Daily Digest - January 22: Which Schools Will Make the Grade on Economic Impact?

Jan 22, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Students to Analyze Yale’s Impact on New Haven (Yale Daily News)

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Students to Analyze Yale’s Impact on New Haven (Yale Daily News)

Nicole Ng reports on the launch of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's Rethinking Communities initiative at Yale University. Students will examine how Yale influences local economic development in New Haven and be able to compare Yale to other institutions across the country.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Associate Director of Networked Initiatives Alan Smith explains the ideas behind the Rethinking Communities initiative.

Why the Rich Don't Think They're Rich. And Why It Matters (PolicyShop)

David Callahan looks at polls and surveys that show that wealthy Americans don't consider themselves to be wealthy. He suggests that most rich people compare themselves to even richer peers, but this perception is a problem when trying to implement policies that reduce inequality.

Janet Yellen Should Ignore the Unemployment Rate (Slate)

Matt Yglesias writes that the new Federal Reserve chair should recognize that the unemployment rate is not actually a useful measure of the health of the economy. The unemployment rate has been dropping recently, but that's because of the decline in labor force participation.

Want to Help the Middle Class? Don’t Kill Corporate Taxes (WaPo)

Juan Carlos Suárez Serrato and Owen Zidar write that cutting or eliminating a state's corporate income taxes won't bring in new business, and will help shareholders rather than average workers. They call for increased infrastructure spending as a better method of attracting businesses.

Four Years After ‘Citizens United,’ There Is Real Movement to Remove Big Money From Politics (The Nation)

John Nichols reports on the growing movement to support a constitutional amendment that would declare money to be property rather than speech and reverse the Citizens United decision. Sixteen states have already passed resolutions supporting the proposed amendment.

New on Next New Deal

Citizens United for Real Civic Engagement

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network National Field Strategist Joelle Gamble uses the fourth anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC to call for more diverse forms of civic engagement. She argues that practices like participatory budgeting strengthen citizens' voices beyond the voting booth.

Rethinking Diplomacy: Why Iran Should Have a Seat at the Table on Syria

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Defense and Diplomacy Jacqueline Van de Velde writes that without bringing more of the major players, including Iran, to the Geneva II talks that are meant to solve the crisis in Syria, it's unclear if any resulting plan can be seen as legitimate.

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Daily Digest - December 19: How Michigan Can Put Its Best Minds to Work

Dec 19, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Bill Helps Solve Michigan's Brain Drain (Lansing State Journal)

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Bill Helps Solve Michigan's Brain Drain (Lansing State Journal)

Sonja Karnovsky and Adam Watkins, co-Presidents of the University of Michigan chapter of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network, argue that a bill that would create a tax credit to reduce student loan costs for graduates who stay in-state, which is based on a Campus Network proposal, would also improve the state's economy.

Street Protests Can Foil Congress (NYT)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren suggests that anyone seeking to reform today's Congress should look at the response to the filibusters of the Civil Rights era. Social movement politics pushed through filibuster reform in 1975, and similar pressures could help end today's dysfunction.

Not So Fast: New Budget Deal Leaves a Lot to Deal With (MoJo)

Patrick Caldwell points out that the Ryan-Murray budget is only a broad framework, and Congress still needs to pass an omnibus appropriations bill to set spending levels on a program-by-program basis. With $46 billion to cut, that's not going to be an easy process.

Looking for a Job? Congress Doesn’t Seem to Care (The Root)

Charles D. Ellison points out that while Congress continues to focus on the Affordable Care Act and the budget deficit, polling data shows that the majority of Americans would rather see their representatives shift their attention to jobs. Sadly, Congress seems to have missed these polls.

The Taper is Here, and the Stock Market Seems to Love It (Quartz)

Matt Phillips reports that the Federal Reserve has begun to taper its bond-buying program, and the S&P 500 shot up in response to the news. But the Fed isn't done pushing for low inflation, so Phillips argues that the central bank will remain a major market presence.

