Author Archives: afscme

Repressing Radicalism

Source: Chip Gibbons, Jacobin, June 15, 2017

The Espionage Act turns 100 today. It helped destroy the Socialist Party of America and quashes free speech to this day. …. A century later, as socialist politics gain favor again in the United States, it’s important to remember the role that brute repression played in the SP’s downfall — and the continued threat the Espionage Act poses to democratic freedoms today. ….

Toward a More Equal Footing: Early Head Start in Maine

Source: Jessica Carson, University of New Hampshire, Carsey School of Public Policy, National Issue Brief #122, Spring 2017

From the summary:
Policy makers and advocates nationwide recognize that funding for early childhood education is a crucial investment in the future. Critical foundational development occurs before age 5, and research consistently shows that high-quality early education for children leads to higher future educational attainment and lower likelihood of crime, and yields a return on investment of 7 to 13 percent.
Yet accessing affordable, quality early childhood education and care is a challenge for families nationwide. More than a quarter of families with young children are burdened by child care costs, and the availability and quality of child care and education are highly variable across states.
One program that connects the most economically vulnerable families with quality early childhood programming is Early Head Start (EHS). Subject to rigorous quality and staffing standards, implemented among the youngest children (prenatally through age 2), and delivered via a two-generation approach, EHS is a significant opportunity for providing quality care and education to a population that might otherwise struggle to access it. This brief explores the characteristics of EHS in Maine, compares them to the national landscape, and connects these findings to a discussion of the federal and state policy climates.

Key Findings:
– Maine has 837 funded Early Head Start (EHS) slots for more than 8,000 poor children age 0–2 in Maine. Limited funding means that EHS is unable to reach the vast majority of children living below the poverty line.
– Nearly half (47.2 percent) of Maine’s EHS enrollees participate via the home visitation service delivery model, compared with 37.3 percent nationwide.
– Maine’s EHS staff are more highly educated than EHS staff nationwide. More than one-third of center-based teachers and almost two-thirds of home visitors have at least a four-year degree, compared with about a quarter and a half, respectively, nationwide.

Predict Your FOIA Request Success

Source: data.world, 2017

Does your FOIA have a shot? This model is trained on 9,000+ FOIA requests tracked by MuckRock.

Predictions made using a K nearest neighbors classification algorithm with a test classification accuracy rate of 80%. Factors include word count, average sentence length, specificity (presence of nouns), references to fees, references to FOIA, presence of hyperlinks, presence of email addresses, and success rate of agency.
Related:
What makes a good FOIA request? We studied 33,000 to find out.
Source: Nicolas Dias, Rashida Kamal, and Laurent Bastien, January 30, 2017

Every journalist has ideas about what makes a good public records request. But surprisingly few people have actually tried to systematically analyze how requests can be written to improve their chances of success. To fill this vacuum, we analyzed more than 33,000 Freedom of Information Act requests and identified a few characteristics that were typical of those that were fulfilled…..

Public Education Finances: 2015

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Educational Finance Branch, Report Number: G15-ASPEF, June 14, 2017

From the summary:
The U.S. Census Bureau conducts the Census of Governments and the Annual Surveys of State and Local Government Finances as authorized by law under Title 13, U.S. Code, Sections 161 and 182. The Census of Governments has been conducted every 5 years since 1957, while the annual survey has been conducted annually since 1977 in years when the Census of Governments is not conducted. The 2015 Annual Survey of School System Finances, similar to previous annual surveys and censuses of governments, covers the entire range of government finance activities—revenue, expenditure, debt, and assets (cash and security holdings).

This report contains financial statistics relating to public elementary-secondary (prekindergarten through grade 12) education. It includes national and state financial aggregates and displays data for the 100 largest school systems by enrollment in the United States….

State Revenues and the Aging Population

Source: Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene, PA Times, June 13, 2017

…. Not only are older people likely to need more services, especially health care; they also are inclined to bring in smaller amounts of revenue dollars, largely because their earned incomes tend to decline. Equally important, many states have tax laws that do not fully cover income from Social Security or pensions. This issue is growing in significance as the makeup of the population shifts. The number of U.S. residents over 65 is anticipated to grow by one-third over the next 15 years, according to the Census Bureau….

