Why are police inside public schools?

Source: Aaron Kupchik, The Conversation, September 6, 2016

Children across the U.S. have now returned to school. Many of these children are going to schools with sworn police officers patrolling the hallways. These officers, usually called school resource officers, are placed in schools across the country to help maintain school safety.

According to the most recent data reported by the Department of Education, police or security guards were present in 76.4 percent of U.S. public high schools in the 2009-2010 school year.

In many of these schools, police officers are being asked to deal with a range of issues that are very different from traditional policing duties, such as being a mental health counselor for a traumatized child. This is an unfair request….

The South Is Organizing — and There’s No One to Cover It

Source: Mike Elk, Pacific Standard, September 5, 2016

Workers are less scared of organizing when the press is covering them. The solution? More labor reporters in the South. ….

….Southern workers are also facing a rapidly expanding economy — in part from a growing technology and auto industry — even as many citizens know that they aren’t getting a piece of the pie. Just as attitudes about race are changing in the South, attitudes about organized labor are changing just as rapidly.

Based on an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the fastest-growing region in the United States for union membership is the South, where nearly 150,000 workers opted to join unions last year — bringing the total number of union members in the South to nearly three million. Five of the top 10 fastest-growing states for union membership in 2015 were all in the South.

If those number surprise you, that might be because there is not a single full-time labor reporter anywhere in the South….

….If unionization in digital media has proved one thing, it is that coverage of workers unionizing leads to even more organizing….

Graduate Students, the Laborers of Academia

Source: Mark Oppenheimer, The New Yorker, August 31, 2016

….While labor supporters have every reason to be gladdened by the N.L.R.B. ruling, there are already numerous graduate-student unions in the United States, as the N.L.R.B. noted—representing sixty-four thousand graduate students on twenty-eight campuses, including the universities of Wisconsin, California, Michigan, and Iowa. But those are all public universities (although private N.Y.U., which had a union and then lost it, won a new contract last year). And until last week the law recognized an arbitrary, and unmerited, distinction between workers at public and private schools. Grade papers on a large, public campus and you were a laborer, with a union and the right to strike; do the same work at Yale or Columbia and you were a student, one who happened to do a little grading, but certainly nobody who needed union protections.

The law has never put the dichotomy so starkly, of course, and students at state schools are just lucky that those institutions are governed by generally more union-friendly state laws, not by the fickle federal board. But the grad-student-union movement at private schools is decades old—by some counts, the fight at Yale is the longest-lasting struggle for union recognition in the country—and throughout its history its opponents, including me, once upon a time, have relied on the élitist logic that unions are for other people, not for our kind.

The standard argument against graduate-student unions, one adopted by the lone dissenter in last week’s federal ruling, is that graduate students are “primarily” students, and that any work they do, like leading discussion sections or grading papers, is educational in nature—that is, they are learning a skill that they will need on the job market. And, the argument goes, if on occasion they do actual labor, they still should not be able to join a union, because the adversarial nature of collective bargaining would threaten to undermine the primary relationship, that of student to professor, advisee to mentor……

…..In the end, of course, the question of graduate-student unionism does not turn on whether the unions are good or bad for students. Whatever else graduate students are, they are workers now. In 1975, fifty-seven per cent of American faculty were tenured or tenure-track, but by 2011 that number had fallen to thirty per cent. As jobs in the professoriate have disappeared, graduate students have become an indispensable source of labor, without whom undergraduates simply could not be taught. They have become workers, not for their own sake as apprentice-learners but because their schools need them as casual labor…..

Ad Data (beta)

Source: The Center for Responsive Politics, OpenSecrets, September 2016

From the press release:
Today, CRP is unveiling a new tool that allows users to track political ad buys daily, as they are reported to the Federal Communications Commission. CRP’s new project is the latest of several worthy efforts that have sought to unlock this information — crucial as it is to understanding how candidates, super PACs and dark money groups operate in elections. In 2012, Jacob Fenton (then of the Sunlight Foundation) created “Political Ad Sleuth,” a pioneering achievement that became the go-to resource for researchers and journalists tracking ad buys reported to the FCC. Similarly in 2012, ProPublica’s Free the Files project tracked FCC filings, and, like AdSleuth, it engaged users by asking them to help crowdsource the very messy data. ….

What you can do with OpenSecrets’ new ad tracker
We couldn’t have done our post on Majority Forward’s advertising in New Hampshire without being able to track its “issue ad” buys through station filings with the FCC, which is the data we are processing and making far more usable for journalists, the public and watchdog groups with our new tool. Having ready access to this data will, among other things, make it possible (for those who can’t afford an expensive private subscription service) to see who’s running political ads that aren’t reported to the Federal Election Commission.

CTHRU Open Records Platform

Source: The Office of the Comptroller, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 2016

CTHRU is designed to provide an intuitive experience for exploring where our tax dollars are utilized and is available 24/7. The visualizations and tables are all highly interactive and we invite you to explore. As stewards of the Commonwealth’s financial data, the Office of the Comptroller is committed to expanding transparency in the utilization of public funds and we hope you will agree that this is a great step in that direction – please visit often as we expand the system in the coming months.