The Fed Tapered Perfectly—Here's What It Needs To Do Next (The Atlantic)

Matthew O'Brien explains how the Fed has managed to keep markets from reacting badly to tapering, as they did when the very suggestion was made back in May. He adds that with inflation still below target and unemployment still too high, expanded monetary policy will still be needed.

Charting a Mismatch in Housing Spending (Off the Charts)

Will Fischer looks at federal housing spending, which disproportionately subsidizes wealthier households and favors homeownership over renting. Since low-income renters are far more likely to need support, he says Congress should put more resources into rental assistance.

UAW Wants to Eliminate Two-Tier Wage System: Official (Reuters)

Ben Klayman reports on the United Auto Workers' new push to eliminate dramatically lower pay for entry-level hires compared to veteran workers. A UAW vice president says that to do away with this system, they'll need to organize non-union plants in the South.

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Daily Digest - December 12: Too Cooperative for a Tea Party

Dec 12, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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A Tea Party For Liberals (Majority Report)

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A Tea Party For Liberals (Majority Report)

Sam Seder and Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal discuss what has prevented the rise of a liberal equivalent of the Tea Party. Liberal groups would need a lot more funding before they could break the historic partnerships with moderates that have helped them beat Republicans.

US Budget Deal: What Does It Add Up To? (FT)

James Politi gives a full breakdown of the budget deal, complete with numbers. There are no tax cuts, because that's too much compromise for the GOP, so all the increases in revenue come from higher fees. (This article is behind a paywall.)

Federal Budget Deal Hits Worker Pensions (MSNBC)

Ned Resnikoff focuses on how the budget deal will affect federal workers. Even though there are no real concerns about the long-term sustainability of the federal retirement system, the deal increases employee contributions to create savings in the budget.

Don’t Deck the Halls for This One (Other Words)

Mattea Kramer compares the Murray-Ryan budget deal to polling data on what Americans want from the budget, and finds the deal lacking. When 80 percent of Americans want higher taxes on corporations, for example, why is there no new tax revenue?

Tax Dollars for Law Breakers? (Policyshop)

Amy Traub presents what may be the least-controversial policy idea ever: the government shouldn't do business with law-breakers. A new study shows that we've failed to meet even that basic standard, with many federal contractors paying large fines for labor law violations.

ALEC Has Tremendous Influence in State Legislatures. Here’s Why. (WaPo)

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network alum Alexander Hertel-Fernandez ties ALEC's success to the resources available to legislators. Lawmakers with smaller budgets and shorter legislative sessions are more likely to introduce pre-fab bills from ALEC.

New on Next New Deal

Corporate Education Reform Won’t Solve the Problems Caused by Poverty

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Education Raul Gardea criticizes the profit motive in education reform. Inequality causes many of the problems facing education, and those problems won't be solved by getting the market involved in our schools.

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Corporate Education Reform Won’t Solve the Problems Caused by Poverty

Dec 11, 2013Raul Gardea

Arne Duncan’s latest gaffe highlights the critical inequities of federal education “reforms.” Reversing these trends will require policymakers to acknowledge that education alone cannot create perfect equity of opportunity. 

Arne Duncan’s latest gaffe highlights the critical inequities of federal education “reforms.” Reversing these trends will require policymakers to acknowledge that education alone cannot create perfect equity of opportunity. 

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan hastily walked back his comments recently after dismissing Common Core opponents as “white suburban moms”  who had suddenly realized that their kids aren't as bright as they thought. This sparked a furor amongst parents and educators and thrust the Common Core back into the spotlight. Although the controversy over standards-based education is nothing new, it speaks volumes that the outrage doesn’t make the evening news until white suburban moms are singled out. If there is something positive to be gleaned from Duncan’s tactless comments, it is the public recognition that these federal policies have stratified education along race and class divisions—policies that Duncan presides over and advocates for as Obama’s education secretary.

Perhaps the uproar prompted by Duncan’s comments has less to do with white suburban outrage and instead signals a tipping point: a mainstream rejection of policies that are finally being exposed for their disproportionately detrimental impact on poor and minority communities. Duncan’s remarks provided a glimpse at the man behind the curtain. Race and class matter in education and Duncan simultaneously acknowledged and dismissed this.

