ON THE AGENDA | SEPTEMBER 2ND, 2016 | Public Agenda

Engaging Ideas - 9/2

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.


25 Years Later, What Happened to 'Reinventing Government'? (Governing)
The ambitious public management crusade of the 1990s has made a mark on governments everywhere. But it’s fallen far short of its lofty goals.

Public Engagement

Where Sixth-Graders Run Their Own City (The Atlantic)
The idea is to improve kids’ economic knowledge—and it appears to be working.


How Academia Is Failing Government (Governing)
Because the incentives for academic research are misaligned, it has little impact on the real world of public administration and policy.


How the Middle Class May Have Gotten a Raise (The Upshot)
The Census Bureau’s estimates of income stop in 2014. It will not release those for 2015 until next month, and early estimates suggest that household incomes may be way up. Sentier Research, a research firm formed by two former Census Bureau employees, estimates that real median household incomes grew nearly 3.8 percent in 2015. This would be the largest annual gain in household income since Sentier began producing the series in 2000.

How Milwaukee Shook Off the Rust (Politico)
While many cities have sought to repurpose their old industrial zones into hip condos, restaurants or commercial lofts for tech companies—or simply knock them down—Milwaukee has invested in resurrecting its own, with intense planning, new infrastructure and exacting design standards. In the process, a coalition of public officials, community activists and manufacturers have created a model for the 21st century industrial park, where manufacturing, recreation and environmentally-friendly engineered landscapes co-exist. Milwaukee is at work applying the lessons learned in the nearby port district and in the 30th Street industrial corridor several miles to the north.

As Skill Requirements Increase, More Manufacturing Jobs Go Unfilled (The Wall Street Journal)
Amid anxiety about the disappearance of factory jobs, thousands of them are going unfilled across the U.S. The number of open manufacturing jobs has been rising since 2009, and this year stands at the highest level in 15 years, according to Labor Department data. Factory work has evolved over the past 15 years or so as companies have invested in advanced machinery requiring new sets of skills. Many workers who were laid off in recent decades—as technology, globalization and recession wiped out lower-skilled roles—don’t have the skills to do today’s jobs. The mismatch poses a problem for the economy, stymieing the ability of businesses to increase production and weighing on growth, executives say.

K-12 Education

Why do kids go to school? Americans are divided on the answer (Washington Post)
What is school for? A new poll released Monday night shows that Americans are divided on the issue. And in an era when public education has been under attack, most public school parents still think highly of their children’s schools — and an overwhelming majority of Americans do not want failing schools to be closed down but would rather see them improved.

School Closures: Americans Oppose Them, But Research Suggests They're Not A Bad Idea (NPR)
For nearly a half-century, the professional educators' organization Phi Delta Kappa has released a poll this time of year to capture the public's attitudes towards public education. This year, by far the most lopsided finding in the survey was about a controversial reform policy: school closures. By 84 percent to 14 percent, Americans said that even when a public school has been failing for several years, the best response is to keep the school open and try to improve it rather than shut it down. Yet despite that sentiment, some early research suggests that school closures may work as advertised, in that they steer students toward higher-performing schools.

Public Woefully Misunderstands Education Spending, Study Finds (Education Week)
The U.S. public underestimates, by almost 50 percent, how much is actually spent on education in their districts.

National Labor Relations Board decides charter schools are private corporations, not public schools (Washington Post)
The National Labor Relations Board decided in two separate cases last week that — as far as federal labor law is concerned — charter schools are not public schools but private corporations. The decisions apply only to the specific disputes from which they arose, involving unionization efforts at charter schools in New York and in Pennsylvania. But they plunge the labor board into a long-running debate over the nature of charter schools: publicly funded, privately run institutions that enroll about 3 million students nationwide.

Higher Education

What Do Adult Students Want From College? (The Christian Science Monitor)
On Monday, Washington Monthly released the first-ever list of best colleges for adult learners. The ranking considers factors such as ease of transfer, tuition cost, and program flexibility. According to these metrics, the top schools tend to be smaller public universities, rather than big-name private colleges.

What’s the Right Public Message About Going to College? (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
Higher education is a good investment, on average, but some students leave it worse off than when they started. That makes giving general advice a challenge.

Ohio Colleges Have Funds to Help Students in Emergencies (Community College Daily)
For college students who are poor, the margin between graduating and dropping out can be as slim as an unpaid utility bill or a busted transmission. Even if they have grants and loans to pay for most of their tuition and housing, any unexpected expense can kill the best-laid plans. At many institutions, that's where student emergency funds come in. Often informally run and little known, they provide the $50 or $75 or $200 that can make all the difference to a student with little financial cushion for contingencies.

College Students Are Speaking, Are the Candidates Listening? (The Hill)
City Year, Youth Build, and many other America Forward Coalition members offer solutions to many of the barriers today’s students face, yet they need resources and support at the federal level to allow more Americans to benefit from their effective programs.

Transformation Through Education: The Importance of Second Chance Pell
(U.S. Department of Education)
We know the reach of educational attainment extends beyond an individual, often impacting families as well. That impact was on display when Talisha, the child of a formerly incarcerated parent shared how her dad’s educational journey refocused her effort on doing well in school. I won’t soon forget that daughter’s pride when more than half of the incarcerated students noted the impact of her father on their drive for education as well. It’s simple, those who get it pass it on to others – their own families and their community inside and outside prison walls.

ICYMI, check out our 3-part series on Second Chance Pell:

Second Chance Pell Grants: Finding Common Ground on Education for Prisoners

Higher Education for Prisoners: What We Can Learn from State and Institutional Efforts

The Urgent Need for Better Dialogue on Crime, Punishment and Education

Health Care

Health Care Is A Right, Not A Business (Huffington Post Blog)
In a response to a column from Megan McCardle last week, Richard Eskow writes: "Rights and commerce can coexist in a democratic society, as long as commerce doesn’t threaten rights. But when they clash, commerce must give way. Since commerce has failed to provide affordable and accessible health care, it must yield to rights."

Patients, Physicians, And Price Transparency: If You Build It, Will They Come? (Health Affairs Blog)
Six research studies aiming to contribute to understanding the use and impact of price data in health care presented their findings in a meeting where the discussion explored the “state of the art” in price transparency and sought to identify directions for future research.

PriceCheck: Not All Health Care Transparency Tools Are Alike (Health News Florida)
Suzanne Delbanco is executive director of the healthcare watchdog group Catalyst For Payment Reform. She says the best health care comparison tools offer a way to measure quality as well as price. “Pair it with quality information so that I'm not being misled by the price alone, which really at the end of the day is not a good proxy for the overall value of the care I'm going to get,” Delbanco said. Five years ago, she says, consumer advocates dreamed of having more price transparency tools. Now, the information is there, now we just have to sort it out.

Obamacare Premiums Set to Rise, Even for Savvy Shoppers (The Upshot)
In the last few years, even though premiums in the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplaces were rising, most customers could avoid a big price rise by shopping for a cheaper plan. Next year, according to a preliminary analysis, that is going to be a lot harder.


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