What Can Performance Information Do to Legislators? A Budget Decision Experiment with Legislators

Source: Labinot Demaj, Public Administration Review, Volume 77 Issue 3, May/June 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Studies on the influence of performance information on budgeting decisions have produced contradictory findings. This article offers a framework of the parliamentary context that links performance information to legislators’ budgeting decisions. The framework suggests that the impact on politicians’ allocations will differ depending on whether performance information is reflected in the budget proposal, whether the allocation issue concerns a politically difficult trade-off for the decision maker, and whether information falls into a receptive partisan mind. The experimental study uses 57 actual legislators. The results show that the introduction of performance information into legislators’ deliberation process leads to stronger deviations from the status quo allocation. This difference occurs because performance information highlights more clearly the expected consequences of budgetary changes and allows for more pronounced reactions. More informed decisions, however, might make compromise among legislators more difficult because individual positions will become more polarized.
Previous version:
What Can Performance Information Do to Legislators? A Budget Decision Experiment with Legislators
Source: Labinot Demaj, University of St. Gallen, Law & Economics Working Paper No. 2015-04, September 9, 2014

From the abstract:
Existing studies on the influence of performance information on budgeting decisions are limited and have produced contradictory findings. This paper argues that most previous work has somewhat problematically focused on self-reported use of performance information rather than on the legislative context into which performance information is introduced. This study offers a framework that links performance information to legislators’ budgeting decisions. I argue that the impact will differ depending on whether performance information is reflected in the budget proposal, whether the allocation issue concerns a politically difficult value tradeoff for the decision-maker, and whether the implications of the performance information fall into a receptive partisan mind. This paper studies these aspects by manipulating the first two of these factors in an experimental setting involving budgetary decision-making by 57 actual legislators. The control groups consist of 65 undergraduate students. The results show that the introduction of performance information into the legislators’ deliberation process leads to stronger deviations from the status quo allocation. I argue that this difference occurs because performance information highlights more clearly the expected consequences of budgetary changes and allows for more pronounced reactions. This paper concludes that more informed decisions based on good performance budgets might also create a situation in which it is more difficult for legislators to compromise because individual positions become more polarized.

Not just for the poor: The crucial role of Medicaid in America’s health care system

Source: Simon Haeder, The Conversation, June 7, 2017

Despite many assertions to the contrary, Senate leaders are now saying they want to vote on the replacement bill for Obamacare before the month is out. Front and center is the planned transformation of America’s Medicaid program, which covers 20 percent of Americans and provides the backbone of America’s health care system. …. To understand how the ACHA’s proposed changes to Medicaid would affect people and our health care system, let’s look more closely at the program….

The Steal: The Urgent Need to Combat Wage Theft in Retail

Source: Amy Traub, Dēmos, 2017

From the summary:
Retailers put a great deal of resources into dealing with theft. They install security cameras, affix anti-theft tags to merchandise, and hire guards to protect stores. Signs warn that shoplifters will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And yet another type of theft in the retail sector receives far less attention, even though it is equally, if not more pervasive in our economy: employers stealing pay they legally owe to their workforce.

Key Facts
– Just one form of wage theft is equivalent to the value of all merchandise lost to shoplifting nationwide.
– By paying less than the legal minimum wage, employers steal an estimated $15 billion every year. This compares to an estimated $14.7 billion lost annually to shoplifting.

– Despite the pervasiveness of wage theft, retailers spent 39 times more on security than the entire Department of Labor budget for enforcing minimum wage standards.
– In 2015, retailers spent an estimated $8.9 billion on security. This compares to $227.5 million budgeted for the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division to enforce wage standards.

– Shoplifters can wind up in jail, but federal penalties for wage theft are not much of a deterrent—even when millions of dollars are stolen.
– If a shoplifter steals more than $2,500 in merchandise, they can face felony charges in any state in the country. The greatest civil federal penalty for wage theft is repaying the amount in stolen wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages. Even for repeat or willful violations, the maximum penalty is $1,100.

– Wage theft has disastrous consequences for workers, families, and the public.
– Minimum wage violations cut into the paychecks of an estimated 4.5 million working people and their families, and drive more than 302,000 families below the poverty line.
– In the retail industry alone, 358,000 workers are cheated by minimum wage violations.

Cab Drivers Union Says Chicago Taxi Industry Is Nearing Collapse

Source: Jeff Schuhrke, In These Times, June 13, 2017

….But with the introduction of Uber and other rideshare companies to the city—which can operate without the expensive, city-issued medallions—Aikins has seen his clientele plummet over the past three years, making it increasingly hard to keep up with his medallion loan payments.

Across the city, the number of taxi rides dropped from 2.29 million in January 2014 to 1.1 million in January 2017, according to a report released recently by Cab Drivers United, AFSCME Local 2500 (CDU). As a result, the average monthly income per medallion has fallen by $2,000 during the same time…..

….In addition to repaying loans on their medallions, taxi operators also have to pay thousands of dollars each year in city expenses, like the ground transportation tax and medallion license renewal fee—expenses that rideshare drivers are not subject to.

CDU says the number of rideshare vehicles in Chicago now exceeds 227,000, while 42 percent of the city’s taxis didn’t pick up a single passenger this March. The union stresses that the decline of the taxi industry is a loss for the broader public. Unlike most rideshare vehicles, taxis serve people without bank accounts by accepting cash, and they also have more stringent requirements on providing access to people with disabilities…..