It’s hard to sympathize with Duncan’s dismissiveness.

Common Core is just one of several examples of corporate influence in education. The foundations and consortiums behind these policies, like the Gates Foundation, Pearson, and others, all stand to profit from adoption of their methods, resources, and technology. But that’s neoliberalism in a nutshell. What is truly surprising has been the full-fledged support of high-stakes testing by the US Department of Education (DoE) under a Democratic president, continuing the infamous legacy of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The mission of the DoE has been to fire “bad” teachers, as determined by their students’ test scores, and close schools which don’t meet these arbitrary and subjective goals.

Few would dispute that we should hold our educators and the children they are entrusted with to a high bar of excellence, but evaluating performance on test scores has never been a viable strategy. As Common Core test results have started trickling in, the results aren’t pretty. In New York, they show a widening of the achievement gap between black and white students. This leaves young teachers at a disadvantage since they are often placed in high poverty schools and are still learning on the job. They often have to also play the role of counselor, psychiatrist, and day care provider. So while the White Suburban Mom is disappointed because she’s tried her best to ensure the highest quality of life for her daughter, the Single Black Urban Mom who works two jobs simply can’t be as engaged with her son’s education: a child afflicted with toxic stress who then takes the same exam on an empty stomach. Ignoring these elements and relying solely on improving testing scores demeans the teaching profession and puts the students who need the most attention and wraparound services at a disadvantage.

Of course, this forms the ideological basis of corporate reform: firing “bad” teachers will fix education which will lead to middle class prosperity which will alleviate poverty. “College and career readiness” are the choice buzzwords found in the text of the Common Core. Speaking to Politico, Duncan said, “the path to the middle class runs right through the classroom.” Such a perspective, keen in the 1960s, sounds positively outmoded in 2013. As Millennials are quickly realizing, that rose-tinted vision of education as the great social equalizer simply cannot reconcile the effects of the Great Recession and decades of bad policy.

This is the crux of the issue. It really is all about money. Merit pay, standardization, union-busting, school closures, austerity budgets, unregulated charters, all coupled with persuasive messaging and the endorsement of both major political parties means corporate reform will make a few people very rich at the expense of equity and inclusiveness. Education is just another avenue where the profit motive has been pecking away at the remains of public institutions that we spent decades building.

It seems like grassroots uproar is finally coming to a head. The start of National Education Week this year saw anti-Common Core protests in New York, South Carolina, Maryland, and several other states. Much like the solidarity seen in recent fast food employee strikes and Black Friday protests from workers demanding fair wages and labor practices, teachers, parents, administrators, and legislators from all political stripes are uniting in opposition to unproven policies and their slapdash implementation across the country. Parents and educators should not be pitted against one another but realize their interests are very much aligned.

We have to acknowledge that non-school factors play a major role in learning outcomes and policymakers must know that enough is enough. Vast income inequality can lead to inequality in education, so we must ensure adequate funding formulas can meet the needs of diverse demographics. We must ensure access to affordable, quality healthcare for all families. We must further integrate schools to reduce achievement gaps. We must support the collective bargaining rights of teachers, who are often overburdened by factors outside the scope of their profession. As progressive populism is reignited, we must recognize that these issues are not about ideology but about pragmatism. Reinventing our social infrastructure for the 21st century means we simply cannot afford to treat our schools as a market ripe for competition any longer.

Raul Gardea is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's Senior Fellow for Education.

Photo via Shutterstock.

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Daily Digest - December 4: Youth Unemployment Is Leading to Tragedy

Dec 4, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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"Tragedy as a generation" for U.S. Youth (Marketplace)

David Brancaccio speaks to Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick about the problems young people are facing in today's economy. He says that without professional lobbyists, other groups' needs are being heard over young people's.

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"Tragedy as a generation" for U.S. Youth (Marketplace)

David Brancaccio speaks to Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick about the problems young people are facing in today's economy. He says that without professional lobbyists, other groups' needs are being heard over young people's.

