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04.06 ENGAGING IDEAS - 04/06/2018

Friday, April 6th, 2018 | PUBLIC AGENDA


The Decline of Local News is Bad for Democracy (Pacific Standard)
Tracking the events in state legislatures and city councils requires skilled beat reporters. They're becoming an increasingly rare breed.

The 2016 Exit Polls Led Us to Misinterpret the 2016 Election (New York Times)
Crucial disputes over Democratic strategy concerning economic distribution, race and immigration have in large part been based on Election Day exit polls that now appear to have been inaccurate in key ways.

The Supreme Court struggles with partisan redistricting (The Economist)
The justices dislike gerrymandering but do not know what to do about it


Is Inequality in America Irreversible? (
We are living in a time of extreme and extraordinary inequality. There is now a genre of research looking at different dimensions of the income and wealth gap. This body of work chronicles the shapes and facets of inequality and its adverse impact on everything we care about.

What Americans can learn from British class guilt (The Guardian)
America is supposed to have greater social mobility. In the UK, everyone ostensibly has a rung but they are also trapped in that position. But these once-clear binaries are muddled

Income Mobility Charts for Girls, Asian-Americans and Other Groups. Or Make Your Own. (The Upshot)
Last week we wrote about a sweeping new study of income inequality, which followed 20 million children in the United States and showed how their adult incomes varied by race and gender. The research was based on data about virtually all Americans now in their late 30s.


City Council program lets you choose what public projects to fund in your neighborhood (am New York)
That park near your apartment in need of a little TLC; a city-owned vacant lot that would be perfect for a community garden; an intersection that could benefit from public safety improvements — if you’ve ever had an idea on how to improve the city, there’s a program that wants your input.

Digital Literacy Is at the Heart of a Thriving Smart City (Government Technology)
During the Smart Cities Conference in Kansas City, Mo., earlier this week, thought leaders broke down the issues facing technology deployments and the importance of bringing constituents along for the ride.

How to Decide, Fairly, Which Transportation Investments Are the Best Ones (StreetsBlog)
The Greenlining Institute, an Oakland-based nonprofit, released a report today describing a three-step framework that can be used to help communities figure out which transportation investments best serve their needs.


New Teachers Report That They Feel Well-Prepared for Their Roles (Education Week)
The majority of public school teachers with five or fewer years of experience said they felt ready to lead their classrooms in the first year on the job, according to a new report by the National Center for Education Statistics.

The Larger Concerns Behind the Teachers' Strikes (The Atlantic)
The teachers’ complaints go far beyond compensation, and when viewed in the context of their other demands, it’s clear that the strike gets at the heart of some of the biggest issues facing America’s children: access to effective teachers, high-quality learning materials, and modern facilities.

High School Grade Inflation: Real But Maybe Not a Worry? (Inside Higher Ed)
Florida State shares data showing that high school students are in fact earning higher grades. Yet the predictive value of the high school GPA hasn't changed.

Higher Ed/Workforce

More Aid for Student Parents (Inside Higher Ed)
Congress triples federal funding for low-income student parents, and advocates welcome the support -- the first new investment in years -- but say much more is needed.

New federal program tackles spiraling costs of college textbooks (
The new grant program, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, will support the creation or improved use of open textbooks for use at any college and university. Open textbooks are made freely available online by their authors. They can also be changed and combined by instructors who use them in their classes.

In Many States, Students at Public Universities Foot Biggest Part of the Bill (Wall Street Journal)
State funding cuts mean students in a majority of states are paying more in tuition than the government does

Health Care

Promise and Reality of Price Transparency (New England Journal of Medicine)
More than housing, food, or retirement, the cost of health care is now the most common financial concern for Americans, and almost half the adults in the United States have some difficulty paying their out-of-pocket medical costs.

Hospitals Fear Competitive Threat From Potential Walmart-Humana Deal (Wall Street Journal)
Walmart has been a very sophisticated buyer of health benefits, and could increase pressure on services provided within hospitals

How health care turmoil hurts the gig economy (Axios)
Independent contractors and freelancers make up an increasing share of the workforce, yet Washington is largely neglecting the market where self-employed workers get health insurance. That's bad news for people in the burgeoning "gig economy," where work is divorced from an employer — and thus from employer-sponsored insurance.


04.03 Waning Confidence in Higher Education

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018 | WILL FRIEDMAN, PH.D.

Part of our monthly "Progress Report" newsletter. To receive the latest email updates from Public Agenda, click here.

Is college necessary? Is it worth it? For a time, it appeared those questions were the fading residue of a passing age as people increasingly viewed college as critical to the American dream: Earn a degree, get a decent job, have a good life.

Thus, when Public Agenda asked people in a 2000 survey if a college degree is necessary for success in today's work world, only 31 percent said it was. But as we continued to ask that question over the years, we saw that number steadily rise until, in 2008, a full 55 percent of people surveyed said that a college education is necessary.

