ON THE AGENDA | JANUARY 13TH, 2017 | Public Agenda

Engaging Ideas - 1/13/2017

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: The perfect setup for a natural experiment on the minimum-wage’s economic effects. Point-counterpoint on ideological perspectives and education research. Gaps in New York’s free-college plan. And clues about where health care prices come from.


The Progress Our States and Communities Are Making (Governing)
On their own and in partnership with the White House, they have been giving us hope for the future, a top presidential adviser writes.

Obama used his farewell address to issue 5 warnings about US democracy (Vox)
The president named five specific threats he said he felt American democracy was currently facing: economic inequality, racial tensions, polarization, foreign threats, and decaying democratic institutions. “How we meet these challenges to our democracy will determine our ability to educate our kids, and create good jobs, and protect our homeland,” Obama said.

Promoting democracy is bipartisan (The Hill)
The tremendous challenges that the United States and the world face can only be confronted through a mixture of vigorous democratic debate, as well as relearning the art of bipartisan cooperation and compromise. It was in this spirit that the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) came together last month to host a bipartisan celebration of our common quest to help build the architecture of democracy worldwide.


Omarosa Manigault joining Trump's White House staff to focus on public engagement (AP)
A memorable contestant in the first season of "The Apprentice," Manigault is expected to join President-elect Donald Trump's White House staff, according to two people familiar with the decision. Her job is expected to focus on public engagement.

Fortifying Civic Participation Worldwide (Stanford Social Innovation Review)
How civil society organizations can come together in the defense of civic space.

3 Steps to Digestible Citizen Engagement (Bouldin Labs, via Medium)
The goal is not to make these decisions seem uncomplicated and obvious. It is important that citizens see that there are many factors in play and that supporting one area may mean making a painful cut someplace else. Part of building public trust is displaying complexity so that there is a shared understanding when cuts do need to be made. Presenting this complexity in a simple way will help citizens understand the tradeoffs and give actionable feedback about their preferences.


Let the great wage experiment begin (Crain's New York)
Economists are smiling at the minimum-wage increases that have just swept across the country. It's not because they favor the measures, though most do. It's because they will now be able to settle one of the most contentious issues in their field: Do minimum-wage increases cost jobs or not? New York will play a key role in answering that question. The numbers are eye-opening. Nineteen states increased their minimum wages around Jan. 1—seven because they adjust their wage floors based on inflation; the rest because of new legislation or ballot measures. It is the largest number of increases ever when the federal minimum remained unchanged.

K-12 Education

Education Research Needs a Policy Makeover (Education Week)
Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj, a professor at Seton Hall University, writes: Education researchers must engage in debates across the political spectrum. The recent emphasis in higher education on interdisciplinary, multi-method research has not included a similar push for the inclusion of multiple ideological perspectives. The tendency to work with scholars who concur on political and policy-related questions contradicts evidence about the value of diverse perspectives for improved decision making.

Ideological Diversity Is Needed for Ed. Scholars' Work to Be Relevant (Education Week)
On the cusp of Donald Trump's inauguration, Frederick M. Hess warns that policymakers could sideline education scholarship because of its left-leaning bias.

School Graduation Rates Are Deceiving. Here Are 7 Things That Would Help (NPR)
High school graduation rates are improving, but an investigation into the numbers shows some of that is due to quick fixes. Policy experts respond with their suggestions for real progress.

Five Cabinet Nominees Who Could Affect Education (The Atlantic)
The U.S. Department of Education is not the only office with power over student-related policy.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

The Gaps in New York's Free-College Plan (The Atlantic)
Critics worry that the students who need the most help might be among the least likely to receive it.

More Transparency in Higher Education Will Help Improve Student Outcomes (U.S. Department of Education)
The Department announced a roadmap to support researchers in accessing appropriately protected student aid data for these kinds of studies. That includes partnering with the Federal Reserve Board through an “Advancing Insights through Data” pilot project to study student loan repayment plan selection and the relationships between income-driven repayment plans and outcomes like student loan defaults. They’re also working with researchers to better understand their needs and inform the creation of a privacy-protected, public-use microdata file from the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) that can facilitate valuable research and other studies of higher education. The Department plans to have conducted researcher engagement and announced the outcome of those discussions by October.

Community Colleges Rethink Remedial Education (KALW.org)
The California Acceleration Project is working with about two-thirds of the state’s 113 community colleges to create more accelerated remedial math and English programs, and shorten the amount of time students spend taking classes that don’t count for college credit.

Infrastructure Plan Would Create Many Jobs That Require Some College (Community College Daily)
Almost a quarter of the new jobs would go to people with postsecondary vocational certificates, industry-based certificates or some college but no formal degree, according to the analysis. More than a fifth (21 percent) of them would go to managerial positions for highly educated workers with two-year, four-year or graduate degrees. More than half would go to high school graduates or dropouts, but many of those jobs would require some formal or informal on-the-job training.

Is it time to shake up traditional learning, employment pathways? (eCampus News)
Traditional learning-to-employment pathways are becoming a thing of the past, and educators and employers should instead focus on supporting competency-based approaches to education, training and hiring. The case for a different focus comes from Innovate+Educate, a national nonprofit that works to create new employment pathways. The nonprofit released a new paper that makes the case for competency-based education.

Health Care

Health Care’s Bipartisan Problem: The Sick Are Expensive And Someone Has To Pay (The Wall Street Journal)
Congress has begun the work of replacing the Affordable Care Act, and that means lawmakers will soon face the thorny dilemma that confronts every effort to overhaul health insurance: Sick people are expensive to cover, and someone has to pay. ... If policyholders don’t pick up the tab, who will? Letting insurers refuse to sell to individuals with what the industry calls a “pre-existing condition”—in essence, forcing some of the sick to pay for themselves—is something both parties appear to have ruled out. Insurers could charge those patients more or taxpayers could pick up the extra costs, two ideas that are politically fraught.

We Asked People What They Know About Obamacare. See If You Know The Answers. (NPR)
But many of those surveyed in a new NPR/Ipsos poll got it wrong. About half believed that the number of people without insurance had increased or stayed the same, or they said they didn't know what the law's effect has been on insurance coverage. That was a failure of communication on the part of the Obama Administration, says Bill Pierce, a senior director at APCO Worldwide, who advises health care companies on strategic communications. "They needed to use the president more," said Pierce. "If this was his number one achievement, and something he was proud of doing, it was the kind of thing that he needed to be out there and talking about all the time."

David Chan on the ‘black box’ of rising costs, inconsistent care (Stanford Medicine News Center)
A physician and economist, Chan aims to shed light on why costs and patient outcomes can vary widely, even from one hospital to the next in the same city.

It’s Hard To Be A Small-Time Family Doctor These Days, New Data Shows (The Washington Post)
The price of health insurance just keeps going up. Until recently, though, a crucial part of how those prices are set was invisible to the public: the negotiations between doctors and insurance companies that determine how much patients are charged. The story of that contest, carried on fiercely behind closed doors for decades, is now partially in public view, and the new data contains tantalizing clues about where prices for health care really come from.

A Failed Cure for Health Care Costs (Slate)
Online price-comparison tools were supposed to cut our medical bills. Here’s why they’ve failed.


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