CFPB To Supervise Largest Student Loan Servicers (HuffPo)

Shahien Nasiripour reports that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has finalized a rule giving it oversight over the companies that collect payments on federal student loans. This should hopefully ensure more borrower-friendly practices.

Detroit Is Bankrupt: What Now? (Pacific Standard)

Anna Clark lists the three most important things to be aware of now that the courts have approved Detroit's bankruptcy filing. She notes that this case will have a major impact on other cities, which look to Detroit as an example of the possibilities in their future.

Fighting Corruption Polls Off the Charts (MSNBC)

Zachary Roth reports on a new poll from represent.us which shows that the vast majority of Americans support tougher campaign finance laws. Unfortunately, incumbents seem uninterested in changing the rules that helped to get them elected.

  • Roosevelt Take: Jeff Raines, Chair of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Student Board of Advisors, explains how a current Supreme Court case could further weaken campaign finance law.

Black Friday and the Race to the Bottom (The New Yorker)

George Packer ties low retail sales during the extended Black Friday weekend to the fights for a higher minimum wage. Executives should recognize the practical truth that workers need to be able to afford to shop too.

Tax Breaks for CEOs Pay for Million-Dollar Salaries (The Guardian)

Jana Kasperkevic explains the performance pay loophole that allows corporations to deduct millions in executive compensation from their federal income taxes. She draws a parallel between the results of that policy and the low wages of average fast food workers.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Director of Research Susan Holmberg and Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network alum Lydia Austin wrote a white paper calling on Congress to close the performance pay loophole. Read it here.

Low Bank Wages Costing the Public Millions, Report Says (WaPo)

Danielle Douglas writes that new data from the University of California at Berkeley's Labor Center shows that bank employees are relying heavily on public assistance, to the tune of $900 million a year. The banking industry reported $141.3 billion in profits last year.

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North Carolina Students Push Past Bad News For Good Policy Proposals

Nov 26, 2013Wilson Parker

Members of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network in North Carolina refuse to be discouraged by the state’s bad news, and propose policy changes that would make a difference for their state.

Members of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network in North Carolina refuse to be discouraged by the state’s bad news, and propose policy changes that would make a difference for their state.

North Carolina has been in the news quite a lot recently, and for almost uniformly bad reasons. North Carolinians have watched as their legislature passed one of the nation’s “most wide-ranging” voter ID laws, enacted the “harshest” cuts to unemployment insurance during the recession in the entire country, banned the use of modern science to project sea level rise,  attached a restrictive set of requirements on abortion providers to a motorcycle safety bill in order to ramrod it through, and made a host of other questionable decisions about our state and its future.

But I’m happy to say that students in North Carolina aren’t discouraged. I’ve watched my peers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) – from diverse perspectives – engage with the issues our state is facing. At the UNC chapter of Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network – and at our sister chapters across the state – we’re trying to do our part.  Last year, we published a journal focused on policy issues in North Carolina. The journal was a big success, covering a wide array of policy topics and getting more than 15,000 hits online.

We just finished our second volume and we hope it will be an even bigger success. Like our first edition, it contains a variety of forward-thinking ideas for our state and its future. Here are some quick takeaways:

North Carolina should expand access to Dual Enrollment

North Carolina currently offers high school students the option of taking courses at nearby community colleges and receiving credit towards both their high school diplomas and a college degree. These programs give North Carolinian students skills they can use in the workforce, additional preparation for their college educations, and – by reducing the number of semesters they need to receive a diploma – make it easier for students to complete their college educations. They are especially helpful to low-income students who seek to minimize the financial burden of education after high school.

In our journal, Kate Matthews argues persuasively that North Carolina should expand this program to enhance the effectiveness and equity of its high school programs. Furthermore, because these programs “utiliz[e] available resources rather than funding new initiatives,” expanding them is a highly cost-effective way for the state to improve education in North Carolina.

