Engaging Ideas — 11/4

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: Articles on the effect scandals have on polling and what connecting research and policy can do to reduce inequality. A voter’s guide to the Nov. 8th education policy stakes. What 12 state schools are cutting, or creating, to ease cost burden on students. A look at an initiative on California’s ballot that may have important implications for drug pricing and policy nationwide.

Democracy

Three charts make painfully simple how American politics became so messed up(Wonkblog)
With less than a week to go until the election, the country has descended into full partisan battle mode.

The Case Against Democracy (The New Yorker)
Caleb Crain writes: If most voters are uninformed, who should make decisions about the public’s welfare?

Accelerating “What Works” (Stanford Social Innovation Review)
There is an urgent need to expand the infrastructure for results-based policymaking at all levels of the US government.

Mass media has utterly failed to convey the policy stakes in the election (Vox)
Millions of Americans would love some or all of these changes, and millions of others would hate them. But most of all, the vast majority of Americans would simply be confused. Someone who’d been following the election moderately closely — scanning headlines, watching cable news, and tuning in to debates — would simply have no idea that this sweeping shift in American public policy is in the offing if Trump wins. Nor would they have any real sense of what the more modest shift in public policy that would emerge from a Clinton win would look like. Beneath the din of email coverage and the mountains of clichés about populism, the mass-market media has simply failed to convey what’s actually at stake in the election.

Public Opinion/ Polling

Scandals’ Impact on Polls: A User’s Guide (RealClearPolitics)
When events like this happen, it’s often helpful to take a look at the basic components of the race before getting too bogged down in the details. I attempted to do that using a very simple model (described below) based on the idea that the candidate who is disliked the least on a given day will probably have a polling advantage. The model suggests that if this new email scandal drags Clinton down in the way past controversies have, the race could end up being very close. But if it doesn’t (or, again, if Clinton were to reveal damaging information about Trump), she may maintain her polling advantage heading into Election Day.

Opportunity

Does the Economy Really Need to Keep Growing Quite So Much? (The Atlantic)
Some economists are now challenging that view, arguing that it makes more sense to focus on measures of well-being other than growth. After all, despite a growth rate that has averaged three percent over the last 60 years (which is quite robust), there are still 43 million Americans living in poverty, and most people’s wages are essentially unchanged from the end of the Reagan administration. In fact, the median income of households in 2014 was four percent lower than it was in 2000, despite positive economic growth in all but two of the years during that time period. For half a century, developed nations have focused on how to make their economies grow faster, hoping that strong growth would improve life for all its population. But what if growth isn’t the key to raising the standard of living across a society?

Connecting Research and Policy to Reduce Inequality (The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of The Social Sciences)
A new article suggests that education researchers and policymakers need to improve their communication with each other in order to reduce educational inequality.

Community Engagement

Portugal announces the world’s first nationwide participatory budget (The Huffington Post)
Portugal has announced the world’s first participatory budget on a national scale. The project will let people submit ideas for what the government should spend its money on, and then vote on which ideas are adopted. Although participatory budgeting has become increasingly popular around the world in the past few years, it has so far been confined to cities and regions, and no country that we know of has attempted it nationwide. To reach as many people as possible, Portugal is also examining another innovation: letting people cast their votes via ATM machines.

Civic Engagement Strongly Tied to Local News Habits (Pew Research Center)
A new study by Pew Research Center in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation reveals that, overall, the civically engaged are indeed more likely than the less engaged to use and value local news.

K-12 Education

Education Week’s 2016 Voters’ Guide (EdWeek)
Voters in a number of states are being asked to weigh in on education-related initiatives and legislative referendums Nov. 8. Party control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives will have implications for education in a number of areas. Get a jump on the issues, candidate positions, and policy stakes in the federal and state elections.

Technology is everywhere in schools — except in how we design them. (Quartz)
We are building a state-of-the-art Formula 1 engine in the body of an old, broken-down Buick, and wondering why the car won’t go.

Lessons Principals Can Learn From Their Staff (EdWeek)
School leaders must be open to learning lessons from the staff they oversee, rather than just teaching them, writes Peter DeWitt. “Teachers and staff came to me with articles and research. When I visited their classrooms every day I learned new teaching strategies that I could use with other staff members. The introduced me to new researchers and innovative ideas. They inspired me to continue my lifelong learning.”

The lack of a child care ratings system leaves many parents in a bind. (NPR)
About 20 states are “on their way,” Hibbard says, having received federal funding in 2011 to build a system to define, measure and improve quality. Some states are working to create online tools based on standards suggested by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. These standards are the basis for a rating system HHS calls the Quality Rating and Improvement System.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

What 12 State Schools Are Cutting, or Creating (The New York Times)
State support for public two- and four-year colleges — funding is nearly $10 billion below what it was just before the recession — has begun to recover, though officials at the nation’s flagship universities say that doing more with less is the new norm. Some are even finding fresh ways to ease the financial burden on students.

Report: Competency-Based Education in College Settings (Mathematica Policy Research)
Key Findings: Consortium-wide, 35% of participants completed their program; their employment rates started and remained high, and wages for employed participants increased after program enrollment at a higher rate than the national average. Participants completed programs quickly, taking, on average, less than two terms to complete their first industry certification preparatory course and approximately four terms to complete certificates and degrees.

Even Top Students May Drop Out After Losing Aid (Inside Higher Ed)
Students are more likely to drop out of college if they lose even small amounts of financial aid — regardless of their grade point average — according to a study from the Education Advisory Board, a research and consulting firm based in Washington. The study also found that the more financial aid a student loses, the more likely they are to drop out.

Help With a Heavy Lift (Community College Journal)
State Student Success Centers are supporting community colleges in many ways and creating guided pathways in one.

Webinar: Looking Under the Hood of Competency-Based Education (American Institutes for Research)
Highlighted in Lumina’s Daily Newsletter: Join AIR on Monday, November 7, 2016, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. EST to hear highlights from American Institutes for Research’s (AIR’s) Study of Competency-Based Education (CBE), which examined the relationship between CBE practices and students’ learning disposition, skills, and behaviors.

Health Care

California’s Proposition 61: Will Direct Democracy Impact Prescription-Drug Pricing?(Health Affairs)
Even in this unconventional election season, California politics has generated little national interest, but one of the initiatives on this year’s California ballot because may have important implications for drug pricing and policy nationwide.

Why It Pays to Shop Around for That MRI (The Wall Street Journal)
A growing number of employers are trying to get employees into the habit of comparison-shopping by giving them a cut of the savings when they choose cheaper care. Employers like the states of Kentucky and New Hampshire and Jackson Health System, a large Florida hospital system, are using new tools that allow workers to compare prices for common procedures like MRIs and blood work, and get rewarded if they opt for lower-cost options.

Why Health Care Eats More Of Your Paycheck Every Year (The Washington Post)
Millions of Americans are finding out this month that the price of their health insurance is going up next year — as it did this year, last year, and most of the years before that. And it’s not just that the price is going up, it’s that it goes up faster than wages and inflation, eating away at our ability to pay for other things we want (beer, televisions, vacations) or need (rent, heat, food). Does it have to be this way? Why does health care grow so much faster than almost any other spending category so consistently? And will it ever stop?

More Transparency in Health Care Prices Possible in N.Y. (WBFO)
Understanding your policy sometimes isn’t enough. That’s part of the reason why several states have created “all-payer claims databases.” These are databases with health care price information — what was charged for an actual procedure. New York is about to build one.

The post originally appeared on Public Agenda’s blog, On the Agenda.