Engaging Ideas - 5/5/2017

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: Five questions and answers about the Johnson Amendment in light of Trump’s latest executive order. A conservative perspective explains why less inequality means enduring prosperity. What exactly do we mean when we talk about teacher shortages? Research on the partnerships that enable community college students to transfer to a four-year school. Surprising benefits of health care price transparency and how to utilize them.


The Johnson Amendment In 5 Questions And Answers (NPR)
Conservative groups that favor a greater role for religion in the public space, such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, have long sought to repeal the amendment, arguing that it restricts free speech by censoring the content of a pastor's sermon. Overturning the law, however, would also have major implications for campaign finance. If churches or clergy are allowed to participate in political campaigns, tax-free donations to the churches could go to support a political candidate. Religious organizations could become bigger money players in politics.

Three-fourths of Americans regularly talk politics only with members of their own political tribe (Washington Post)
As politics has become more partisan in recent decades, it gets harder to talk to people across the political divide. Research on the 2016 election underscores how common this has become, with three-quarters of voters most often talking about politics only to people who shared their views.


Why people are rich and poor: Republicans and Democrats have very different views (Pew Research)
The public overall is about evenly divided over which has more to do with why a person is rich: 45% say it is because he or she worked harder than most people, while 43% say it is because they had more advantages in life than others, according to a survey conducted April 5-11 among 1,501 U.S. adults.

Poor Rich Kids? The Mysterious Decline in Mobility at the Top (Forbes)
A new research study on economic mobility from the Equality of Opportunity Project has the remarkable finding that absolute economic mobility—the likelihood that children will out-earn their parents—has declined dramatically over the last 40 years.

Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist (The Brian Lehrer Show)
The ideas that shape mainstream economic thought are out of date. Kate Raworth, senior visiting research associate and advisory board member at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute and author of Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist (Chelsea Green, 2017), sets out to move beyond the way economics is currently taught and reliance on measurements like GDP. She's working with some of the world's best stop-motion animators to bring new economic thinking to life on screen.


Inequality and the Fracturing of American Democracy (National Review)
Where underlying inequality expands we can see the development of increasingly intense grievances at both ends of the spectrum: Those at the bottom feeling less and less competitive in important areas, while those at the top feel increasingly resentful about the proportion of tax coming from them and insist that those below start paying more. If the bidding-power gap grows wide enough it is possible to imagine the system crumbling through a combination of frustration, illiberal measures, populist demagoguery, repression, and stagnation — the sorts of cycles that Latin American countries, with the highest inequality levels in the world, go through regularly. So what should policymakers do?

To Help Tackle Inequality, Remember the Advantages You’ve Had (The New York Times)
A psychological quirk leads us to remember headwinds more than tailwinds. But if we recall our advantages, we will be closer to reducing inequality.


The New Faces of Activism (Rhode Island Monthly)
Are first-time activists making a difference in Rhode Island?

Immigrants, the Economy and Civic Engagement (Western City)
California cities use a variety of strategies to engage their residents in civic life and foster inclusive, welcoming communities. Cities with policies and practices focused on inclusion build trust and relationships that lead to increased economic and civic engagement of immigrants and the broader community.

K-12 Education

School Vouchers Aren’t Working, but Choice Is (The New York Times)
Hard-core reformers, like DeVos, support vouchers and charters. Hard-core traditionalists oppose both. The rest of us should distinguish between them, because their results differ. Vouchers have been disappointing. They are based on the free-market theory that parents will choose good schools over bad ones. It’s a reasonable theory, and vouchers can have benefits, like allowing children to leave dangerous schools.

AERA: What Do We Mean When We Talk About Teacher Shortages? (Education Week)
Debates over perceived teacher shortages often conflate different problems and make it more difficult to find sustainable ways to get every student a good teacher. That was the consensus at one of the opening symposiums of the American Educational Research Association's (AERA) annual conference last Thursday. Linda Darling-Hammond, founder of Learning Policy Institute, a think tank, led researchers debating how educators and policymakers can better understand what influences teacher shortages from state to state.

A Path Out Of Poverty: Career Training + Quality Pre K (NPR)
A new study on the first year impact of Tulsa's Career Advance shows that, so far, Career Advance is working well for both parents and their children. In fact, the study says, CAP Tulsa's program is working better than similar combined job training and pre-K programs elsewhere in terms of job certification, employment, income and overall well-being for the parent. And, the report shows, the program has boosted attendance and reduced absenteeism among participating children.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

Working Paper: Strengthening Transfer Paths to a Bachelor's Degree: Identifying Effective Two-Year to Four-Year College Partnerships (Community College Research Center)
The goal of improving transfer outcomes cannot be fully achieved until colleges nationwide are provided with commonly accepted metrics and methods for measuring the effectiveness of transfer partnerships. Using the individual term-by-term college enrollment records from the National Student Clearinghouse for the entire 2007 fall cohort of first-time-in-college community college students nationwide, this paper introduces a two-stage, input-adjusted, value-added analytic framework for identifying partnerships of two- and four-year institutions that are more effective than expected in enabling community college students to transfer to a four-year institution and earn a bachelor’s degree in a timely fashion.

From For-Profits to Community Colleges (Inside Higher Ed)
A new paper by researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia found that many of for-profit students don’t abandon postsecondary education altogether -- instead, they enroll at community colleges.

A 'Playbook For Trustees' Highlights Innovative Practices for Campus Change Initiatives (EdSurge)
The report from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni offers examples from different universities, including Arizona State University, University of Colorado and Purdue University, colleges referred to as “Blueprints of Reform.” With each campus, the guide details efforts around affordability and administrative changes all targeting “improved student outcomes and efficiency without compromising academic quality and student options,” a press announcement reads.

When a Southern State Led the Nation on Free College (OZY)
This isn’t the story of the free-tuition plan passed by New York last month, but that of another ambitious program that aimed to greatly reduce the cost for in-state students. Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship, created in 1993, revolutionized schools in the Peach State and now serves as a telling example of both the possibilities and pitfalls that await the Empire State.

Health Care

5 things to watch while awaiting a Senate health care bill (USA Today)
There are still some key developments to watch out for that could have a dramatic effect on the debate over repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. Does CBO issue a terrible score of the House bill? Does the administration withhold cost-sharing subsidies? Does the Senate start over? Do more insurers drop out? Will there be more angry town halls?

Surprising benefits of price transparency and how to utilize them (Medical Economics)
The days of being a doctor or outpatient facility and passively waiting for referrals is waning. As patient networks narrow and deductibles grow, the mindset of the consumer is changing. They're beginning to understand that sometimes costs are lower even if they disregard their network and find an equally qualified provider.

Doctors Prescribe More Generics When Drug Reps are Kept at Bay (NPR and ProPublica)
When teaching hospitals put pharmaceutical sales representatives on a shorter leash, their doctors tended to order fewer promoted brand-name drugs and used more generic versions instead, a study published Tuesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association, shows.

How the Affordable Care Act Drove Down Personal Bankruptcy (Consumer Reports)
Expanded health insurance helped cut the number of filings by half.


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