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Open primaries worth exploring

Editorials

Even the parties aren't squawking about the idea ' at least, not yet

Have Phil Keisling and Norma Paulus got a deal for you.

The two former Oregon secretaries of state want Oregon to open its primary elections, so voters can cast a ballot for any candidate they choose rather than just for one their party deems the best.

The plan to switch to a so-called open primary is in an initiative Keisling, a Democrat, and Paulus, a Republican, hope to place on the November ballot. An effort to promote interest is under way and came to Jackson County early this week.

Such primary elections are relatively unusual nationwide. Several states use variations on the Keisling-Paulus plan, and most of them have faced legal complications because of it.

Their main drawback, in our view: They irritate the Republican and Democratic parties, sometimes to the point of legal action.

But the parties are relatively quiet on the subject in Oregon at the moment. Politicians from both major parties are looking for ways to make Oregon's political system work better than it has in recent years. They are acknowledging that extreme voices are hurting the state, and they think an open primary would help.

— Is this the answer to what's ailing Oregon? We don't know yet. But we think voters ought to consider it with open minds.

The big opposition to open primaries comes from parties worried about hanging onto their power. Closed primaries like Oregon's today allow them to control who votes and who advances.

If an open primary can put the focus on candidates instead, that's at least one step in the right direction.

School shows the way Oregon taxpayers provide the gift of an education to help students progress into well-rounded, productive adults. When we can extend that gift to students who face extra obstacles to learning, that success is worth celebrating.

Phoenix Elementary School's Two-Way Spanish Immersion Program has earned one of six state awards for making progress in math and reading scores among their Spanish-speaking and low-income students. The program allows bilingual instruction, reducing the stress of learning subjects by eliminating the need to grasp a new concept coupled with an unfamiliar language.

The results have been impressive. With a 9 percent increase in reading scores and an 8 percent increase in math results schoolwide, the percentages for children in the immersion program really stand out. Theirs scores soared 70 percent reading and 52 percent in math.

The school will receive a &

36;2,000 grant next month at a banquet in Salem. This recognition for a program that works is well deserved.

Helping Spanish-speaking students succeed academically while they learn English presents a special challenge to schools. Phoenix Elementary, Principal Zuna Johnson, the teaching staff and of course the students are showing how it can be done.