In the world of survey results, that's a dramatic ascent, and given the correlation between higher education and rising income, we expected that upward trend to continue. But when we ran the question again in 2016, just 42 percent agreed that college is essential to success in today's world.

What happened? While more research is needed to dig into the question, we hypothesize that several factors have combined, since the Great Recession, to cut away at people's confidence in higher education and its value.

Most obviously, people worry about the cost and crushing debt that comes with pursuing a college degree, especially in the face of an uncertain job market with fewer and fewer stable, middle-class jobs. For adults looking to return to school or start at a later age, add time away from family, child care expenses and working a full-time job. Then, factor in the rise of the gig economy, and people may be feeling they might as well piece together an insecure existence, rather than incur debt and be faced with a shaky economic situation anyway.

One more thing: About the same time that our research found people losing faith in higher education, we also saw a peak in the perception that colleges are more concerned with "the bottom line" than the success of their students. In 2007, a slight majority, 52 percent, said that colleges care more about the bottom line compared to 43 percent who said that colleges care most about "making sure students have a good educational experience," a gap of only 9 percent. Just two years later, in 2009, that gap had ballooned to 28 percent and has hovered around that level ever since.

Higher education should take from this that college needs to be both more affordable and more student-centered in our age of economic transition and uncertainty. Institutions should also be thinking about how to reconcile the waning confidence in higher education with the reality that in today's world, more and more jobs require some form of post-secondary schooling. Forward-looking higher education leaders are doing just that, as was the case when I recently participated on a panel for the New England Board of Higher Education.

We will explore these issues and attitudes in our upcoming report on the experiences and needs of adult prospective students. For a sneak peek, listen to what some of these "new traditional students" had to say in these captivating interviews:

Stay tuned for updates on this and our other work in higher education.

Comment (2)

03.27 Buenos Aires: A Global Model of Innovative Citizen Participation

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018 | NICOLE CABRAL

Civic participation not only matters, but is essential for a vibrant and inclusive city infrastructure. This is especially evident in places like Buenos Aires, Argentina. Although Buenos Aires is synonymous with tango dancing, steak, and fine wine, local leaders are positioning the city to be a global model of innovation in citizen participation. They will have the opportunity to showcase this in 2018 when Buenos Aires will be on the world’s stage as they host the G20 Summit and the Special Olympics later this year.

The promise and challenges of this work are evident in the way that citizens and government are working together in the poorer areas of the city. Far from the city’s trendy neighborhoods or barrios, are underserved neighborhoods called villas. Often known as pockets of poverty, violence and inequality, these informal settlements of mainly immigrants from Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru, are home to over a quarter million residents and make up approximately 10 percent of Buenos Aires’ population.

(Right) Nicole Cabral, Associate Director of Public Engagement, delivering remarks during the Governing With Neighbors convening in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

I had the opportunity to witness these contrasts during a trip to Argentina, where I was invited by the office of the Undersecretariat of Strategic Government and Institutional Quality of the City of Buenos Aires to present at the Governing With Neighbours convening. The convening helped government officials from Buenos Aires and other cities around the country to reflect on different strategies to develop and strengthen civic engagement initiatives. Experts from around the world spoke about their expertise and insights on civic engagement and open government. I shared examples from my work at Public Agenda on strategies that I have found to be effective in building engaged and inclusive communities.

While there, I met with Maria Castaños of the office of the Secretary of Social and Urban Integration in Villa 31 - the oldest and largest villa in the city. We spent several hours walking through the neighborhood, which is located next to the central bus station and in between the business district and the affluent Recoleta district. We met with residents and Maria shared with me the city’s efforts to socially and economically invest in villas. The office of the Secretary of Social and Urban Integration, which is headquartered in Villa 31, is working on a number of initiatives, including a complex relocation project to move residents who have constructed their homes under a major highway by using the infrastructure of the highway overpass as the frame of their homes. Maria organizes the consultation process for the community members to decide how they want to redevelop the overpass once the residents are relocated. It was amazing to see a community that had been historically neglected and ignored by the government shape the design of capital improvements to their neighborhood.

A drawing of a proposed redesign of the highway by one of the children living in Villa 31.

Maria showed me renderings of the redesign of the highway created by the kids in the community that participated in a series of consultation processes. The kids envision turning the highway into a community space similar to the High Line elevated park and trail in New York City. They would like to see a school, library, community center, senior center, culture center and soccer fields -- all institutions and amenities currently unavailable to them. In the renderings you can see the participants grappling with what to name the new park and in so grappling with their identity. Should it remain Villa 31 or should it be renamed as a barrio and be integrated more fully into Buenos Aires society?

