Report: Pre-K Momentum Climbs to an All-Time High

Source: Jennifer V. Doctors, Pre-K Now, September 2007

From the press release:
A record-breaking 36 states increased funding for pre-kindergarten according to a report released today by Pre-K Now. “Votes Count: Legislative Action on Pre-K Fiscal Year 2008,” an annual state-by-state analysis of legislative support for pre-k, shows historic momentum for funding early education across the country, with 528 million new dollars committed to providing at least 88,000 more children access to pre-k. The number of states increasing pre-k funding breaks last year’s record of 34, and far exceeds the FY05 record of 15.
Individual state data

Taking a Toll: Rapid growth and declining public funds send states racing toward alternatives to pay for new highways

Source: Ed Brock, American City & County, Vol. 122 no. 9, September 2007

… Georgia is not the only state turning to PPPs and toll roads to handle increased traffic. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), 21 states allow the use of PPPs to fund transportation projects. Also, since the passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) in 1991, 27 states and one territory have implemented major toll road operations, according to the August 2006 FHA study “Current Toll Road Activity in the U.S.A. Survey and Analysis.”

Medicare Part D Plans Continue to Hike Drug Costs After Seniors Sign up for Coverage

Source: Consumers Union, October 1, 2007

From the press release:
Consumers Union’s latest sampling of Medicare prescription drug plans again finds that most insurers hike the cost of their drugs during the year – in one extreme case by 28 percent. The data calls for major changes in the law to protect seniors against bait and switch-type practices as the open enrollment season approaches.

“It makes no sense to ask a senior to carefully shop around in October and sign up for a drug plan, when the plan just turns around a few months later and dramatically hikes the cost of the medicines,” said Bill Vaughan, senior health policy analyst for Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.
Latest tracking data

Why the 2005 Social Security Initiative Failed, and What it Means for the Future

Source: William A. Galston, Brookings Institution and NYU John Brademas Center, Legislating for the Future Project, September 21, 2007

From the summary:
Within days after the election, President Bush made it clear that he did not intend to play it safe on Social Security reform and other controversial issues. In a post-election press conference, he asserted, “I earned capital in this campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.” He was as good as his word. By mid-January of 2005, the White House had launched a huge initiative, directed by Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman, to mobilize public opinion and build public support for Social Security reform and other key presidential proposals.

The President followed up two weeks later, placing a lengthy discussion of Social Security at the heart of his 2005 State of the Union address. After citing the fiscal and demographic pressures moving the system toward eventual bankruptcy, he listed some basic principles and then reached the nub of the matter: “As we fix Social Security, we also have the responsibility to make the system a better deal for younger workers. And the best way to reach that goal is through voluntary personal retirement accounts.” This approach, the President argued, would offer younger workers a “better deal”: The rate of return would be higher than in the traditional system; the accumulation could be passed on to children and grandchildren; and “best of all, the money in this account is yours, and the government can never take it away.”

By early summer the initiative was on life support, with congressional Democrats uniformly opposed and Republicans in disarray. After Hurricane Katrina inundated what remained of the President’s support, congressional leaders quietly pulled the plug. By October, even the President had to acknowledge that his effort had failed.

Living Wage Ordinances in the Public Sector

Source: C.W. Von Bergen, William T. Mawer and Barlow Soper, Public Personnel Management, Vol. 36 no. 3, Fall 2007
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During the last decade more than 100 governmental units (primarily cities) have implemented living wage ordinances. These regulations require private sector employers who receive public funds through subsidies and contracts to pay their workforces a wage based on “need” rather than “skill.” Such ordinances feature a minimum wage floor that is higher–often much higher–than the traditional minimum wages set by state and federal legislation. This paper provides a history of the living wage movement and presents its benefits and challenges to assist local authorities in decision-making regarding this controversial and politicized issue.

Comparing Public and Private Choices of Managed Health Care Plans: Rhetoric versus Reality

Source: Christopher G. Reddick, Public Personnel Management, Volume 36 No. 3, Fall 2007
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The rhetoric is that the public sector provides broader coverage and more affordability of health benefits to its employees than the private sector. This study examines the reality of public and private health plans. It focuses specifically on the three types of managed care plans: Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO), Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO), and Point-of-Service (POS) plans. An examination of health care benefits is especially important given the double-digit rise in premiums since 2001. This article first focuses on the literature showing differences in health benefits in the public sector compared with the private sector. The literature on the factors that influence choice of managed care plans are also examined. The results reveal that public sector health care costs are slightly higher and fewer plans are offered to its employees. There are fewer alternative health care options, such as high deductible health plans and health savings accounts, as compared with what is offered by the private sector. In addition, the logistic regression results reveal that there are significant differences between the public and private sectors in types of plans offered, controlling for organizational and community factors, characteristics of health care plans, and opinions of human resources (HR) managers on controlling costs.

Occupational Pay Comparisons Among Metropolitan Areas, 2006

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, USDL 07-1455, September 26, 2007

Average pay in the San Francisco metropolitan area was 19 percent above the national average in 2006, the highest among the 78 metropolitan areas studied by the National Compensation Survey (NCS), the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. In contrast, pay was lowest in the Brownsville, Texas metropolitan area with a pay relative of 78, meaning Brownsville workers earned an average of 78 cents for every dollar earned by workers nationwide. Using data from the NCS, pay relatives-a means of assessing pay differences-are available for each of the 9 major occupational groups within 78 metropolitan areas, as well as averaged across all occupations for each area.

Treasury Releases First in Series of Papers on Social Security Reform

Source: U.S. Treasury, September 24, 2007

The Treasury released today the first in a series of issue briefs that will discuss Social Security reform, focusing on the nature of the problem and those aspects of reform that have broad support.
Paulson Statement on Social Security Reform, September 24, 2007
Issue Brief No. 1 Social Security Reform: The Nature of the Problem, September 24, 2007

Charter Schools and Collective Bargaining: Compatible Marriage or Illegitimate Relationship?

Source: Martin H. Malin and Charles Kerchner, Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 30 no. 3, Summer 2007

From the abstract:
The rapid increase in charter schools has been fueled by the view that traditional public schools have failed because of their monopoly on public education. Charter schools, freed from the bureaucratic regulation that dominates traditional public schools, are viewed as agents of change that will shock traditional public schools out of their complacency. Among the features of the failed status quo are teacher tenure, uniform salary grids and strict work rules, matters that teacher unions hold dear. Yet unions have begun organizing teachers in charter schools. This development prompts the question whether unionization and charter schools are compatible.

Can the President’s Health Care Tax Proposal Serve as an Effective Substitute for SCHIP Expansion?

Source: Linda J. Blumberg, Urban Institute, October 2007

Nearly 40 percent of a low-income family’s earnings will need to be spent on health insurance if a Bush administration proposal to use the tax system to subsidize coverage is enacted, a new Urban Institute analysis has found.

After receiving the proposed tax subsidy, a two-parent, two-child family with an annual household income of approximately $32,000 would pay 39 percent of its income on family coverage. Insuring this family’s children through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) would have no cost to the family.