ENGAGING IDEAS - 04/06/2018

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: Struggles with partisan redistricting. Telling charts that explore inequality between sexes and races. A city council program that puts power in the hands of the people. Examining the larger concerns with the growing teacher strikes. A new federal program to ease the cost of textbooks for students. Health care in the world of a gig economy.


The Decline of Local News is Bad for Democracy (Pacific Standard)
Tracking the events in state legislatures and city councils requires skilled beat reporters. They're becoming an increasingly rare breed.

The 2016 Exit Polls Led Us to Misinterpret the 2016 Election (New York Times)
Crucial disputes over Democratic strategy concerning economic distribution, race and immigration have in large part been based on Election Day exit polls that now appear to have been inaccurate in key ways.

The Supreme Court struggles with partisan redistricting (The Economist)
The justices dislike gerrymandering but do not know what to do about it


Is Inequality in America Irreversible? (inequality.org)
We are living in a time of extreme and extraordinary inequality. There is now a genre of research looking at different dimensions of the income and wealth gap. This body of work chronicles the shapes and facets of inequality and its adverse impact on everything we care about.

What Americans can learn from British class guilt (The Guardian)
America is supposed to have greater social mobility. In the UK, everyone ostensibly has a rung but they are also trapped in that position. But these once-clear binaries are muddled

Income Mobility Charts for Girls, Asian-Americans and Other Groups. Or Make Your Own. (The Upshot)
Last week we wrote about a sweeping new study of income inequality, which followed 20 million children in the United States and showed how their adult incomes varied by race and gender. The research was based on data about virtually all Americans now in their late 30s.


City Council program lets you choose what public projects to fund in your neighborhood (am New York)
That park near your apartment in need of a little TLC; a city-owned vacant lot that would be perfect for a community garden; an intersection that could benefit from public safety improvements — if you’ve ever had an idea on how to improve the city, there’s a program that wants your input.

Digital Literacy Is at the Heart of a Thriving Smart City (Government Technology)
During the Smart Cities Conference in Kansas City, Mo., earlier this week, thought leaders broke down the issues facing technology deployments and the importance of bringing constituents along for the ride.

How to Decide, Fairly, Which Transportation Investments Are the Best Ones (StreetsBlog)
The Greenlining Institute, an Oakland-based nonprofit, released a report today describing a three-step framework that can be used to help communities figure out which transportation investments best serve their needs.


New Teachers Report That They Feel Well-Prepared for Their Roles (Education Week)
The majority of public school teachers with five or fewer years of experience said they felt ready to lead their classrooms in the first year on the job, according to a new report by the National Center for Education Statistics.

The Larger Concerns Behind the Teachers' Strikes (The Atlantic)
The teachers’ complaints go far beyond compensation, and when viewed in the context of their other demands, it’s clear that the strike gets at the heart of some of the biggest issues facing America’s children: access to effective teachers, high-quality learning materials, and modern facilities.

High School Grade Inflation: Real But Maybe Not a Worry? (Inside Higher Ed)
Florida State shares data showing that high school students are in fact earning higher grades. Yet the predictive value of the high school GPA hasn't changed.

Higher Ed/Workforce

More Aid for Student Parents (Inside Higher Ed)
Congress triples federal funding for low-income student parents, and advocates welcome the support -- the first new investment in years -- but say much more is needed.

New federal program tackles spiraling costs of college textbooks (Salon.com)
The new grant program, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, will support the creation or improved use of open textbooks for use at any college and university. Open textbooks are made freely available online by their authors. They can also be changed and combined by instructors who use them in their classes.

In Many States, Students at Public Universities Foot Biggest Part of the Bill (Wall Street Journal)
State funding cuts mean students in a majority of states are paying more in tuition than the government does

Health Care

Promise and Reality of Price Transparency (New England Journal of Medicine)
More than housing, food, or retirement, the cost of health care is now the most common financial concern for Americans, and almost half the adults in the United States have some difficulty paying their out-of-pocket medical costs.

Hospitals Fear Competitive Threat From Potential Walmart-Humana Deal (Wall Street Journal)
Walmart has been a very sophisticated buyer of health benefits, and could increase pressure on services provided within hospitals

How health care turmoil hurts the gig economy (Axios)
Independent contractors and freelancers make up an increasing share of the workforce, yet Washington is largely neglecting the market where self-employed workers get health insurance. That's bad news for people in the burgeoning "gig economy," where work is divorced from an employer — and thus from employer-sponsored insurance.


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