As the city leaders continue to integrate the residents of Villa 31 into the development process, I would love to see them included equally as co-governing partners. If this happens, when I visit the office of the Secretary of Social and Urban Integration in the near future, there will be residents of the community working in a variety of capacities, as well as in leadership positions working alongside Maria and her colleagues. That is a model of innovative citizen participation.


03.23 ENGAGING IDEAS - 03/23/2018

Friday, March 23rd, 2018 | PUBLIC AGENDA


The ‘value divide’ between Democrats and Republicans is getting bigger and bigger (Washington Post)
In the Trump era, Americans may be more polarized now than ever. But while Americans have always known they don't all share the same politics, more of them are now questioning whether their political opponents even share their same values.

I'm a political polarization researcher. Here's what I know in 2018. (San Diego Union-Tribune)
When we talk politics today, our voices are loud and fractious, always passionate and often divisive. Our conversations are rarely rational debates; they either become therapy sessions with like-minded partisans or devolve into shouting matches against the other side. But there is one thing that we can agree on, one feature of today’s politics that is beyond debate: We are deeply polarized.

Google Pledges $300 Million to Clean Up False News (New York Times)
In a move to combat the epidemic of false and unreliable information on the internet, Google is pledging to spend $300 million over the next three years to support authoritative journalism.


The sorriest urban scene: why a US homelessness crisis drags on (The Guardian)
Despite approving billions in funds to fight the problem, Los Angeles has seen its homeless population continue to grow. What can politicians do?

Sons of Rich Black Families Fare No Better Than Sons of Working-Class Whites (The Upshot)
Black boys raised in America, even in the wealthiest families and living in some of the most well-to-do neighborhoods, still earn less in adulthood than white boys with similar backgrounds, according to a sweeping new study that traced the lives of millions of children.

In the Suburbs, Social Services Can’t Keep Up With Families’ Needs (Slate)
University of Washington social policy professor Scott W. Allard found that poverty has rapidly expanded in the surrounding Washington, D.C., metro: an astounding 125 percent increase in suburban poverty between 1990 and 2014, in comparison to a fractional 13.6 percent increase in the District of Columbia And the geography of social service capacity shows great variation within a metro area.


How Student Activism Could Potentially Impact American Politics (NPR)
NPR's Sarah McCammon speaks with Nancy Thomas, director of the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University about the potential impact of student activism in American politics.

After Tempe fatality, self-driving car developers must engage with public now or risk rejection (The Conversation)
Residents don’t have the technical expertise of the autonomous vehicle developers. But they likely do have insights that would substantially enhance the safety and trustworthiness of the vehicles being tested.

Public opinion: Elected officials and agency staff need to care what their constituents think (The Journal)
An important aspect of the decision-making process of governmental agencies is the gathering and analysis of public comments. Unfortunately, that essential component has experienced some significant failures lately, and that failure is a threat to participatory democracy.


More high schools offer free college admission testing. But there’s a catch. (Washington Post)
Some of Maryland’s largest school systems have joined a growing national movement to provide college admission testing to high school juniors at no charge. But there’s a catch for many of these students and others around the country: The free exams won’t include the essay-writing portion that some highly selective universities require.

The barriers that make charter schools inaccessible to disadvantaged families (Brookings)
Poorer families have depended on public school systems to provide high-quality education in neighborhoods they can afford. Charter schools have the potential to expand families’ tuition-free options, closing the gap in school choices between wealthier and poorer families. However, they only expand families’ options if they are genuinely accessible—not just technically available. An assortment of barriers can get in the way.

Elementary school teachers sometimes follow a class of students from year to year. New research suggests that’s a good idea. (Chalkbeat)
Students improve more on tests in their second year with the same teacher, it finds, and the benefits are largest for students of color.

Higher Ed/Workforce

Harvard Drops SAT Essay as Requirement (Inside Higher Education)
Harvard University has announced that it will no longer require applicants to submit the essay portion of either the SAT or the ACT, even though they will still be required to submit scores for the other parts of the tests.

Pushing for Graduation in Four (Inside Higher Ed)
Texas A&M University at San Antonio pushes students to earn 15 credits a semester -- a task that may not be easy when many have responsibilities at home.

The Third Education Revolution (The Atlantic)
Schools are moving toward a model of continuous, lifelong learning in order to meet the needs of today’s economy.

Health Care

You’ve Heard of Single-Payer. What about All-Payer Health Care? (BU Today)
If you want to buy milk, Austin Frakt says, you could check prices at Shaw’s and Costco. Gas? Compare different stations’ prices at the pump. In both cases, the sellers charge every buyer the same price, allowing buyers to look for the best deals.

Report: Knowing prices could slash health care spending (Portland Tribune)
A report released Tuesday by two policy research groups found that giving patients, providers and insurers prices before health care decisions are made could reduce spending without compromising quality. The report makes a series of recommendations to Oregon lawmakers to increase price transparency.

