ON THE AGENDA | JANUARY 20TH, 2017 | Public Agenda

Engaging Ideas - 1/20/2017

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: How can we counter the tendency to self-segregate? Improvements to the traditional town hall format. Understanding charter schools in the Trump era. Rhode Island's free-college plan. And the debate over whether high-deductible plans work for improving the health care system.


Why America Is Self-Segregating (Data & Society)
What makes people willing to hear difference is knowing and trusting people whose worldview differs from their own. Exposure to content cannot make up for self-segregation. If we want to develop a healthy democracy, we need a diverse and highly connected social fabric. This requires creating contexts in which the American public voluntarily struggles with the challenges of diversity to build bonds that will last a lifetime. We have been systematically undoing this, and the public has used new technological advances to make their lives easier by self-segregating.

'Divisiveness' Drives Texas Mayor to Resign After Just 1 Month (Texas Tribune via Governing)
About a month after being sworn in, Corpus Christi Mayor Dan McQueen announced his resignation in a Facebook post Wednesday afternoon, asserting that he could "no longer deal with such differing views and divisiveness," according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.


How Technology Is Giving Town Hall Meetings a Modern Twist (Government Technology)
Municipalities are using the latest communications tools to make government meetings more available to the public. “In public meetings the person who walks up to that microphone is the one who thinks they have it right, the one who thinks they know the answer, and who therefore has the greatest bias,” said Martin Carcasson, a senior public engagement fellow at the nonprofit Public Agenda.


U.S. Ranks 23rd Out of 30 Developed Countries for Inequality (The Atlantic)
A comprehensive index from the World Economic Forum finds that for such a rich country, America isn't doing all that well at creating prosperity.

Republicans Say They’ve Experienced Less Inequality Than Democrats (The New York Times’s Upshot)
Those are some of the findings from the poll, by PerryUndem, a nonpartisan research and polling firm whose biggest clients are foundations. It surveyed 1,302 adults in December via the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago’s AmeriSpeak panel. Eighty-two percent of women said sexism was a problem in society today, and 41 percent of women said they had felt unequal because of their gender. Men underestimated the sexism felt by the women in their lives, the survey found. And while most respondents agreed it’s a better time to be a man than a woman in our society, only Republican men thought it was a better time to be a woman than a man. Side note: Check out the graphs on the share of people who say they have felt unequal in American society because of aspects of their identity.

K-12 Education

Key Federal Studies Face Hazy Future Under Trump (Education Week)
After fending off threats from congressional Republicans for years, some big federal studies that yield troves of data on education face an even more uncertain future.

What Betsy DeVos Did (and Didn't) Reveal About Her Education Priorities (The Atlantic)
The Michigan billionaire’s confirmation hearing was heavy on partisanship and light on substance.

Maybe Teaching Special Ed Doesn't Have To Be So Hard (KUER 90.1)
Ask any special ed teacher and they will probably tell you that paperwork is the bane of their jobs. These three teachers at Renaissance Academy in Utah have figured out how to keep it under control.

What Do Americans Think of School Choice? Depends on How You Ask the Question (The 74)
Attitudes about education are increasingly colored by partisan rancor. Support for choice varies depending on how it is described. The only poll conducted so far on the plan was released last week by the American Federation for Children, an advocacy group founded by DeVos that trumpets itself as “the nation’s voice for educational choice.” By a 51–35 margin, the survey sample backed the idea of “shifting twenty billion dollars in funding from other programs to school choice.”  Note the diction: the word “choice” tends to poll well, and the generic “other programs” displaces costs into the ether. That’s a fairly good illustration of where we are in determining American attitudes on both traditional schools and reform alternatives.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

Tough Questions for DeVos  (Inside Higher Ed)
For Democrats looking to find out more about DeVos’s views -- especially regarding higher education issues -- it was a frustrating hearing. DeVos's prepared remarks didn't offer much insight into the approach she would take toward higher ed. She acknowledged the problem of high volumes of student loan debt but did not propose a solution. DeVos also added that career education programs should not be viewed as a "fallback" for students who don't succeed in college but should instead be viewed as one of a number of "pathways" to postsecondary education.

Three Questions Higher Education Must Consider (Inside Higher Ed)
We in higher education need to engage in a serious dialogue about our role in exacerbating the opportunity gap and our obligation going forward to close it, argues Dan Greenstein.

America’s Great Working-Class Colleges (The New York Times)
The most comprehensive study of college graduates yet conducted, based on millions of anonymous tax filings and financial-aid records. Published Wednesday, the study tracked students from nearly every college in the country (including those who failed to graduate), measuring their earnings years after they left campus. The paper is the latest in a burst of economic research made possible by the availability of huge data sets and powerful computers.

Key things to know about Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondos’ free college plan (WPRI)
Beginning with students in the high school graduating class of 2017, Rhode Island will cover the cost of tuition and fees at the Community College of Rhode Island for two years – which basically means a free associate degree. If students choose to attend Rhode Island College or the University of Rhode Island, the state would pick up the cost of tuition and fees – but not room and board – for their junior and senior years of college. The governor’s top aides are quick to say they don’t expect every young person to attend college, but they want every kid to at least have the chance to attend college with significantly less concern over how they’re going to pay for it. They’re pointing to surveys of high school seniors in Rhode Island that show 90% of students want to attend college but only 65% of them are actually attending a higher education institution directly after graduating high school.

Health Care

Pointed Questions Await Trump's Pick For Health Secretary (AP)
With coverage for millions of people at stake, Rep. Tom Price is facing pointed questions about President-elect Donald Trump's health policies — and his own investments in health care companies — from senators considering his selection as health secretary. While Price, an orthopedic surgeon-turned-lawmaker, is largely a known quantity on Capitol Hill, Trump's bottom line on health care remains a mystery for Democrats and Republicans alike.

Why the Republican plan to repeal Obamacare is so extraordinary (Wonkblog)
There have been only a few other occasions in the history of modern countries when something like this has happened.

POLITICO-Harvard poll: Trump voters want to repeal Obamacare immediately (Politico)
When it comes to Obamacare, Americans who voted for Donald Trump have one clear priority: Get rid of it. Fast. But that’s not how the rest of the country looks at it, according to the latest POLITICO-Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health poll on priorities for the first 100 days of the new administration.

Do high-deductible plans make the health care system better? (Marketplace)
Those high-deductible or “catastrophic” plans work like this: you pay most of your own medical bills up to a specific amount — usually thousands of dollars — before your insurance kicks in. Price, and congressional Republicans say they’re a big part of what should replace Obamacare. And it’s not just the GOP who likes them; Democrats and employers have also embraced these plans. But here’s a complication: researchers do not know if high-deductible plans actually lead to good health care.


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