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How Do Charter Schools Affect Students in the Long-Term?

February 24 Friday 12:32 PM

Charter schools have been a hot topic, both at the federal and state level. Our very own Dr. Zimmer, who is a leading educational policy expert with over 150 media mentions in the past year, examines the impact of Florida charter high schools on future success in a recent publication in the Journal of Policy Analysis & Management. Dr. Zimmer and his co-authors found that "students attending charter high schools are more likely to persist in college, and that in their mid-20s they experience higher earnings."

In their analysis, the researchers compared two groups of students-- those that entered a charter high school after completing 8th grade at a charter middle school, and those that went to a conventional high school after completing 8th grade at a charter middle school. Through statistical analysis, they found that those attending the charter high school were 8.8% more likely to attend a two- or four-year postsecondary institution than their peers. They also, on average, made around $2,300 more than their peers overall and around $3,000 more if they attended college within six years of high school graduation. 

Why is this the case? And, can we generalize the results to other school systems and states? Like other schools, charter school programs all differ. The authors have a couple of ideas about why the students they studied were more successful-- perhaps they received better life skill coaching, for example. Much more research is needed to understand the mechanisms.


Dr. Agrawal Studies Taxation in an Internet Age

February 24 Friday 01:07 PM

Many Americans these days do their shopping online-- for gifts, services, and even their groceries. However, unless the vendor has a physical location in the shopper's state, the purchaser likely isn't paying state and local sales taxes. This is because the Supreme Court has ruled that only firms with a physical presence in a state must remit state and local sales taxes. Today, as more and more consumers ​make purchases​ on​ the internet​, states are potentially missing out on an important source of revenue.

This fall, Dr. Agrawal and his co-author, Dr. Fox, discuss the challenges and possible policy solutions -- including potential federal legislation requiring all large online vendors to remit taxes such as the Marketplace Fairness Act -- in their work "Taxes in an e-commerce generation," published in International Tax and Public Finance. Their article provides a global perspective on an extremely salient topic in tax policy!


Dr. Denison Examines Debt Concentration in Latest Publication

February 24 Friday 11:15 AM

Dr. Denison published a new study with co-author Dr. Robert Greer from UGA in Public Budgeting & Finance. You can read the abstract below and check out the full paper online here.

Determinants of Debt Concentration at the State Level

"We examine the general factors that affect the distribution of debt among state and local governments. We measure the distribution as the percentage of total state and aggregate local debt that is issued or held by the state level of government. Using a fiscal federalism framework, we discuss the fiscal, legal, and political factors that play an important role in determining the level of government that issues debt. Findings suggest that important factors of debt concentration at the state level include state political ideology and economic factors of income per capita and unemployment rates."


Learning by Doing: Reflections on Strategic Planning Course

February 1 Wednesday 02:31 PM

Sarah Smith is a second-year MPA student who will be graduating in May. She describes one of her classroom experiences below.

The Martin School Master of Public Administration curriculum is designed to blend in-classroom and experiential learning. For instance, students are required and receive academic credit for an internship in a chosen field or organization. As an MPA student, I've attended speakers, competitions, and field trips, all through the Martin School.

However, some of our courses teach skills and offer students the chance to apply those concepts directly to real-world projects, too. One such course, which is one of my personal favorites, is PA 602: Strategic Planning. While many of the program's core classes have projects that mimic professional activities, Strategic Planning is unique-- small groups of students partner directly with non-profit or government organizations to develop strategic plans, using skills and methodologies as we learn them.

Having worked as a project manager and implementation consultant prior to coming to the Martin School, I loved having this opportunity. Reflecting on our group projects, I was able to connect activities I did in my previous work to what I was learning (and doing again) in class. My team created a potential strategic plan for the Lexington Farmers Market using the Balanced Scorecard methodology. Other teams worked with a nonprofit providing after school activities to middle schoolers and a local environmental protection group. Each team tailored their approach to the needs of their client. For instance, my group reimagined one of the Balanced Scorecard "perspectives," or lens through which the organization's objectives and mission are analyzed, to better suit the structure of the organization.

As someone who learns through doing, my understanding and command of the skills needed in strategic planning were deepened through our group work. I also discovered that I really enjoy strategic planning! I'm looking forward to bringing those skills to my next job after I graduate this spring.


MPA Alumnus Brings Policy to Life at Regional Think Tank

January 20 Friday 01:00 PM

Dustin Pugel graduated from our MPA program in 2012. He received his  bachelor's degree in History from Asbury University, where his passion for public service was ignited by his student government involvement. As the study body Vice President for Governance, Dustin had the opportunity to work on student policy issues. He decided to pursue his MPA to learn more about the policy process and evaluation. He currently works for the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy (KCEP), which is an initiative of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED). In describing his current work, Dustin says, "I love this job… It's a dream job."

In his work as a Research and Policy Associate, Dustin researches and advocates for policies related to low-income Kentuckians, often collaborating with key stakeholders both in and outside of government. Often working on many projects at once, he has recently focused on the Medicaid expansion, the minimum wage, public assistance programs, higher education funding, and early childhood education in Kentucky. Prior to his current job, Dustin was a community organizer.

The Martin School helped Dustin develop the perspective and the skills to tackle such a wide variety of policy problems in complex political environments. Dustin felt that the faculty not only were experts in their fields, but also really brought the material to life. For instance, one of his key takeaways from our program was the importance of the budgeting process; as he put it, the budget is a "values-setting document… You can't understand society's preferences unless you understand their wallet." Dr. Hackbart and Dr. Denison would agree!

The Martin School also instilled in him the art of communicating complex ideas in simple but powerful ways. Dr. Wilson, who advised Dustin on his Capstone Project, really pushed him to write in an engaging way for his intended audience. His hard work paid off! Dustin received the Reedy Award for his research on state-by-state migration by educational attainment, commonly referred to as "brain gain" or "brain drain" depending on the trend.  


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