no longer true to some extent because of the proliferation of the campaign finance free-for-all.”

Camouflaged “news” sites are corrupting the national political process – now they are spreading in Oregon

Fake news. Biased news. Slanted news. Real news. What’s the difference? It’s getting harder to tell them apart.

Ever read any of these online Oregon news sites?

Beaver State News

Central Oregon Times

East Oregon News

East PDX Today

Lane County News

Mid Coast Times

Mid Valley Reporter

North Coast Today

Portland Courant

South Coast Times

South Oregon News

West PDX Today

Take the Portland Courant. It looks like a legitimate news site, but it is far from one.

If you slide down to the bottom of the home page and click on “About,” you’ll discover Portland Courant is put out by Metric Media LLC under a licensing agreement with the Metric Media Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

“When citizens are deprived of basic government information, communities and civic discourse suffer,” the site says. “Our approach is to provide objective, data-driven information without political bias.”

Portland Courant is, however, far from objective and free of political bias.  It is, instead, “part of a fast-growing network of nearly 1,300 websites that aim to fill a void left by vanishing local newspapers across the country,” a New York Times investigation published on Oct. 18, 2020 found. “The network, now in all 50 states, is built not on traditional journalism but on propaganda ordered up by dozens of conservative think tanks, political operatives, corporate executives and public-relations professionals,”

The network of amateurish and duplicative “news” websites is largely overseen by Brian Timpone, an internet entrepreneur, according to The Times. It is one of multiple partisan local-news sites funded by political groups associated with both the Republican and Democratic parties.

The network even goes so far as to plead for donations to The Metric Media Foundation. Its news sites say “Metric Media Foundation, LLC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit news content provider” and that donations are tax deductible. The Foundation is classified by the IRS as one of many Alliance/Advocacy Organizations within the Public, Society Benefit – Multipurpose and Other category.

While Timpone’s network is conservative, liberals are financing operations like Courier, a network of eight sites started by Acronym, a liberal political group that began covering local news in several states in 2019. Those sites, and others focused on North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Arizona, are part of the Courier Newsroom network started by Acronym, a liberal political group.

Virginia is the home of a Courier outlet, the Dogwood.

If readers click on “About” on the Dogwood site, they get this: “As the number of local news outlets declines in Virginia and across the country and the amount of digital information surges, it’s hard to know where to turn. We want to fill the gap – and your social feeds – with content that is thoughtful, engaging, inspiring and motivating.” 

But, like the other Courier sites, the Dogwood is pure liberal messaging.

Maine, where a costly battle is underway between incumbent Republican Senator Susan Collins and Democrat Sara Gideon, became a test site for the new approach in 2018 when a “news” website of anonymous origin, the Maine Examiner, popped up.

According to The Bangor (ME) Daily News, a respected local newspaper, the Maine Examiner website gained attention in the run-up to a December 2018 mayoral runoff in Lewiston, ME. when it posted several negative articles about a progressive candidate, Ben Chin.

One article contained real, leaked campaign emails in which Chin said he encountered “a bunch of racists” while campaigning. Chin’s loss in the election was attributed, in part, to the Examiner’s reporting.

It later turned out that the emails were leaked to Chin’s Republican opponent, Shane Bouchard, by a woman working as a mole in Chin’s campaign who was having an affair with Bouchard. Bouchard resigned as mayor in March 2019 after the woman leaked some of his text messages. They included one in which he appeared to compare a meeting with his fellow Republicans to a Ku Klux Klan gathering

A top Maine Republican Party official later admitted to state ethics watchdogs that he was behind the Maine Examiner.

With a steadily shrinking cadre of legitimate news outlets and staff, and the rise of political actors willing to play fast-and-loose with journalistic ethics, this race to the bottom in political news is likely to accelerate.

Brace yourself.

Republican Beutler outraising Democrat Long in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District Race

Please, make them stop! 

That’s my reaction to the blizzard of television ads running for Democrat Carolyn Long and Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler in their race for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District. They’ve been pounding my brain for weeks, often one after the other, and I don’t even live in Washington.

Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission by both candidates show they’ve been raising and spending money like drunken sailors. Together they’ve raised $7,461,992.01 and spent $5,547,062.56.

Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler / Democrat Carolyn Long

These are their individual numbers as of Sept. 30, 2020:

$ Raised$ Spent$ Cash on hand
Long3,545,045.803,317,720.92 257,476.51

And this doesn’t even count the money spent by supportive committees, such as the Republican’s Congressional Leadership Fund, or by dark money groups that aren’t required to disclose their donors.

Beutler can take some satisfaction in knowing she has a lot more cash on hand to spend in the closing days of the campaign and that she’s outraising Long, going against the national trend of Democrats bringing in more total cash in House races.

But Beutler and Long are still a small part of the political spending this election. Open Secrets, the data website of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit research group tracking money in U.S. politics, is predicting that the 2020 election will near $11 billion in total spending, smashing records.

“The 2018 election smashed fundraising records for midterms, and 2020 is going to absolutely crush anything we’ve ever seen — or imagined — before” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.

Top Contributors in Beutler/Long Race

Top Contributors to Jaime Herrera BeutlerTotal
Winning for Women$21,800
Blue Cross/Blue Shield$17,807
Emergent Biosolutions$15,600
Fisher Investments$13,200
Pro-israel America PAC$12,200
Boeing Co$12,009
L&E Bottling Co$11,800
Blackstone Group $11,217
Crow Holdings$11,206
Clearpath Foundation$11,200
Top Contributors to Carolyn LongTotal
Emily’s List$47,165
Democracy Engine$32,075$20,200
Microsoft Corp$20,013
End Citizens United $18,700
University of Washington$18,491
United for A Strong America$16,200
Tableau Software$12,300
Vancouver Public Schools$11,840
Barr Foundation$11,200

These tables list the top donors to candidates in the 2019-2020 House election cycle The organizations themselves did not donate, rather the money came from the organizations’ PACs, their individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals’ immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.

Outside Groups Spending Money in this Race

CommitteeTypeAll 2020 Total
RED – ClearPath ActionSuperPAC$65,000
RED – Congressional Leadership FundSuperPAC$406,125
RED – Defending Main StreetSuperPAC$78,222
BLUE – Democratic Congressional Campaign CmtePAC$468,404
BLUE – Fuse Washington501c$54,761
RED – Governing Majority FundSuperPAC$103,674
RED – National Republican Congressional CmtePAC$491,052
BLUE – Oneamerica Votes 501c$4,748
BLUE – Sierra Club Independent ActionSuperPAC$10
RED – WFW Action FundCarey$2
RED – Winning for WomenPAC$218
RED – Conservative group; BLUE – Liberal group

Measure 110: A flawed ballot measure pushed by outsiders (Soros/Zuckerberg are key players)

The initiative process was put in place in Oregon at the beginning of the 20th century as a way for local citizens to band together to directly initiate amendments to the Oregon state constitution and enact new state statutes.

Measure 110 on the 2020 ballot shows how the “local” element has been corrupted as national advocacy groups and wealthy out-of-staters behind the scenes invade the process. 

“There’s this perception out there that the initiative process is all about the little guy,” Jennie Bowser, a consultant who for many years studied ballot measures for the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures, told the Center for Public Integrity. “But the truth of the matter is that it’s a big business. It’s really well organized, and it’s really well funded.  And it is very, very rarely a group of local citizens who get together and try to make a difference.”

Who’s bankrolling the Measure 110 campaign? Not Oregonians.

The key backer is Drug Policy Action, a New York City-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit advocacy group. The organization supports marijuana legalization and more lenient punishments for drug possession, use, and sale. The group is the advocacy and political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit that was also behind Oregon’s 2014 measure legalizing recreational cannabis.

The Drug Policy Alliance has received major funding from billionaire investor George Soros, has long been involved in pushing for an end the legal war on drugs.

In FY2018, the most recent year for which its annual Form 990 financial filing with the IRS is available, Drug Policy Action had $953,436 in revenue and $28 million in assets. Individual contributors are not identified. 

Drug Policy Action has contributed $1,574,788.00 to the Measure 110 campaign, making it by far the largest single contributor to the group in Oregon fighting for passage of Measure 110, “More Treatment for a Better Oregon: Yes on 110”. The group operates out of 3321 SE 20th Avenue in Portland. 