Controlling Health Care Costs By Listening to Patients (Time)
Health care costs in the United States are in the trillions, and finding solutions to cut costs are becoming critical for medical care sustainability. During a conversation with health leaders about health care cost-cutting, experts made a simple argument: listen to patients.


03.16 ENGAGING IDEAS - 03/16/2018

Friday, March 16th, 2018 | PUBLIC AGENDA


The Donald Trump Cabinet Tracker (The Atlantic)
The president’s decision to fire Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo will give his Cabinet a new look a little more than a year into his term.

Will the United States ever get back on a bipartisan “Middle Way?” (Salon)
History provides a lesson about how the United States can return to bipartisanship and a civil political discourse

Nearly 40% of Americans say they've lost faith in American democracy (Axios)
"People’s expressed faith in democracy is tightly coupled with their partisanship in ways that threaten the system itself."


The Rise of the 1 Percent Negates Any Progress in the Racial Income Gap (Pacific Standard)
The income gap has been virtually unchanged for the last 50 years, and rising income inequality is part of the reason why.

Are You Underpaid? In a First, U.S. Firms Reveal How Much They Pay Workers (Wall Street Journal)
American workers, for the first time, are discovering how much employees earn at the biggest U.S. companies and how that pay compares with the chief executive’s.

Demographics Give a Big Head Start for Family Income and Wealth (Wall Street Journal)
New research suggests some economic advantages are inherited, rather than earned


Cutting Through the Complexity: A Roadmap for Effective Collaboration (Stanford Social Innovation Review)
Collaborations and networks rarely achieve their ambitious goals. Here’s what it takes to make them actually work.

Why Demonstrating Is Good for Kids (New York Times)
Participating in political activism may be good for our teenagers, according to a new research report.

Gartner Says Citizen Engagement Is Critical to the Success of Smart Cities (Gartner)
Citizen engagement is critical to the success of smart cities, according to Gartner, Inc. Smart city initiatives are no longer about optimized traffic patterns, parking management, efficient lighting and improvements to public works.


Venture capitalist visits 200 schools in 50 states and says DeVos is wrong: ‘If choice and competition improve schools, I found no sign of it.’ (Washington Post)
Dintersmith traveled to every state to visit schools and see what works and what doesn’t — and his prescription for the future of American education has very little to do with what Gates and others with that same data-driven mind-set have advocated.

When Chicago cut down on suspensions, students saw test scores and attendance rise, study finds (Chalkbeat)
As school districts across the country have cut back on suspensions, critics claimed that the changes have led to chaos in the classroom. But there’s been remarkably little hard evidence either for or against that view.

What other states are poised for a teachers strike? (Daily Dot)
After more than a week on the picket lines, West Virginia teachers announced on Tuesday that they would return to work. They’ll be going back after winning some big concessions, most notably the five percent raise that brought them out on the line in the first place.

Higher Ed/Workforce

'Masculinities studies' finds renewed relevance in #MeToo era (Christian Science Monitor)
As academia confronts the reverberating effects of the #MeToo movement, increasing interest has turned toward 'masculinities studies' – a relatively new field, born out of sociology, that investigates why and how men act in society.

A Sector in Flux: How For-Profit Higher Ed Has Shifted (Inside Higher Ed)
Over the last two years, many of the industry’s biggest and best-financed players have altered their company structures, merged with onetime competitors, or left the education business altogether.

Race and Gender Bias in Online Courses (Inside Higher Ed)
Study finds instructors are much more likely to respond to comments from white male students than from others.

Health Care

UnitedHealthcare Finds Value-Based Care Closed 50M Gaps in Care (Health Payer Intelligence)
UnitedHealthcare research found that value-based care programs closed over 50 million gaps in care between 2013 and 2017 while lowering care costs.

US spends twice as much as other wealthy countries on health care (The Hill)
The United States spent twice as much on health care than ten other high-income countries in 2016, largely because of the high costs of prescription drugs, administrative overhead and labor, a new study released Tuesday indicates.

Two Minnesota House Bills Would Increase Healthcare Transparency (KEYC)
Two state bills introduced this legislative session look to bring more transparency to Minnesota's healthcare market.


03.09 ENGAGING IDEAS - 03/09/2018

Friday, March 9th, 2018 | PUBLIC AGENDA


The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News (The Atlantic)
Falsehoods almost always beat out the truth on Twitter, penetrating further, faster, and deeper into the social network than accurate information.

Opinion- Something has happened to American discourse. And it could break our democracy (Sacramento Bee)
My greatest fear for the future of American democracy is the deep polarization of our society. A survey recently found that 11 percent of Americans would not want a family member to marry someone of a different race, but 40 percent would not want a family member to marry someone of a different political party. Last week, President Donald Trump’s approval rating among Democrats was five percent, but it was 80 percent among Republicans.

