ON THE AGENDA | MAY 27TH, 2016 | Public Agenda

Engaging Ideas - 5/27

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, education, health care and urban housing.


Democracy and Distrust: A Conversation on Race, Inequality, and Civic Cooperation (Urban Democracy Lab)
NYU Gallatin student Sara Nuta reviews the event, “Democracy and Distrust: A conversation on race, inequality, and civic cooperation,” hosted by the New York Council for the Humanities, as part of its Democracy in Dialogue series, on May 3rd at Federal Hall National Memorial.

In defense of the reasonable Republican (Lori Henson via Medium)
A much-shared article is a conservative cry for mature political discourse.

Why Americans don’t trust government (Wonkblog)
From Larry Summers: We seem to be caught in a dismal cycle of low expectations, poor results and shared cynicism.

Meet the Citizens Who Helped Decide Their City’s Budget—and Got Better Buses, Benches, and Crosswalks (Yes Magazine)
Greensboro, North Carolina, is the first Southern city to give citizens direct control over a slice of public spending.


De-Industrialization and the Displaced Worker (Governing)
The shift from a manufacturing-based economy to a technology- and services-based one hasn’t been kind to the middle and working classes. That won’t change anytime soon.

Neighborhoods Can Shape Success—Down to the Level of a City Block (The Atlantic)
A small but intriguing study done in West Philadelphia points to the importance of what researchers call microenvironments.

K-12 Education

The Push and Pull of Research: Lessons from a Multi-site Study of Research Use in Education Policy (William T. Grant Foundation)
Despite widespread efforts by intermediaries to shape education by conveying research to policymakers, a recent study finds that very few of these policymakers report using research when making decisions. As other studies have found instances where research can shape policy and practice in a variety ways, what explains this contradiction? And what does it mean for efforts to improve the use of research evidence? Chris Lubienski and colleagues share findings from their recent work and outline lessons for the field.

Nashville schools to change how principals are hired (The Tennessean)
Shayne Elementary School needs a new principal for the 2016-17 school year, and Metro Nashville Public Schools is asking the community to have a say in the type of leader the school needs. The process at Shayne Elementary is one the district will duplicate in each of the district's 18 principal hires for next school year— and from now on — after incoming Director of Schools Shawn Joseph made changes to the way the heads of schools are hired. For Shayne Elementary, parents and staff will have the chance to serve on the panel that interviews candidates for the job. Those panels include central office and human resources staff. In the case of a high school hiring, students will also be included in the mix.

Gates on Common Core Rollout (Politico Morning Education)
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation "underestimated the level of resources and support required" for public education systems to be well-equipped to implement the Common Core standards, Susan Desmond-Hellmann, the CEO of the foundation, says in a letter posted on the foundation's website. She says the foundation "missed an early opportunity to sufficiently engage educators - particularly teachers - but also parents and communities so that the benefits of the standards could take flight from the beginning." The foundation is now "doubling down" on efforts to "make sure teachers have what they need" in high-quality learning materials, she said.

What Are Massachusetts Public Schools Doing Right? (The Atlantic)
Widely seen as the best public-school system in the U.S., the Massachusetts school system’s success can offer lessons to other states.

Higher Education

Report: The Condition of Education 2015 (National Center for Education Statistics)
A thorough look at the demographics and participation of students in early to postsecondary education.

Looking to Change Schools? These Universities Take the Most Transfer Students. (Grade Point)
UCLA enrolled 3,167 new transfer students in fall 2014, more than any other school in the top 75 on the U.S. News and World Report list of national universities. The University of California at Davis ranked second, with 3,138, according to a Washington Post analysis of university data.

How lessons from health care and housing could fix higher education affordability (Vox.com)
Ben Miller and Antoinette Flores of the Center for American Progress write that “the federal government should require that families can afford the total price of a public in-state higher education with no more than a reasonable family contribution plus some small levels of debt. In tandem, the expected family contribution should be made binding for students attending these schools so they are not charged more than they can afford.

Health Care

‘Reference Pricing’ Reduces Health Care Spending in California (Heartlander)
Researchers at the University of California-Berkeley calculated CalPERS saved $5.5 million over the program’s first two years, during which 40 California hospitals lowered their prices closer to the reference prices and patients opted for less-expensive providers, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2013.

Americans' Experiences with ACA Marketplace and Medicaid Coverage: Access to Care and Satisfaction (Commonwealth Fund)
The fourth wave of the Commonwealth Fund Affordable Care Act Tracking Survey, February–April 2016, finds at the close of the third open enrollment period that the working-age adult uninsured rate stands at 12.7 percent, statistically unchanged from 2015 but significantly lower than 2014 and 2013. Uninsured rates in the past three years have fallen most steeply for low-income adults though remain higher compared to wealthier adults. ACA marketplace and Medicaid coverage is helping to end long bouts without insurance, bridge gaps when employer insurance is lost, and improve access to health care. Sixty-one percent of enrollees who had used their insurance to get care said they would not have been able to afford or access it prior to enrolling. Doctor availability and appointment wait times are similar to those reported by insured Americans overall. Majorities with marketplace or Medicaid coverage continue to be satisfied with their insurance.

PriceCheck: Hospitals Provide Upfront Pricing To Reduce Unpaid Bills (Health News Florida)
In a move that might actually help health care costs become more transparent, some hospitals are starting to give patients detailed information about what their upcoming visits will cost in an attempt to get them to pay ahead of time, according to the website Modern Healthcare.


New England Mayors Facing Cities’ Affordable Housing Shortage (Urban Land Institute)
The squeezing out of that middle-income workforce is an issue that the mayors of three of New England’s highest-profile cities—Martin J. “Marty” Walsh of Boston; Ethan Strimling of Portland, Maine; and Miro Weinberger of Burlington, Vermont—are confronting in their municipalities, and was the subject of the closing plenary session of the recent ULI Housing Opportunity Conference held in Boston. Moderated by Jessica B. Zimbabwe, executive director of ULI’s Daniel Rose Center for Public Leadership, the panel discussed the challenges presented by the housing markets of those cities as well as the strategies for tackling the problem.

How much a decent apartment costs you in every county (Wonkblog)
A decent two-bedroom rental today will cost you on average more than you could afford working full time on the local minimum wage everywhere in America — in every state, every county, every metropolitan area. No matter how you draw the geography. Whether you live in Sioux Falls or San Francisco. What the government considers to be a local "fair market rent" for a two-bedroom would eat up more than 30 percent of a minimum-wage worker's earnings. This fact, from updated data annually compiled by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, addresses a small number of scenarios. Most renters make more than the minimum wage. And many workers who do may not need two bedrooms or rely on just one income. But the national pattern — the minimum wage isn't really a "housing wage" anywhere in America, even at 40 hours a week — hints at the difficulty of being a poor single parent. And it's just the most dire expression of an affordable housing crunch affecting renters much farther up the income spectrum, too.


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