The Office of the Comptroller is a uniquely independent and apolitical overseer of more than $60 billion in governmental and other funding sources annually. In addition, the Comptroller oversees the Commonwealth’s expenditure and payroll management and major audit functions ensuring security, transparency, accountability, and service delivery across all branches of state government.
New website will detail state payroll, spending data
Source: David Scharfenberg, Boston Globe, September 7, 2016

Experiences with Health Insurance and Health Care in the Context of Welfare Reform

Source: Kimberly Danae Narain and Marian Lisa Katz, Health & Social Work, Advance Access, First published online: September 8, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Studies have shown that in the wake of welfare reform there has been a drop in the health insurance coverage and health care utilization of low-income mothers. Using data from 20 telephone interviews, this study explored the health insurance and health care experiences of current and former welfare participants living in Los Angeles County. This study found that half of these women had been uninsured at some point. Many of these lapses in health insurance coverage were linked to employment transitions and lack of knowledge regarding eligibility for different safety net programs. This study also found that satisfaction with access to health care was high among the insured respondents; however, barriers to care remained for many individuals, including appointment scheduling issues, limited scope of health insurance coverage, narrow provider networks, lack of care continuity, and perceived low quality of care. Better linkages between social programs assisting with health insurance coverage and improved knowledge among program clients may reduce health insurance cycling in this group. New rules for Medicaid managed care, currently being considered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, have the potential to improve access to health care and the quality of care for these individuals.

Massachusetts Health Reform At Ten Years: Great Progress, But Coverage Gaps Remain

Source: Sharon K. Long, Laura Skopec, Audrey Shelto, Katharine Nordahl and Kaitlyn Kenney Walsh, Health Affairs, vol. 35 no. 9, September 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Massachusetts’s 2006 health reform legislation was intended to move the state to near-universal health insurance coverage and to improve access to affordable health care. Ten years on, a large body of research demonstrates sustained gains in coverage. But many vulnerable populations and communities in the state have high uninsurance rates, and among those with coverage, gaps in access and affordability persist.

Medicaid Expansion Affects Rural And Urban Hospitals Differently

Source: Brystana G. Kaufman, Kristin L. Reiter, George H. Pink and George M. Holmes, Health Affairs, vol. 35 no. 9, September 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Rural hospitals differ from urban hospitals in many ways. For example, rural hospitals are more reliant on public payers and have lower operating margins. In addition, enrollment in the health insurance Marketplaces of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has varied across rural and urban areas. This study employed a difference-in-differences approach to evaluate the average effect of Medicaid expansion in 2014 on payer mix and profitability for urban and rural hospitals, controlling for secular trends. For both types of hospitals, we found that Medicaid expansion was associated with increases in Medicaid-covered discharges. However, the increases in Medicaid revenue were greater among rural hospitals than urban hospitals, and the decrease in the proportion of costs for uncompensated care were greater among urban hospitals than rural hospitals. This preliminary analysis of the early effects of Medicaid expansion suggests that its financial impacts may be different for hospitals in urban and rural locations.

US Hospitals Are Still Using Chargemaster Markups To Maximize Revenues

Source: Ge Bai and Gerard F. Anderson, Health Affairs, vol. 35 no. 9, September 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Many hospital executives and economists have suggested that since Medicare adopted a hospital prospective payment system in 1985, prices on the hospital chargemaster (an exhaustive list of the prices for all hospital procedures and supplies) have become irrelevant. However, using 2013 nationally representative hospital data from Medicare, we found that a one-unit increase in the charge-to-cost ratio (chargemaster price divided by Medicare-allowable cost) was associated with $64 higher patient care revenue per adjusted discharge. Furthermore, hospitals appeared to systematically adjust their charge-to-cost ratios: The average ratio ranged between 1.8 and 28.5 across patient care departments, and for-profit hospitals were associated with a 2.30 and a 2.07 higher charge-to-cost ratio than government and nonprofit hospitals, respectively. We also found correlation between the proportion of uninsured patients, a hospital’s system affiliation, and its regional power with the charge-to-cost ratio. These findings suggest that hospitals still consider the chargemaster price to be an important way to enhance revenue. Policy makers might consider developing additional policy tools that improve markup transparency to protect patients from unexpectedly high charges for specific services.

Affordable Care Act’s Mandate Eliminating Contraceptive Cost Sharing Influenced Choices Of Women With Employer Coverage

Source: Caroline S. Carlin, Angela R. Fertig and Bryan E. Dowd, Health Affairs, vol. 35 no. 9, September 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Patient cost sharing for contraceptive prescriptions was eliminated for certain insurance plans as part of the Affordable Care Act. We examined the impact of this change on women’s patterns of choosing prescription contraceptive methods. Using claims data for a sample of midwestern women ages 18–46 with employer-sponsored coverage, we examined the contraceptive choices made by women in employer groups whose coverage complied with the mandate, compared to the choices of women in groups whose coverage did not comply. We found that the reduction in cost sharing was associated with a 2.3-percentage-point increase in the choice of any prescription contraceptive, relative to the 30 percent rate of choosing prescription contraceptives before the change in cost sharing. A disproportionate share of this increase came from increased selection of long-term contraception methods. Thus, the removal of cost as a barrier seems to be an important factor in contraceptive choice, and our findings about long-term methods may have implications for rates of unintended pregnancy that require further study.
Early Impact Of The Affordable Care Act On Oral Contraceptive Cost Sharing, Discontinuation, And Nonadherence
Source: Lydia E. Pace, Stacie B. Dusetzina and Nancy L. Keating, Health Affairs, vol. 35 no. 9, September 2016
(subscription required)