The NRA used to be a bipartisan campaign contributor, but that changed in 1994. Here's why (Los Angeles Times)
It may be hard to remember, but there was a time when the National Rifle Assn. was a bipartisan organization.


Majority in U.S. Satisfied With Opportunity to Get Ahead (Gallup)
Americans remain much more satisfied with the opportunity for economic mobility in the U.S. than they are with the distribution of economic outcomes, although their views of the former have changed significantly over the years.

The Rise and Fall of American Public Housing (City Lab)
Of all that came out of the mid-20th-century liberal consensus, perhaps nothing ended up so reviled as public housing.

Four Figures That Explain Inequality in America (Pacific Standard)
A new report looks at gaps in income, education, and wealth over the last 50 years.


Editorial: Whose government is it? (Times Union)
Mayor Kelly put together a ten-person commission made up entirely of city officials and employees — the city attorney, the commissioners of accounts, finance, public works and public safety, their deputies, and the deputy mayor. The most glaring problem goes to the very concept of democracy and self-governance.

From down under - When foreign policy leaves out public engagement (Khmer Times)
Failure to speak directly and with vigour to the Australian public about foreign policy and its future is a mistake, writes Nick Bisley.

Politicians are hiding how they spend money. That’s a political mistake. (Washington Post)
Meaningful debate around spending and revenue choices can happen only in countries where sufficient budget information is publicly available, and where citizens have opportunities to influence decisions.


Few black and Hispanic students receive admissions offers to New York City’s top high schools — again (Chalkbeat)
Four years and an entire chancellorship after Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to diversify New York City’s most elite high schools, the schools remain as stubbornly segregated as they were before he took office.

Top school choice group advising Puerto Rico on controversial efforts to expand charters and vouchers (Chalkbeat)
EdChoice, a group that backs school vouchers, is preparing to help Puerto Rico officials expand school choice, or what critics there have called “privatization.”

What If America Didn't Have Public Schools? (The Atlantic)
Imagining an entirely different educational system reveals some strengths—and flaws—of the current one

Higher Ed/Workforce

Global Boom in Private Enrollments (Inside Higher Ed)
One in three students globally is enrolled in private higher education institutions, according to research that reveals the huge growth and wide reach of private providers.

Education Department Plans 'Higher Education Ecosystem Challenge' (Inside Higher Education)
The U.S. Education Department last night announced that it would start a "Higher Education Ecosystem Challenge" this spring, inviting teams of colleges, companies, foundations and others to design and test a "truly student-centered ecosystem" to promote student learning.

Using analytics to improve graduation rates (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
Institutions are increasingly using data to identify key areas where students are succeeding and struggling with the goal of a completing a four-year degree.

Health Care

The Health-Care Gap Between Red and Blue America (The Atlantic)
States have a surprising degree of autonomy to block President Trump’s changes to Obamacare—and liberal-leaning states are already making their move.

Will incentivizing people to shop for lower priced tests, drugs whittle down America’s healthcare costs? (MedCity News)
Laurie Cook went shopping recently for a mammogram near her home in New Hampshire. Using an online tool provided through her insurer, she plugged in her ZIP code. Up popped facilities in her network, each with an incentive amount she would be paid if she chose it. Paid? To get a test? It’s part of a strategy to rein in health care spending by steering patients to the most cost-effective providers for non-emergency care.

Three doses of competition to reduce the soaring cost of health care (The Hill)
The cure for the high cost of health care is competition. Three steps should be taken now to increase competition and reduce prices.


03.08 Gun Control: Who's responsible?

Thursday, March 8th, 2018 | REBECCA SILLIMAN

It’s the same plot we have sadly become familiar with as Americans. People’s lives are taken too soon, communities are left trying to put back together a picture that has missing pieces and another group of children’s innocence has been replaced with a nightmare that may haunt them their whole lives. The school shooting that took place in Parkland, Florida last month is undeniably devastating.

Media, politicians and anyone who has access to a social platform all have opinions about what’s to blame – guns, mental illness, violence on TV. While we all can agree this tragedy shouldn’t have taken place, how to prevent it from occurring again is murkier. The typical questions roll out one after one: Is it time to remove all the guns? Do we need to provide better mental health services? Are automatic weapons really covered under the 2nd amendment? Should it be harder to get guns? Should more people carry guns?

We are inundated with many different answers to these, and similar questions, from conservatives and liberals, yet there has been surprisingly little action. A graphic published by New York Times outlines the few preventative steps that Congress has taken over the five years since Sandy Hook in 2013. ( The lack of action is frustrating and as there are more and more instances of innocent people losing their lives, we are left questioning if anything will ever change.