North Carolina shouldn’t give rapists parental rights

“In 31 states, including North Carolina, a rapist can assert the same custody and visitation rights that other biological parents enjoy.” This may be the journal’s most frightening sentence. But Molly Williams’s article does more than raise awareness about this serious problem: it also offers a solution. Williams suggests that North Carolina should adopt legislation modeled after bills in other states which give courts the option of terminating parental rights if a child was conceived as a result of incest or rape.

Wake County Schools should take a page out of Forsyth County’s book

North Carolina’s Wake County Schools – like its legislature – have been getting the state in the news for the wrong reasons. Many commentators, including Stephen Colbert, have criticized the school district for eliminating its diversity plan.

Students at the Wake Forest chapter of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network have a proposal that will help Wake County meet the needs of all its students. Forsyth County and Wake County have similar needs: both contain major North Carolina cities (Winston-Salem and Raleigh, respectively) and both serve diverse student populations. In order to provide its most ambitious students with a variety of curricular options, Forsyth County created a “Career Center” which offers a variety of Advanced Placement and technical courses. Students remain enrolled at their home high schools but travel to the Career Center for part of the day. Transportation is provided by the school district. Not only does the Career Center expand students’ curricular options; it makes those options available to all students in the district, no matter which high school they happen to attend. The Wake Forest chapter makes the case that Wake County should consider a similar program.

North Carolina should use a “foundation funding” approach rather than a “flat-grant” model to fund its schools

North Carolina’s current funding model for public schools pays for districts’ basic costs, but requires localities to pick up the rest of the bill and makes no allowance for economic differences between districts. Consequentially, Ioan Bolohan writes, “geographic socioeconomic differences lead to inequalities in the resources available to schools” which result in “inadequate funding and disparities in educational opportunities for students.”

Instead, Bolohan argues, North Carolina should adopt a foundation funding model that establishes a minimum tax rate across all school districts and provides state funding on an adjusted basis to make up for economic disparities. This approach, he writes, has improved outcomes and reduced inequality in states as diverse as Ohio, Massachusetts, and Texas. We can only hope North Carolina will be next.

Wilson Parker is a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studying Economics and Philosophy. He is Co-President of the UNC Chapter of Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network and Editor-in-Chief of the North Carolina Undergraduate Journal of Public Affairs. 

Photo via Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network.

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Daily Digest - November 26: Rethinking Fairness And Pay It Forward College Plans

Nov 25, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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The Trouble with Pay It Forward, Pay It Back (The GC Advocate)

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The Trouble with Pay It Forward, Pay It Back (The GC Advocate)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal argues against the pay it forward model of higher education funding that Oregon will soon attempt. He would greatly prefer using government to drive down the cost of tuition at public schools - and hopefully private institutions would follow.

Statistics: The Real Lost Generation (Truthdig)

Alexander Reed Kelly takes a look at the data in Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick's recent column for Harper's Magazine on youth who are neither in school nor employed, or "opportunity youth." The numbers are scary, but government isn't taking any action.

  • Roosevelt Take: Read Jeff's column, "The Real Lost Generation," here.

H&M to Pay All Textile Workers Living Wage by 2018 (Epoch Times)

Catherine Yang reports on the clothing retailer's announcement, which they said will not impact prices. H&M's statement explicitly tied the size of the company to its responsibility to be a leader in pushing for living wages worldwide.

Bank Deal Ends Flawed Reviews of Foreclosures (NYT)

Jessica Silver-Greenberg reports on a settlement deal that is taking the place of real reviews of foreclosures. This solution is obviously faster and easier for the banks and the government, but it doesn't do much of anything for people who were harmed by the banks.

Aging Americans Have a New Companion: Higher Debt (Reuters)

Helaine Olen explains how social and economic changes have led to a major increase in the amount of debt held by Americans over 50. The trouble is, as Americans age, it's harder and harder to retain work to pay off that debt.

Here's Why Wall Street has a Hard Time Being Ethical (The Guardian)

In light of a new report which states that financial services professionals see ethical standards as an impediment to advancement in their workplaces, Chris Arnade explains how ethics and compliance standards were uphold during his Wall Street career.

