ON THE AGENDA | SEPTEMBER 9TH, 2016 | Public Agenda

Engaging Ideas - 9/9

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.


Can a Japanese Business Process Help Solve Our Complex Social Problems? (Governing)
Governments are using the "Lean" model to bring efficiency to their operations. But it could be doing a lot more writes John M. Bernard, chairman and founder of Portland, Oregon-based Mass Ingenuity.

Against transparency (Vox)
Matthew Yglesias writes: It’s impossible to write about this issue in today’s environment without thinking of Clinton’s use of a private email account while serving as secretary of state. But while the question of whether she appropriately followed the existing laws is obviously important, so is the question of whether the laws make sense. And the answer is: no. Treating email as public by default rather than private like phone calls does not serve the public interest. Rather than public servants communicating with the best tool available for communication purposes, they’re communicating with an arbitrary legal distinction in mind.

Public Engagement

Reading Beyond the Headline: Why Seattle’s Ideas Are Worth Stealing (Governing)
Seattle’s Mayor Murray ups the ante on inclusive citizen engagement -- and helps pave the way for the rest of us writes Ron Littlefield, a former mayor of Chattanooga, Tenn., and a senior fellow with the Governing Institute.


What Homer Simpson's 100+ jobs tell us about America's middle class (Vox)
Homer Simpson has economically stagnated, just like the real American middle class. I plotted out Homer’s hypothetical job salaries in a linear order, by episode number. Over the course of 597 episodes — from 1989 to 2016 — it’s clear that Homer has not climbed the economic ranks.

As 5 States Vote on Minimum Wage, Not All Look to Raise It (Governing)
Most of November's minimum-wage ballot measures would increase workers' pay. But one state's would actually reduce it for some.

K-12 Education

Crux of Connecticut Judge’s Grim Ruling: Schools Are Broken (The New York Times)
When a Connecticut judge threw out the state’s school financing system as unconstitutional this week, his unsparing 90-page ruling read and resonated like a cry from the heart on the failings of American public education. Though his ruling was about Connecticut, he spoke to a larger nationwide truth: After the decades of lawsuits about equity and adequacy in education financing, after federal efforts like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, after fights over the Common Core standards and high-stakes testing and the tug of war between charter schools and community schools, the stubborn achievement gaps between rich and poor, minority and white students persist. Too many American high school graduates are “let down by patronizing and illusory degrees,” Judge Moukawsher wrote. And too many decisions and too much debate about schools seem, as he wrote, “completely disconnected to the teaching of children.”

Some Gaps Between Rich and Poor Students Shrinking (Education Week)
New research from Sean F. Reardon of Stanford University and Ximena A. Portilla of the research firm MDRC suggests that the trend is changing: The children starting their first days of kindergarten may arrive better prepared than prior generations—and students in poverty will arrive at less of a disadvantage compared with their wealthier peers.

Inside Detroit’s Radical Experiment to Save Its Public Schools (Time)
In June, Republican Governor Rick Snyder signed a sweeping education package to provide financial support for Detroit’s public schools modeled on the 2009 restructuring of General Motors. The legislation left the old district behind as a shell to pay down $515 million in operating debt, similar to GM’s Chapter 11 that created an “old” and “new” General Motors, with the aim of restructuring a public school system that was all but bankrupt. Millions of dollars were allocated to repair the district’s aging facilities, and the legislation allowed the schools to return to a locally run school board. The unprecedented experiment is being closely watched by other struggling urban public school systems around the U.S.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

With closure of ITT, make public colleges top priority (Orlando Sentinel)
Public colleges and universities in Florida have come under a different kind of pressure in the past eight years. During this period, Florida lawmakers have reduced per-student funding for higher education by 22 percent, according to a recent report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Joe Negron, a Republican from Stuart in line to be Florida's next Senate president, has set a worthy goal of raising state funding for higher education by $1 billion. Negron has focused on the state's 12 public universities.

Germany Offers a Promising Jobs Model (The Wall Street Journal)
Although Germans are about half as likely to go to college, more than 85% of private-economy workers without college degrees have had vocational training and an apprenticeship. In 2014, Germans with apprenticeships earned about two-thirds of what those with at least a bachelor’s degree did. Germans with vocational apprenticeships earn about 92% of the average German wage; American high-school grads earn only 70% of the average American wage.

Low-Income Families Disproportionately Face Obstacles in College Decisions (National Association of Student Financial Aid Advisors)
The college decision-making process, while complicated for all families, is often disproportionately complex for those in the lowest income groups, who often make decisions that result in larger amounts of student debt and lower rates of academic success, according to a literature review from nonprofit behavioral design consultancy ideas42.

Launching a Unique Competency-Based Offering at a Community College
(The Evolllution)
Over the past few years we’ve seen the number of CBE offerings skyrocket, matching the public’s focus on student outcomes and skill mastery. In this two-part interview, John Milam reflects on the process of launching a unique CBE program that ties in open education resources (OER) at Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC). In the first installment, he discussed the thinking behind—and the roadblocks facing—the HigherEd.org portal. In this conclusion, he shares his thoughts on its place in the market.

Health Care

Percentage Of Uninsured Historically Low (The Wall Street Journal)
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.

From Maine to California, the wide divergence of healthcare quality (Modern Healthcare)
Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Wisconsin share a bragging right, besides their frigid winters: quality healthcare. These states were among those that performed best on more than 250 measures of healthcare quality and access, according to newly updated information from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. That information also showed how widely healthcare quality varies by state, a perhaps unsurprising result given the growing recognition that ZIP code is a more accurate predictor of health than genetic code.

The Incredible Shrinking Obamacare (The New York Times)
David Brooks writes: There are also lessons for people who think about policy making. First designing technocratic systems that will actually work is really hard. Second, designing effective technocratic systems that can pass politically is really, really hard. Third, designing politically plausible technocratic systems in a country divided on fundamental philosophy is hardness on stilts.

Massachusetts Health Reform At Ten Years: Great Progress, But Coverage Gaps Remain (Health Affairs)
Researchers from the Urban Institute and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation find that by 2015, the Bay State's uninsured rate was down to 2.5 percent. Despite the large insurance gains, gaps in coverage remain, particularly among immigrants, minorities, those with less than a high school education and those with household incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Researchers also noted that in 2015, more than a third of adults who had been fully insured for a year reported going without some type of medical care, either because of cost or difficulty in finding providers.

Does The Hospital Compare 5-Star Rating Promote Public Health? (Health Affairs Blog)
The methodology used by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in their 5-star scores for hospitals has been heavily criticized as inaccurate and unfair. However, more fundamental concerns are whether a single summary score makes sense; whether we should grade quality on a curve; and whether we are measuring the right things.


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