But, we live in a democracy, a government that is supposed to represent the people. If Congress has done little, maybe it is because there is so much disagreement among Americans or maybe Americans just don’t want change. Maybe the frustration is wrongly placed on Congress and maybe our representatives just have a better understanding of what Americans want.

According to two surveys conducted last year
(one by Pew Research Center and the other by Gallup)
and a national poll conducted February 2018
(by Quinnipiac University) here is what Americans believe:

Most Americans think owning a gun is an individual right.

  • 71 percent of Americans do not think that there should be a law that would ban the possession of handguns1.

Most believe it’s too easy to buy a gun.

  • 96 percent of Americans are in favor of requiring background checks for all gun purchases2.
  • 88 percent are in favor of preventing people with mental illnesses from purchasing guns3.
  • 83 percent support a federal mandatory waiting period on all gun purchases4.
  • 66 percent of Americans support stricter gun laws5.

A little over half of Americans with a gun in their household support a ban on assault weapons.

  • 67 of Americans support a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons.6
  • Among people who have a gun in their household, 53 percent support this ban.7

Most people do not think that arming teachers is the best way to reduce gun violence in schools.

  • 44 percent are in favor of allowing teachers and school officials to carry guns.8
  • 20 percent say arming teachers with guns would do more to reduce gun violence. 34 percent said using metal detectors and 40 percent said stricter gun laws would do more to reduce violence.9

Congress should be doing something.

  • 75 percent of Americans think Congress needs to do more to reduce gun violence.10

Government officials are elected to represent the public, on good faith that they will listen to their constituents. Yet, if so many Americans believe more should be done, why hasn’t Congress done anything? Why are conversations continuously revolving around what politicians want, what the National Rifle Association wants, or what Democrats or Republicans or Independents want and not what Americans want?

There are some solutions Americans don’t agree on, but many of us share similar ideas on progress. Congress, regardless of where you stand on this issue, please listen to Americans. We want you to do more. And Americans, please hold government officials accountable. Take action and demand that your voices are heard: speak out when you are ignored and vote for those who will listen and represent you.

Comment (2)

03.02 ENGAGING IDEAS - 03/02/2018

Friday, March 2nd, 2018 | PUBLIC AGENDA


The Generation Gap in American Politics (Pew Research Center)
Generational differences have long been a factor in U.S. politics. These divisions are now as wide as they have been in decades, with the potential to shape politics well into the future.

The True Source of the N.R.A.’s Clout: Mobilization, Not Donations (The New York Times)
“It’s really not the contributions,” said Cleta Mitchell, a former N.R.A. board member. “It’s the ability of the N.R.A. to tell its members: Here’s who’s good on the Second Amendment.”

The Destructive Dynamics of Political Tribalism (The New York Times)
By now we all understand that America is in the grip of political tribalism. We lament and condemn this phenomenon even as we voraciously engage in it. But by fixating on the symptoms, we remain blind to the root causes.


How Cities Are Divided By Income, Mapped (City Lab)
Three types of visualizations show the stark economic disparities in U.S. cities.

The middle class is becoming race-plural, just like the rest of America (Brookings)
Two trends have emerged which highlight the degree to which the “American middle class” can no longer serve as an implicit proxy for a group that is predominantly white.

Facebook co-founder wants US citizens to have ‘fair shot’ at guaranteed income (Star)
A US$500 (RM1,957) monthly cheque from the government for every American earning less than US$50,000 (RM195,700), financed by taxing the wealthy, would provide financial stability for millions of people in the United States, said the co-founder of Facebook.


Effort to Boost Civic Engagement in Detroit Gets Financial Boost (WDET)
“Local democracy is the bedrock of the American system, and we see a way for the work we’re doing, in collaboration with others, to strengthen that.”

Report: Effective Government Outreach Requires Social Media (Government Technology)
The role of social media in citizen-government interactions has steadily increased in recent years as the public becomes more reliant on the medium for real-time information.

When You Call Your Congressperson, Do They Listen? (Government Technology)
The OpenGov Foundation has conducted human-centered research to identify pain points in communications between constituents and congressional representatives, and is using tech to make sure voicemails matter.


More California students graduate from high school, but far fewer graduate from college (EdSource)
California's high school graduation rates have increased significantly in recent years, but the percentage of those students who complete their college education continues to lag, with long-term implications for the state’s future.

States’ Strong Education Systems Often Cost Students. (U.S. News & World Report)
The 2018 U.S News Best States ranking data show that of the states ranked in the top 10 for education, half rank in the bottom half of states for low debt at graduation, including New Hampshire, which comes in 49th despite ranking fourth for education overall, and Massachusetts, which ranks 44th in low debt at graduation despite ranking No. 1 in education overall.

