ON THE AGENDA | AUGUST 19TH, 2016 | Public Agenda

Engaging Ideas - 8/19

A weekly collection of stories, reports and news to spark 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.


Who says voters are ‘polarized’? (Christian Science Monitor)
A study of voters who read news articles about political polarization finds they tend to soften their views. Democracy relies less on division than a respect among fellow citizens.

In South Dakota, Voters Get Rare Chance to Transform Politics (Governing)
Advocates around the country are weighing in on ballot measures that would drastically change South Dakota's elections, weaken the state’s Republican Party and send a message all over.

How media coverage of political polarization affects voter attitudes (Journalist’s Resource / Shorenstein Center)
New research in Political Communication looks at the media’s role in shaping perceptions of how divided the country is and how voters respond to members of the opposing party.


How do Americans view poverty? Many blue-collar whites, key to Trump, criticize poor people as lazy and content to stay on welfare (Washington Post)
The first Times poll of American attitudes toward poverty, in 1985, broke ground by surveying enough poor people to compare their views with those of people in the middle class. The new survey, which was conducted by The Times and the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank that is generally conservative, asked similar questions but with some updating. Much has changed since the 1980s. Welfare got a major overhaul in the 1990s. The number of poor Americans dropped sharply in that decade, only to partially rise again, particularly during the deep recession that began in 2007. But many attitudes have held steady, the new poll found, particularly doubts about the federal government’s ability to run its antipoverty programs, as well as their justification.

Finally, some good news for blue-collar workers (Wonkblog)
New data suggest that polarization in the labor market may have peaked, and middle-wage jobs could be ready for a renaissance. Between 2013 and 2015, the economy added 2.3 million middle-wage jobs, blowing past the growth in high-paying and low-income sectors. The hiring came in construction, education and transportation, among other industries. And in fact, the growth in middle-wage jobs over those two years was larger than the gains in the other income levels during the early phase of the recovery, from 2010 to 2013.

K-12 Education

Harvard's New Approach to America's Teacher Deficit (The Atlantic)
The school hopes reshaping how young people enter classrooms will keep them there longer.

Summer learning loss widens the achievement gap. Here’s how to change that (The Hechinger Report)

“Students lose one month of learning during each summer vacation, which can take a hefty toll on test scores and academic performance,” writes William Whitaker, of the Washington Jesuit Academy (WJA) – a tuition-free, academically demanding middle school for boys – to improve the odds and outcomes of at-risk young men of all religions. “This reality hits youth living in low-income communities the hardest,” due to the high cost of summer camps and activities."

How one diverse New York City high school got 100 percent of its students to graduation (Chalkbeat NY)
The school is part of the city’s network of NYC Outward Bound schools, and McCord said the school’s unusual focus on hands-on learning paired with dedicated advisors who track student progress have contributed to its success. McCord, who runs the school along with co-principal Pat Finley, spoke with Chalkbeat about how the pair managed to graduate all of the school’s 115 seniors.

Higher Education

Why the Obama Administration Wants More College Students in Non-Traditional Programs (Fortune)
The U.S. Department of Education today announced it’s allocating up to $17 million in student loans and grants primarily for low-income students to attend eight new training partnerships between traditional four-year universities and non-traditional education institutions, including coding bootcamps and online courses, according to a press release.

Student Debt And Rethinking The Value Of A College Degree (The Diane Rehm Show)
Diane and guests Sheila Bair, Beth Akers, and Mark Huelsman as they discuss student loan debt, college affordability and what the presidential candidates are proposing.

Health Care

Cost, Not Choice, Is Top Concern Of Health Insurance Customers (The New York Times)
It is all about the price. Millions of people buying insurance in the marketplaces created by the federal health care law have one feature in mind. It is not finding a favorite doctor, or even a trusted company. It is how much — or, more precisely, how little — they can pay in premiums each month. And for many of them, especially those who are healthy, all the prices are too high.

Insurers Continue To Abandon ACA Exchanges, Limiting Choice (AP)
Aetna will abandon Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges next year in more than two-thirds of the counties where it now sells the coverage, the latest in a string of defections by big insurers that will limit customer choice in many markets. Dwindling insurer participation is becoming a concern, especially for rural markets, in part because competition is supposed to help control insurance price hikes, and many carriers have already announced plans to seek increases of around 10 percent or more for 2017.

Price Transparency Key Issue Among Health Payers and Employers (Health Payer Intelligence)
The movement toward price transparency is gaining strength as healthcare reform continues to stress consumer and patient satisfaction. Employers have been seeking ways to improve price transparency for their employees when working with partnering health insurers. For instance, Shaw Industries, a flooring company, has been enhancing price transparency within the healthcare shopping experience for their employees with the help of Change Healthcare.

Public option? Status quo? Collapse? What comes next for Obamacare. (Vox)
News about Obamacare has not been good this week. On Monday, the health insurance giant Aetna announced it would stop selling coverage in 11 state marketplaces. This follows UnitedHealth’s exit from Obamacare, as well as the exit of dozens of smaller health insurance plans. Ezra Klein and Sarah Kliff have been writing about Obamacare ever since Congress started debating it. So they took an hour on Tuesday to talk about the Aetna news, what it means for Obamacare, and whether it’s time to get seriously worried about the future of the marketplaces. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the discussion we had over Slack.


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