New on Next New Deal

Abortion Restrictions Are Harming Women's Health and Human Rights in Texas

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn looks at a new report from the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, which shows just how badly new laws are harming the women of the Rio Grande Valley.

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Daily Digest - November 22: This Black Friday, Labor Protests With Your Sales

Nov 22, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Wal-Mart Labor Group Promises 1,500 Black Friday Protests Next Week (Salon)

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Wal-Mart Labor Group Promises 1,500 Black Friday Protests Next Week (Salon)

Josh Eidelson speaks to Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren about upcoming protests at Wal-Mart. Dorian compares Wal-Mart to General Motors in the 1940s, as a company that works against the economy's best interest today, but could turn around.

New Bill Offers Tax Relief to Keep Students in State (The Michigan Daily)

Shoham Geva reports on a bill that gives Michigan college graduates a tax credit equal to half their student loan payments if they stay and work in state. Recommendations from the University of Michigan chapter of Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network are in the State House version of this bill.

Another Reason for Filibuster Reform: It Will Help Dems Crack Down on Wall Street (WaPo)

Ryan Cooper argues that, having invoked the nuclear option, the Democrats have now given financial reform a better shot at success, because court cases about these regulations go to the D.C. Circuit Court. Filling that bench is what set this whole thing off.

  • Roosevelt Take: Ryan references the Roosevelt Institute's report, An Unfinished Mission, as an example of the kind of regulations that reformers are seeking.

Good Benefits Don't Make Unemployed People Happy About Being Unemployed (Smithsonian Magazine)

Colin Schultz reports on a new study that compares the happiness of unemployed people across the European Union. Stronger benefit programs don't affect life satisfaction - nor do they affect how hard people look for new jobs.

Home-Care Aides at Poverty’s Edge Are Hottest U.S. Jobs (Bloomberg)

Tom Moroney writes about the fastest-growing job in the U.S., personal care aides, and profiles one aide in her work and home life. While their industry is booming, personal care aides are also among the worst paid workers in the country.

The 'Exploitative' Internship Economy (Pacific Standard)

Casey McDermott speaks to intern rights advocate David Yamada about the legal and ethical issues of the intern economy. Yamada is disappointed that some companies choose the lose-lose option of ending internship programs instead of paying minimum wage.

Here's Why Insurers Probably Won't Go Along With Obama's Obamacare Fix (MoJo)

Erika Eichelberger argues that most insurance companies aren't going to reinstate the plans they've already canceled that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act's requirements, because that would cost money. It's possible this fix will mostly serve as political cover.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch argued in favor of the president's decision last week, because it would allow the administration to retain its focus on insuring more Americans.

Dying Sooner: America Falls Behind On Longevity (National Memo)

David Kay Johnston reports on new data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development which shows that the U.S. is falling behind its peers on life expectancy. The report blames the country's poor health care system and income inequality.

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How Can We Help America's Opportunity Youth? Five Lessons Learned in New Orleans

Nov 20, 2013Nell Abernathy

Young people who aren't in school or working aren't beyond hope, but we need to invest more in the programs that will help them.

Young people who aren't in school or working aren't beyond hope, but we need to invest more in the programs that will help them.

The great recession has hit younger, less educated workers hardest, leaving 6.7 million young people between the ages of 16-24 out of work and out of school. These “Opportunity Youth” are more likely than their peers to experience unemployment, low wages, and poverty as adults, and more likely to end up incarcerated or in need of government assistance.

The Roosevelt Institute’s Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative went to the heart of the crisis, New Orleans, where 23 percent of young people between the ages of 18-24 are out of work and out of school, compared to a national average of 16 percent.

We asked expert academics and practitioners how we, as a country, can tackle this pressing challenge.

