ON THE AGENDA | MAY 20TH, 2016 | Public Agenda

Engaging Ideas - 5/20

A collection of recent stories and reports that sparked consideration on ways to make progress on divisive issues.

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues including democracy, public engagement, opportunity, education and health care.


Social Media's Place in Data-Smart Governance (Governing)

Cities can produce great value from social media, but only if they start talking a little bit less about themselves and start listening more to their residents.

What Should Philanthropy's Role Be When Public Systems Fail? Flint As Case Study (Inside Philanthropy)

When weak government leaves a mess, how should philanthropy help clean it up? We dig into that question—which will be coming up more often—as ten foundations band together to help Flint.

One Neighborhood at a Time (The New York Times)

David Brooks writes: “What’s the right level to pursue social repair? The nation may be too large. The individual is too small. The community is the right level, picking a piece of land and giving people a context in which they can do neighborly things — like the dads here who came to the pre-K center and spent six hours building a shed, and with it, invisibly, a wider circle of care for their children.”

K-12 Education

Low-Income High Schoolers to Get Grants for College Courses (Associated Press)

The experimental program allows high school students to apply for federal Pell grant money to pay for college courses. The "dual enrollment" program is designed to help students from lower-income backgrounds. The Education Department says the administration will invest about $20 million in the 2016-17 school year to help about 10,000 students. On Monday, the administration announced 44 colleges that are expected to participate.

Education Inequality: Why There’s an Uproar Over Trying to Increase Funding for Poor Schools (The New York Times)

Marguerite Roza, a Georgetown University scholar, has found that many districts spend up to a third less per pupil in poor schools compared with others. This can happen for various reasons: because wealthy parents unduly influence budget allocations, for example. It can also happen because most teachers are paid using collectively bargained salary schedules that reward longevity. Senior teachers tend to cluster in wealthy schools, while schools where many children are poor often churn through large numbers of novice, badly paid teachers. But fixing such funding inequities can be expensive, as well as disruptive to longstanding arrangements of which teachers get to be in which schools. That’s why the unions, districts and state leaders wrote the letter urging Mr. King to “refrain from defining terms and aspects of the new law” — that is, to simply not regulate at all — “especially as it relates to the ‘supplement, not supplant’ provision.”

Higher Education

How to Build a Higher Ed Data System Fit for the 21st Century (National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators)

During an event on Wednesday, the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) hosted a series of panel discussions on developing a more comprehensive data infrastructure for the 21st century, and released a series of 11 policy papers outlining ways to improve current systems, and where there’s room to create something that doesn’t yet exist.

Beyond FTE's (Confessions of a Community College Dean)

Matt Reed writes: “The usual way of measuring enrollment is FTE’s, or full-time equivalents. That’s the total number of credits taken divided by 15 for a semester or 30 for a year. The idea is to aggregate part-time students into full-time students. So if you have two students taking six credits each and one student taking three, they’d equate to one student taking fifteen. It’s a way to correct for different mixes of full-time and part-time across institutions or sectors. And in terms of teaching, it’s mostly right. But in terms of institutional cost, FTE tends to underestimate for community colleges and overestimate for elite schools.”

Promoting Inclusion and Identity Safety to Support College Success (Century Foundation)

The Century Foundation breaks down the challenges minority students face on college campuses and offers recommendations for colleges to be more inclusive.

Report Outlines Strategies for Successful Community College Transfers (Diverse Issues in Higher Education)

Although statistics indicate that many community college transfer students might not ever achieve their goal of a bachelors degree, some community colleges and universities are in fact serving transfer students well, the report found. CCRC and Aspen looked at community colleges in Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Washington that have demonstrated particular success with their transfer student population. When both two- and four-year schools take ownership of easing the transition between institutions for students, the results tend to be much better.

Diversifying Your Workforce: Leveraging the Employer-College Connection (U.S. News & World Report)

Silicon Valley has become a poster child for the nation's STEM workforce diversity problem. For example, in 2014 Google announced that just 2 percent of its workforce was black and just 3 percent was Hispanic. Yet the problem of a white, male-dominated technical workforce does not start or end in Silicon Valley. It's a pernicious issue with complexities and biases that have been baked into the nation's boardrooms, higher education institutions, and the American psyche. Addressing and resolving this problem, "is not just about equal rights or representation," says Barry Cordero, board chairman and acting CEO for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. "It's part of our country's innovative challenge."

Health Care

Five Health Issues Presidential Candidates Aren’t Talking About — But Should Be (Kaiser Health News)

References to the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — have been a regular feature of the current presidential campaign season. For months, Republican candidates have pledged to repeal it, while Democrat Hillary Clinton wants to build on it and Democrat Bernie Sanders wants to replace it with a government-funded “Medicare for All” program. But much of the policy discussion stops there. Yet the nation in the next few years faces many important decisions about health care — most of which have little to do with the controversial federal health law. Here are five issues candidates should be discussing, but largely are not.

The case of the $629 Band-Aid — and what it reveals about American health care (Vox)

Murphy is explaining something called a "facility fee," the base price of setting foot inside an emergency room. It's something akin to the cover charge you'd pay for going out to a nightclub. "It's the fixed price, and that's just what you're going to have to pay," says Renee Hsia, a professor at University of California San Francisco who studies emergency billing. "Facility fees are very arbitrary," she says. "There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it, which can be really frustrating. There are some places where the basic facility fee can be over $1,000."

Just 9.1 Percent Of Americans Are Uninsured (Politico PULSE)

That's according to new National Health Interview Survey estimates out Tuesday, and it represents the lowest uninsured level on record. The survey, which goes through 2015, shows consistent declines in the uninsured rate beginning in 2013, as Affordable Care Act coverage expansion began to take effect. More Americans have private insurance than before the ACA took effect . About 63.2 percent of all Americans were covered through private health insurance in 2015, up from 59.5 percent in 2013 and 60.2 percent in 2010. The explanation: More than 10 million Americans bought private coverage through the ACA exchanges. Poverty is still a differentiator. About one-quarter of adults ages 18-64 who were poor or near-poor were uninsured in 2015, versus just 7.6 percent of all other adults.

Many physicians lack firm understanding of cost of test and procedures: Dartmouth (DotMed)

In today's health care climate, physicians are increasingly being asked to do their part to help contain costs and to "choose wisely" when it comes to ordering costly medical tests and services. However, a recent study led by researchers from The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice found that while the overwhelming majority of physicians surveyed (92.2%) felt that doctors had a responsibility to control costs, less than half of the physician-respondents (36.9%) reported having a firm understanding of the costs of tests and procedures to the health care system.

Health Care Shopping Tools Often Go Unused (Society for Human Resources Management)

Our own David Schleifer suggested that “the price information tool analyzed in the JAMA study displayed both a clinician's price for a service or episode of care, as well as an average price in the user's region for that service or episode. But users of the tool may not have understood that to mean they could get lower-priced care. In Public Agenda's survey, we found that 33 percent of U.S. adults had checked a provider’s price. A smaller group (21 percent) had actually compared prices. But people who had compared prices were much more likely to say that they had saved money than those who had only checked a price.”


The Fiscal Tools Cities Need to Pay for Infrastructure (Governing)

They no longer can count on Washington or their states. They need the authority to find creative local solutions.


How One Colorado City Instantly Created Affordable Housing (CityLab)

Relaxing rules on “Accessory Dwelling Units” drastically increased affordable housing stock in the small city of Durango.


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