Do vouchers help students get to college? Two new studies come to different answers. (Chalkbeat)
The debate around school vouchers has exploded in the last year with the appointment of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. That also means recent studies showing that student achievement drops, at least initially, when students use public dollars to attend private schools have gotten a lot of attention. But supporters have countered that test scores only say so much about student performance. The real test is how students do over the long term.

Higher Ed/Workforce

Education Policy Design: The High Stakes Business Of Educating Students (
The American education system is experiencing vast transformation requiring schools to rethink how they teach students, evaluate the education marketplace, and exercise fiduciary responsibilities at the state and district levels.

States’ Strong Education Systems Often Cost Students (U.S. News & World Report)
The 2018 U.S News Best States ranking data show that of the states ranked in the top 10 for education, half rank in the bottom half of states for low debt at graduation, including New Hampshire, which comes in 49th despite ranking fourth for education overall, and Massachusetts, which ranks 44th in low debt at graduation despite ranking No. 1 in education overall.

Arizona Republicans Inject Schools of Conservative Thought Into State Universities (The New York Times)
Around the country, Republican legislatures have been taking a greater interest in the affairs of their state universities to counteract what they see as excessive liberalism on campus, from quarrels over conservative speakers to national anthem protests to the very substance of what students are taught.

Health Care

Red and Blue States Move Further Apart on Health Policy (Wall Street Journal)
Democratic and Republican states are moving in opposite directions on health policy, leaving Americans with starkly divergent options for care depending on where they live.

A Big Divergence Is Coming in Health Care Among States (The New York Times)
Little by little, the Trump administration is dismantling elements of the Affordable Care Act and creating a health care system that looks more like the one that preceded it. But some states don’t want to go back and are working to build it back up.

Democrats march toward single-payer health care (The Hill)
Single-payer health care is gaining ground among Democrats. In a sign of the party’s move to the left on the issue, the Center for American Progress (CAP), a bastion of the Democratic establishment, this week released a plan that comes very close to a single-payer system.


02.23 ENGAGING IDEAS - 02/23/2018

Friday, February 23rd, 2018 | PUBLIC AGENDA


What Our Democracy Needs to Know (Slate)
In one example of how technology has become crucial to democratic institutions, speakers discussed how the 2020 census, which will be conducted digitally for the first time, could both keep up with the private sector and offer meaningful data to government leaders. An accurate Census is critical for everything from our economy to our educational systems.

OPINION: A big gerrymandering case raises a profound question about our elections (The Washington Post)
What should determine how district lines are drawn? On one side we have fairness — not always possible to achieve with perfect certainty, but at least a goal one could seek — and on the other side we have the exercise of raw political power for partisan advantage.


Roads to nowhere: how infrastructure built on American inequality (The Guardian)
From highways carved through thriving ‘ghettoes’ to walls segregating black and white areas, US city development has a long and divisive history

Facebook’s next project: American inequality (Politico)
A Stanford economist is using the company's vast store of personal data to study why so many in the U.S. are stuck in place economically.


Extra Doorbells, Satellite Dishes: How Cities Search for People the Census May Miss (New York Times)
This spring, volunteers will use a texting app the city tested in December to identify [unpermitted housing] and similar units. The city will then flag them on the Census Bureau’s master address list for San Jose. Mr. Almeida vows that the city department in charge of building code enforcement will never see these address notes, and the Census Bureau requires confidentiality from the local officials who do access them. A nonprofit founded by the former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Cities of Service, is hoping to spread the tool to other cities that will be receiving their address databases from the census in the coming weeks.

School District wants more community engagement (Santa Monica Daily Press)
The Santa Monica Malibu Unified District has unveiled a new proposal to strengthen family engagement in the education process. The framework was discussed during a board meeting on Thursday, February, 15.


Abolish middle school? Not so fast, new study says. (Chalkbeat)
The push to combine elementary and middle schools into K-8 schools has seemed like a heartening example of policymakers making decisions based on hard evidence. Rigorous studies have suggested that scrapping traditional middle schools is good for students. And some districts like Boston have moved to merge schools, trying to eliminate some of the elements of middle school that make it miserable for many tweens.

Do community schools and wraparound services boost academics? Here’s what we know. (Chalkbeat)
Research shows that these efforts often do help learning, but in a number of cases they don’t seem to have any effect — and it’s not clear why efforts sometimes succeed and sometimes don’t.

Higher Ed/Workforce

Departures at Gates Foundation Stir Speculation About Its Plans for Higher Ed (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
In the span of just a few months, two high-level officials at the higher-education arm of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have left or announced plans to depart. This being Gates, the largest philanthropic player in postsecondary education, the departures of Daniel Greenstein and Heather Hiles have prompted speculation about the future direction of an operation that now awards about $125-million a year in grants.