The next largest contributor is the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative of Palo Alto, CA, which has donated $500,0000.   The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is a charity established and owned by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan.

Most of the money being spent by More Treatment for a Better Oregon isn’t being spent at Oregon businesses either. Its largest expenditure to date is $1,415,810.00 to Screen Strategies Media, a media strategy, planning and buying agency based in Fairfax, VA that primarily serves Democratic candidates and liberal groups. 

What is this out-of-state crowd proposing in Measure 110?

At first glance, it sounds like a simple addiction treatment measure funded by marijuana taxes. It’s much more. 

Dig down and you find it also would decriminalize the possession of dangerous drugs.

The measure would remove criminal penalties for individuals caught in unauthorized possession of controlled substances in amounts reflecting personal use and instead would impose a maximum fine of $100 or completion of a health assessment. The personal-use limits specified for particular substances are:

  • LSD, methadone, oxycodone: 40 units
  • Psilocybin: 12g
  • Heroin: 1g
  • Cocaine, methamphetamine: 2g

The Sheriffs of Oregon point out in the 2020 Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet that Measure 110 would shift millions of dollars of marijuana tax revenue from schools, mental health and addiction services, state police, cities, counties, and drug prevention programs. Instead, these funds would be redirected into a Measure 110 fund.

“The funding promised by Measure 110 is not ‘free’ money that is unallocated and sitting in state coffers waiting to be spent,” Crook County District Attorney Wade Whiting wrote in the Central Oregonian. “Marijuana tax revenue is currently being used to fund schools, police, mental health programs and existing addiction treatment and prevention programs. Measure 110 will divert dollars from these essential services.”

Measure 110 is a seriously flawed ballot measure written and bankrolled by outsiders. It deserves to be defeated.

The New York Times fails to make its case in its latest Trump probe.

I’m no Trump fan, but Sunday’s New York Times article, The Swamp That Trump Built, which major media figures will likely call a “bombshell,” is filled with innuendo but little proof that spending at Trump properties actually buys influence.

The story does document that Trump’s private properties, particularly Mar-a-Lago in Florida, have become favor-seeking cesspools, with individuals, organizations and companies directing business there.  The story also makes it crystal clear that the influence-seeking spending has been lucrative for Trump properties. 


The story also documents that an awful lot of individuals, groups and companies that patronized a Trump property had business before the administration. 

But The Times went further. It asserted that the favor-seekers got what they wanted for their money, advancing their interests.  

“An investigation by The Times found over 200 companies , special interest groups and foreign governments that patronzed Mr. Trump’s propertieswhile reaping benefits from him and his administration,” The Times reported. “Just 60 customers with interests at stake before the Trump administration brought his family business nearly $12 million during the first two years of his presidency, The Times found. Almost all saw their interests advanced, in some fashion, by Mr. Trump or his government.”

The problem is that in many cases The Times presented no hard evidence that spending by the favor-seekers at Trump properties was directly connected to favorable government decisions. Simply saying that many big spenders at Trump’s properties “saw their interests advanced, in some fashion, by Mr. Trump or his government” is not proof of malfeasance. If that is proof of corruption, all the members of Congress should be in jail.

The story is littered with references to businesses and organizations holding events at Trump properties, implying that they were buying special favors.

The Times reported, for example, that Morgan Stanley paid at least $156,882 to hold a conference at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. in 2017, Deloitte spent at least $347,529 for a conference there in June 2017 and the Food Marketing Institute paid $1.2 million to hold conferences at Trump National Doral Miami in 2018 and 2019. But all three told The Times the events had been booked long in advance. So much for buying influence with the President.

Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C.,

In another case, the Times wrote about a time when a White House meeting of restaurant executives to discuss the pandemic included Tilman Fertitta, a billionaire who had once operated a café in a Trump casino. Fertitta complained that bad publicity had forced him to return millions of dollars in federal aid intended to help strapped small businesses. He asked that the administration create a second fund for the larger private restaurateur. But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was noncommittal, the Times wrote, and the fund never materialized. I guess that connection didn’t pay off.

Then there’s David Storch, who the Times story suggests was involved in some influence peddling that began at Mar-a-Lago.

