ENGAGING IDEAS - 02/23/2018

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: A look at technology's role in the upcoming 2020 census. Exploring how America's infrastructure segregated communities. Debating whether combining elementary and middle schools is the best choice for students. Rethinking how higher education is funded. A new proposal for lowering health insurance.


What Our Democracy Needs to Know (Slate)
In one example of how technology has become crucial to democratic institutions, speakers discussed how the 2020 census, which will be conducted digitally for the first time, could both keep up with the private sector and offer meaningful data to government leaders. An accurate Census is critical for everything from our economy to our educational systems.

OPINION: A big gerrymandering case raises a profound question about our elections (The Washington Post)
What should determine how district lines are drawn? On one side we have fairness — not always possible to achieve with perfect certainty, but at least a goal one could seek — and on the other side we have the exercise of raw political power for partisan advantage.


Roads to nowhere: how infrastructure built on American inequality (The Guardian)
From highways carved through thriving ‘ghettoes’ to walls segregating black and white areas, US city development has a long and divisive history

Facebook’s next project: American inequality (Politico)
A Stanford economist is using the company's vast store of personal data to study why so many in the U.S. are stuck in place economically.


Extra Doorbells, Satellite Dishes: How Cities Search for People the Census May Miss (New York Times)
This spring, volunteers will use a texting app the city tested in December to identify [unpermitted housing] and similar units. The city will then flag them on the Census Bureau’s master address list for San Jose. Mr. Almeida vows that the city department in charge of building code enforcement will never see these address notes, and the Census Bureau requires confidentiality from the local officials who do access them. A nonprofit founded by the former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Cities of Service, is hoping to spread the tool to other cities that will be receiving their address databases from the census in the coming weeks.

School District wants more community engagement (Santa Monica Daily Press)
The Santa Monica Malibu Unified District has unveiled a new proposal to strengthen family engagement in the education process. The framework was discussed during a board meeting on Thursday, February, 15.


Abolish middle school? Not so fast, new study says. (Chalkbeat)
The push to combine elementary and middle schools into K-8 schools has seemed like a heartening example of policymakers making decisions based on hard evidence. Rigorous studies have suggested that scrapping traditional middle schools is good for students. And some districts like Boston have moved to merge schools, trying to eliminate some of the elements of middle school that make it miserable for many tweens.

Do community schools and wraparound services boost academics? Here’s what we know. (Chalkbeat)
Research shows that these efforts often do help learning, but in a number of cases they don’t seem to have any effect — and it’s not clear why efforts sometimes succeed and sometimes don’t.

Higher Ed/Workforce

Departures at Gates Foundation Stir Speculation About Its Plans for Higher Ed (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
In the span of just a few months, two high-level officials at the higher-education arm of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have left or announced plans to depart. This being Gates, the largest philanthropic player in postsecondary education, the departures of Daniel Greenstein and Heather Hiles have prompted speculation about the future direction of an operation that now awards about $125-million a year in grants.

We need to rethink higher education funding (Times Higher Education)
Former education secretary Justine Greening explains her plans for a graduate contribution system that funds universities in the same way that national insurance covers state pensions

Health Care

Industry urges CMS to continue ACA wraparound coverage option (Modern Healthcare)
Health benefit managers are encouraging the Trump administration to continue a little-known ACA coverage option for supplemental insurance, which is slated to end this year. Under the CMS' wraparound coverage policy, employers can provide limited benefits that supplement individual health insurance policies, such as access to non-formulary drugs or out-of-network providers.

The Trump administration is proposing this health care idea — less insurance for lower premiums (Post Gazette)
The Trump administration Tuesday spelled out a plan to lower the cost of health insurance: give consumers the option of buying less coverage in exchange for reduced premiums.


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