We need to rethink higher education funding (Times Higher Education)
Former education secretary Justine Greening explains her plans for a graduate contribution system that funds universities in the same way that national insurance covers state pensions

Health Care

Industry urges CMS to continue ACA wraparound coverage option (Modern Healthcare)
Health benefit managers are encouraging the Trump administration to continue a little-known ACA coverage option for supplemental insurance, which is slated to end this year. Under the CMS' wraparound coverage policy, employers can provide limited benefits that supplement individual health insurance policies, such as access to non-formulary drugs or out-of-network providers.

The Trump administration is proposing this health care idea — less insurance for lower premiums (Post Gazette)
The Trump administration Tuesday spelled out a plan to lower the cost of health insurance: give consumers the option of buying less coverage in exchange for reduced premiums.


02.09 ENGAGING IDEAS - 02/9/2018

Friday, February 9th, 2018 | PUBLIC AGENDA


How a Nazi Made the Ballot in Illinois (The Atlantic)
The strange candidacy of Arthur Jones points to failures of democratic safeguards on every level.

Americans are getting smarter about politics in at least one important way (Washington Post)
American politics may be more polarized today than at any time in the postwar period. While this fact is commonly lamented, it has had one arguably beneficial side effect: Americans have become better at identifying where the presidential candidates stand relative to each other — a task that has long challenged voters.

CHART: How Trump's Immigration Proposal Compares With Other Plans (NPR)
Many major news stories have centered around immigration — and more specifically, Washington's inability to agree on what to do as President Trump's deadline to end the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or DACA) policy fast approaches.


9 American cities with the worst income inequality (CBS News)
The divergence between rich and poor is growing in some regions, creating affordability problems and straining fiscal budgets.

How American Inequality in the Gilded Age Compares to Today (Time)
While the original Gilded Age inspired a wave of political change, from the first march on Washington to the rise of the Populists, its fallout did not lead to the end of inequality in the United States. As Painter tells TIME, there have been several major cycles of inequality in the U.S. since then.

The World Class Poverty in America’s Booming Economy (Nonprofit Quarterly)
Over the first two weeks of December, Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, visited the United States. His findings, perhaps surprising, painted a very disturbing picture as he compared how the US, one of the world’s wealthiest nations, compares to other developed nations.


Opinion: Giving Outsiders More Power Can Help Grant Makers Solve Problems (Chronicle of Philanthropy)
Philanthropy is many things, but at the core, it’s people making decisions about money.

A People’s Democracy in America (Project Syndicate)
Trust in political parties is at new lows. And amid all the dismay and dysfunction, some of the new plutocrats have stepped up as philanthropists to underwrite social reform. Yes, it all sounds like Trump-era America. But these conditions also prevailed more than a century ago, during the Progressive Era of the early 1900s.

In Smaller Communities, Social Media Plays a Big Role (Government Technology)
In Pennsylvania’s smaller townships, social media is filling the gap between the government and citizens.


With new focus on curriculum, Gates Foundation wades into tricky territory (Chalkbeat)
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a new plan intended to help public schools: improve the materials that teachers use to teach.

Not One-Size-Fits-All (US News & World Report)
Charter school laws grant innovative educators freedom from many rules and regulations to design their own programs. But that freedom comes with a commitment – at the risk of being shut down – to improve outcomes and opportunities for students.

Graduation Rate Made Little Progress, State Says (New York Times)
The high school graduation rate in New York State barely budged last year, inching up just half a percentage point, according to data released Wednesday by the New York State Education Department. According to the department, 80.2 percent of public school students graduated on time.

Higher Ed/Workforce

Taking a cut of student’s future paychecks has Silicon Valley investors funding education (
Although not as favorable as most federally-subsidized loans (which offer income-adjusted repayment plans and loan forgiveness), ISAs essentially allow students to pay for today’s tuition out of their future earnings.

‘The Tyranny of Metrics’ (Inside Higher Ed)
Author discusses new book on what he views as the dangers of an obsession with numbers in analyzing admissions, academic success, faculty productivity and more in higher education.

College Applications as High School Graduation Requirement (Inside Higher Education)
New Mexico legislation seeks to require high school students to apply to at least one college.

Health Care

Rising health costs and economic inequality may threaten your retirement (PBS)
The significance of what Kaiser found is how our widening economic inequality is creating divergent impacts of health inflation.

HCC: The 3-letter word that can build payer-provider trust and improve quality (Healthcare Dive)
As the shift toward value-based care and risk-based contracting progresses, it will become even more important for health plans and those who deliver care to collaborate.

Bill would require full transparency in health care pricing (The Daily Sentinel)
Rep. Mike Foote isn't known for running bills dealing with health care costs. But after the Lafayette Democrat was approached by a friend who wants to help lower medical costs by making all health care providers and insurance companies more fully disclose what they are charging, Foote couldn't resist.


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