Here’s what we learned:

I. Opportunity Youth remain hopeful and we should too.

The vast majority of Opportunity Youth remain motivated and optimistic. One of our panelists, Amy Barad, Director Strategic Initiatives at the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives, summed it up well: “What makes me hopeful is the kids themselves, they really want to get and education, get a job and contribute to society. Based on responses to a national survey, nearly three-quarters of Opportunity Youth are very confident or hopeful that they will be able to achieve their goals. Over three-quarters of respondents believe that getting a good education and job is their own responsibility and depends on their own effort.”

According to a survey conducted on behalf of Civic Enterprises and America’s Promise Alliance, 77 percent of those surveyed believe that getting a good education and a good job is their own responsibility and whether they succeed depends on their own effort, and 73 percent of Opportunity Youth are confident or hopeful in their ability to achieve their life goals. Here are those results in chart form:

II. However, the obstacles to reconnection are enormous and costs of disconnection are huge.

Disconnected Youth are more likely to grow up in poverty than their peers and were hit hardest by the recent recession. They are unlikely to have role models with degrees, the qualifications they need, transportation options for travelling to a job, or access to good jobs in their neighborhoods.

“The challenge is what urban planners call a wicked problem. The factors affecting disconnected youth are numerous, messy, and inter-related," Lauren Bierbaum, Executive Director of the Partnership for Youth Development, said. The obstacles to addressing disconnection are structural and rooted in communities.

For more, see the graphs below from Sarah Burd-Sharps and Kristen Lewis's report One in Seven: Ranking Youth Disconnection in the 25 Largest Metro Areas.

III. Some programs are successfully tackling these challenges, and the Opportunity Youth are eager to receive the help.

Two much-heralded programs designed to support these young people include Project U-Turn in Philadelphia, which recently won $499,000 in funding from the Aspen Institute as part of a plan to identify and replicate a national model, and YouthBuild, a nationwide Department of Labor program for high school dropouts.

Because the long-term societal costs of disconnected youth who don’t get help include lost taxes, more government transfers, higher prison budgets, and more, upfront investment in these programs is much cheaper than doing nothing.

And kids really want this help. “I’m excited to see the youth that are out there and that really want these programs,” Cherie LaCour-Duckworth, from the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, told us. “They are screaming for them. But funding has been cut drastically.”

Through Project U-Turn, the City of Philadelphia launched a collaborative effort to provide at-risk youth with needed services and raised the city’s high school graduation rates from 52 percent in 2005 to 64 percent in 2012. The following graph provided by Project U-Turn demonstrates the program's success so far:

According to a 2010 survey, 50 percent of YouthBuild participants received a high school degree or GED at the end of the program and 60 percent either went on to college or found full-time living wage jobs. Here is a chart illustrating the progam's impact:

Taxpayers are going to pay one way or another, either for fixing the problem upfront or for the costs of negligence later. The following charts from Civic Enterprises' reports on its National Roadmap for Opportunity Youth and The Economic Value of Opportunity Youth show this clearly:

According to the Civic Enterprises Survey, the kids are eager and ready for this help:

IV. But here is the rub: despite the long-term societal and fiscal benefits, we are under-investing in these intervention programs.

Most programs successfully serving disconnected youth are over-subscribed, and due to austerity measures, funding is further reduced. Youth opportunity grants authorized through the Workforce Investment Act reached 90,000 young people and reduced the overall number of out-of-work, out-of-school teens. But the program has not been funded since 2005, and sequestration has reduced overall workforce training funds by an additional $1.5 billion.

AmeriCorps-funded programs, which offer young people from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to serve in communities across the country, have been found to improve graduation and employment rates. The 2009 Serve America Act passed by Congress committed to increasing the number of AmeriCorps positions from 75,000 to 250,000 by 2017. The Act has not been implemented, however, and 85 percent of the more than 500,000 applicants were turned down in 2012. 

Here's a pair of charts highlighting this problem, from the National Skills Coalition and Service Nation

V. So what now?

“The only way we’re going to be able to have an impact is if government at all levels tackles these issues,” Jerome Jupiter, from the Youth Empowerment Project, told us in New Orleans, “This is no one person’s issue. We need all hands on deck – key stakeholders at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as institutions such as higher education all must work collaboratively to address youth unemployment.” 

