Public Agenda Alert -- Thursday, May 1, 2014
This Week's Headlines
Action on Immigration, Not Political Gamesmanship
Reflecting on Higher Education Reform
Engaging Ideas
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Action on Immigration,

 Not Political Gamesmanship

Today, May 1st, is known to many as International Workers' Day. Born out of demands for the 8-hour work day in the U.S., May Day has become a day to honor workers' rights worldwide.


As those participating in May Day rallies in New York City and other cities across the country draw attention specifically to the plight of immigrant workers, we think it's important to remember the stagnant dialogue on immigration reform.


Over a year ago, a bipartisan group of senators  gathered to design a blueprint to overhaul the nation's immigration laws. "We recognize that our immigration system is broken," the blueprint begins, "And while border security has improved significantly over the last two Administrations, we still don't have a functioning immigration system."


The American public is still waiting on a functioning immigration system.  Conversations in the House have been unproductive and overly politicized, even though Americans agree, regardless of party affiliation, that immigration reform is critical for the country.  


The stalled action on immigration reform is political gamesmanship at its worst. But when leaders punt on issues critical to our country's future, we believe the people can fill the void by deciding what policies they'll support. 


Our Citizens' Solution Guide on immigration is a tool for doing just that before the next election cycle gears up. The guide explores a number of different ways to approach reform on immigration law , with pros and cons for each one. Check it out, and we welcome your feedback on how you would reform our country's immigration system on Facebook, Twitter or by emailing us here

Reflecting on Higher Education Reform

Our recent experience observing nation-wide forums on the purpose of higher education raises an important question for reformers: as we work to improve higher education, are we so deeply focused on job preparation that we're overlooking the deeper educational and broader civic purposes of higher ed?    


This is the main tension that arose among participants in the discussions, who included students, parents, professors and employers. Participants opted in to attend the forums, which were mostly confined to college campuses. As such, results cannot be considered representative of the broader public. But the forums do, we think, raise important and provocative questions. 


Participants in the forums agreed that the nation's long-term prosperity depends heavily on educating more students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Still, many worried that the pendulum of higher education reform has swung too far in the direction of education for career preparation. Many said that the purpose of higher education should also be to help open students' minds to new subjects and cultures and to develop a broad range of knowledge, skills and civic capacities.


Certainly, these more traditional goals of higher education are not inherently at odds with workforce and employment needs. But it's not always obvious how to accommodate and balance different student and societal needs and values. Incorporating the multiple dimensions of higher education into a more complete and coherent conversation about reform is likely going to be important going forward. 

Engaging Ideas

A collection of stories and reports from the past couple weeks that caught our attention and sparked consideration on ways to make progress on divisive issues.
By 2020, about 90 percent of American workers who now receive health insurance through their employers will be shifted to government exchanges created by the health law, according to a projection by S&P Capital IQ, a research firm serving the financial industry. Ezekiel Emanuel, an architect of the Affordable Care Act, has long predicted a similar shift.

(Pew Research)
In open-ended questions to those who said the gap between the rich and everyone else has grown, 20 percent said tax loopholes were the main reason. Among Democrats and those who lean Democrat, that number was 26 percent and 14 percent among Republicans and those who lean Republican. 

Ezra Klein interviews Frances Lee, University of Maryland professor and author of Beyond Ideology: Politics, Principles and Partisanship in the U.S. Senate about the incentives working against cooperation between political parties.

(Freakonomics Podcast)
Author Benjamin Barber argues why mayors inevitably cut through the inertia typical of state and federal governments. Interviews from mayors include Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Toni Harp of New Haven, Richard Berry of Albuquerque and Mary Walsh of Boston.

(Atlantic Cities)
The Regional Planning Association developed a way to visualize how where you live affects the number of jobs available to you. The organization will create a similar map geared towards employers so  they can explore their labor pool. 

Tom Finkelpearl, the executive director of the Queens Museum who has devised neighborhood projects atypical for an art museum, has compiled a collection of conversations into a book that offers a snapshot of thinking around social and collaborative art.
About Us
Public Agenda is a nonprofit organization that helps diverse leaders and citizens navigate complex, divisive issues. Through nonpartisan research and engagement, it provides people with the insights and support they need to arrive at workable solutions on critical issues, regardless of their differences. Since 1975, Public Agenda has helped foster progress on K-12 and higher education reform, health care, federal and local budgets, energy and immigration. Find Public Agenda online at

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