Shortly after Trump’s election, a Mar-a-Lago member invited Storch, an Illinois aviation executive, to a round of golf at the nearby Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach. They ran into Trump in the golf club’s dining room and the three ended up playing together. (The Times gratuitously noted that Trump International abuts the Palm Beach County jail)

According to The Times, “In the closing months of the Obama administration, Mr. Storch’s company, AAR Corp., had wrested from a rival a $10 billion contract to service State Department aircraft. The contract was to be the linchpin of AAR’s move into expanded government work. But as Mr. Trump took office, the competitor, DynCorp, was fighting the award in federal court.

DynCorp had a potentially powerful ally in the new president. It was owned by Cerberus Capital Management, whose billionaire co-founder Stephen A. Feinberg had donated generously to Mr. Trump’s election effort. Mr. Feinberg was in talks to take a senior administration role, while DynCorp would soon begin lobbying the administration to rescind AAR’s contract. On Inauguration Day, Mr. Storch took to the new president’s favorite social media platform and tweeted a picture of their (golf) game.”

David Storch (L) with Donald Trump at the Trump International Golf Club

That’s it. That’s all the story said. Did Storch raise the contract issue with Trump during the golf game? Did the golf game lead directly to further contacts between Trump and Storch or his representatives? Did the contact between Storch and Trump play a role in the federal court decision? What was the court’s decision? The Times story didn’t say. 

The Times story also noted  that The FLC Group, a Vietnamese conglomerate with a commercial airline subsidiary, hosted a conference at Trump’s Washington hotel in June 2018, promoting investment opportunities in Vietnam.The story then connected that event to the Federal Aviation Administration certifying eight months later that Vietnamese airlines could fly to the United States. Quite a leap.

Individuals and businesses seeking favors from the U.S. government have been spreading their money around since the American Revolution.

There’ve been cash payments to a Secretary of the Interior for control of federal oil reserves in Wyoming  and bribes in plain envelopes to a vice president in the White House, hidden campaign contributions, donations to non-profits endorsed by a member of Congress, even purchases of advertising on a puny little Texas radio station owned by a president’s wife. 

The Times story shows that the spending by favor-seekers is continuing during the Trump administration, this time in the form of paying for memberships and events at Trump properties, with active encouragement by Trump.

What the over 10,000 word story doesn’t do, however, is provide evidence of a quid pro quo, establish a clear link between all that spending and subsequent favorable government action. In other words, in its zeal to trash Trump it failed to prove its point.

Oregon evictions: the deluge is coming

In September 2020, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler urged more measures to help rental tenants. “While we’re in the middle of this pandemic, we need to do our part to protect renters from the tidal wave of evictions that we know is coming,” he said. 

A “tidal wave” is right. There’s now documentation that renter households across Oregon are on track to owe as much as $378 million in past-due rent by January 2021. Up to 150,000 of those households could be hit with an eviction filing at that point, a substantial number of them lower-income households.

A nationwide moratorium on evictions the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued is set to expire on January 1, 2021. An Oregon moratorium protects any renter unable to pay rent from being evicted until at least Jan. 8, 2021.

Moody’s Analytics analysis estimates that by the end of 2020, the average back-rent owed by renters across the United States will be $5,400, accumulating to $70 billion by the end of the year. That could translate into up to 8.4 million renter households (20.1 million individual renters) experiencing an eviction filing by January 2021. 

That’s the warnings just issued by The National Council of State Housing Agencies in a report produced by the advisory firm Stout, Risius Ross LLC.

Many renters are struggling to cover their housing costs as the coronavirus outbreak, and its economic fallout, have now stretched about seven months, and as the pandemic takes a heavier financial toll on people who are at the lower end of the earnings ladder.

“Given what appears to be a slow economic recovery, it is reasonable to expect ongoing elevated unemployment, high rent burden among low-income renter households, continued accumulation of unpaid rent, and continued risk of eviction beyond January 2021,” said the report. 

The National Council of State Housing Agencies says state housing finance agencies in 33 states , including Oregon, have established emergency rental assistance programs since the virus struck. But the group says the programs will fall short of demand.

Get ready for chaos.