Nell Abernathy is the Program Manager for the Roosevelt Institute's Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative.


Banner image via Shutterstock.com

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Local Experiments May Counteract Austerity in Education Funding

Oct 17, 2013Raul Gardea

California is placing a new emphasis on local community needs and closing the poverty achievement gap in education, and the rest of the country would do well to follow.

California is placing a new emphasis on local community needs and closing the poverty achievement gap in education, and the rest of the country would do well to follow.

As our country’s economy has limped along from one crisis to another over the past several years, the impact of state and federal austerity measures on communities has exposed our troubling national priorities. A new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showed that despite the Great Recession technically ending in 2009, schools have yet to return to pre-recession spending levels, and in some states the cuts reach up to 20 percent per pupil. These drastic cuts have become the norm as communities in states that have resorted to austerity to put out short-term fires must now cope with the fallout from such measures.

And then the government shut down.

So on top of underfunded schools, we had Head Start agencies on the chopping block, long-term WIC funding up in the airfurloughed workers flooding unemployment offices, and the nation on the brink of defaulting on our debt yet again. For many financially insecure families, it’s easy to see why they might hesitate before placing trust in their representatives in Washington or the state capitol to solve these problems.

As a result, the idea of robust and inclusive public education seems like a thing of the past. Cuts in education spending disproportionately affect low-income students, taking resources away from the institutions designed to prepare a generation for an already murky labor market.

California is taking a different path. Rather than normalizing those drastic cuts in school funding, the state is reinvesting the gains from its economic turnaround into providing its students a path to a brighter future. This summer, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), the most significant education reform in a generation, which passed the legislature with bipartisan support.

For decades, mountains of red tape and state-mandated programs have hamstrung districts that felt that top-down regulation was detrimental to the quality of education they could provide. The LCFF replaces the old, convoluted funding formula with one designed for equity and transparency. First, the state gives all school districts a ”base grant” per pupil of approximately $7000 depending on grade level. Those funds are supplemented with grants based on student needs and demographics. For example, a low-income, ESL, or special needs student’s district would receive roughly $3000 more for that pupil. An additional $1.25 billion is earmarked specifically for resources to help teachers shift to the new Common Core standards.

Educators and administrators benefit from this in several ways. Districts are given the freedom to manage their increased budget as they see fit by experimenting with different ideas to improve student outcomes. These may include increasing instructional time through a longer school year, rehiring teachers who had previously lost their full time jobs, incorporating new technologies in the classroom, or countless other innovations. LCFF respects and empowers educators while tempering the effects of metrics-based policy like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, which used bubble-in testing as the ultimate evaluation of a teacher’s effectiveness and then shut schools down for failing to achieve impossible proficiency rates. Additionally, the degree of freedom given to administrators will require significant community engagement as a measure of accountability, which is why the law mandates parental advisory boards in every school district.

Most importantly, weighted funding formulas like the LCFF recognize poverty as a key driver of achievement gaps. A Princeton study was recently published demonstrating how chronic poverty degrades one’s decision-making abilities, which can then worsen his or her financial circumstances. Any great society should attempt to curb the psychological toll that economic hardship can have on its citizens. Yet state and federal fiscal policy continues to squeeze the working poor from all sides. Policy like LCFF provides an important first step in mitigating the impact of poverty on educational outcomes.

This is precisely why school finance reform in the vein of California, with a purposeful focus on local control and the poverty achievement gap, should become the model for other states. California has a long way to go before its revenue streams match the targets laid out by LCFF, and it cannot replace Title I funds lost due to sequestration, but such policy demonstrates that it is still possible to reimagine age-old institutions. We live in extraordinary times where our country’s economic stability and global competitiveness is under perpetual threat by those we have placed in office. Families and students are feeling the sharp edge of broken policy and austerity economics. California’s willingness to hand the reins to communities demonstrates bold experimentation and a trust in its people, something that the national body politic has all but forgotten.

Raul Gardea is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's Senior Fellow for Education.

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