F. Chris Curran, School of Public Policy, Writes About Teacher Overtime Policy in Education Week

F. Chris Curran, a new assistant professor in the School of Public Policy, recently wrote a letter to the editor about including teachers in overtime pay discussions that was published in Education Week. In the letter, Curran referenced President Obama’s announcement of plans for changes in overtime-pay regulations, noting that provisions of the proposal would prevent teachers from seeing benefits from the policy.

Chris Curran“While teachers hoping for an extra paycheck may be disappointed, the national conversation on what President Obama calls a ‘fair day’s pay’ should not be allowed to pass the schoolhouse by. It is an opportunity to recognize, and remediate, the fact that teachers in this country are underpaid relative to the requirements and importance of their jobs,” Curran wrote.

He added: “The call for increasing teacher pay is not new, but if policymakers are ready to acknowledge that a salary below $50,000 necessitates compensation for overtime hours, then we should also recognize that teachers are no exception. We know that who is in front of the class has important implications for student outcomes.”

Curran joined the School of Public Policy faculty this month, and he conducts research on education policy with an emphasis on improving educational outcomes for underserved and disadvantaged youth. His research interests include early childhood education, school discipline and safety, teacher labor markets, and politics of education. Read more on the School of Public Policy website. Curran also published an op-ed earlier this month in The Tennessean in which he outlined future opportunities for NashvilleNext, a strategic plan for Nashville’s growth that was recently adopted by the Metropolitan Planning Commission.

Tim Brennan, School of Public Policy and Economics, Comments on Net Neutrality in the Brisbane Times

Tim BrennanTim Brennan, professor of public policy and economics, was quoted in a recent Brisbane Times article about the possibility of proposed net neutrality rules in Australia. Brennan, who served as chief economist of the FCC last year, was interviewed after presenting a talk about attempts to create net neutrality rules for U.S. carriers at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) annual regulatory conference in Brisbane earlier this month.

Brennan urged regulators to take a cautious approach to net neutrality in Australia: “Before Australia embarks on net neutrality, it should have evidence of a problem and not merely presumptions that there could be a problem. Even a monopoly broadband provider has incentives to offer high-quality, unbiased access to its subscribers,” he told the Brisbane Times.

“Restricting the ability of broadband service providers to negotiate with specific users could inhibit the development of new innovations that over time could benefit all,” he added, pointing to the example of exclusive agreements between Apple and AT&T Mobile that led to the development of the iPhone and other smartphones.

Brennan is an expert in antitrust law and policy, regulatory economics, electricity markets, telecommunications and broadcast policy, and copyright and intellectual property. In addition to serving as FCC chief economist, he is a senior fellow at Resources for the Future, an independent organization that conducts economic research and analysis. Read more about Brennan’s research on the School of Public Policy website.

John Rennie Short, School of Public Policy, Proposes Permanent Venue for the Summer Olympics

In a July 28 Washington Post op-ed, School of Public Policy Professor John Rennie Short argued that a permanent island location should be established to host the Summer Olympic Games. He wrote that with the current hefty price tag and with thousands of residents being displaced by construction in host cities each time, holding the games in the same place every four years would save money and benefit residents.

John Rennie Short“Instead of investing billions of dollars for a new city every four years, we could create a permanent Olympics city, with facilities and athlete housing. Though any city could take this one, I’d prefer a small island with few inhabitants. This way, we’d avoid the disruption and social dislocation and eliminate the often-massive costs to citizens in the host cities,” he wrote, adding it would also benefit athletes who could train there for years and it could serve as an “international convention center.”

Short noted that the bill for creating the permanent host site should be paid by the International Olympic Committee (IOC): “The IOC which profits off the games, should facilitate and fund this project. The initial cost of $100 billion could be offset against bonds or loans on the basis of future media revenues. As one of the biggest events on the planet, it would not be difficult to generate funds to cover the initial construction and operating costs.”

The op-ed led to several broadcast interviews on News Talk 610 CKTB Radio in Ontario, TSN Radio 1260 in Edmonton (interview begins at 17-minute mark), and CBS News Radio in Los Angeles.

Read “We should host the Olympics in the same place every time,” in the Washington Post. 

Update 8/7/15: Professor Short wrote an op-ed for The Conversation about the environmental impact of the Olympics and was quoted in an International Business Times article about creating a permanent Olympic site. 

John Rennie Short, School of Public Policy, Discusses Cities’ Impact on Climate Change in The Conversation

In the wake of the visit of 65 mayors to the Vatican to discuss climate change, School of Public Policy Professor John Rennie Short wrote an article for The Conversation reflecting on the central role of cities in climate change discussions.

John Rennie Short“Cities house more than half the world’s population, consume 75% of its energy and emit 80% of all greenhouse gasses. But cities are not just sources of problems; they are innovative sites for policy solutions,” wrote Short, who is an expert on urban issues and environmental concerns.

In his article, he wrote that many cities are on the front lines of climate change impacts, which has spurred action to address environmental concerns and form urban networks to learn which policies are working.

“The brute facts of climate change vulnerability in cities are prompting a new and more pronounced urban environmental sensitivity. Cities are responding with both climate change mitigation and adaption. Mitigation focuses on reducing the concentrations of greenhouse gases by using alternative energy sources, encouraging greater energy efficiency and conservation, and through the promotion of carbon sinks by planting trees.

Separately, cities are adapting to the effects of climate change. Chicago has developed policies anticipating a hotter and wetter climate by repaving its roads with permeable materials, planting more trees and offering tax incentive to encourage green office roofs,” Short wrote.

Read “Why cities are a rare good news story in climate change” in The Conversation.

Donald Norris, School of Public Policy, Shares eGovernment Research with Citizen 2015

Donald Norris, professor and director of the School of Public Policy, recently shared insight into the future of eGovernment with Citizen 2015, a new blog that explores how citizens interact and engage with government. In the interview, Norris discussed how the local eGovernment revolution has yet to reach its stated claims of more open, efficient, and effective governments. According to Norris, a chief reason is limited citizen demand: “Citizen participation, under the best of circumstances, is very difficult to achieve.”

Norris was also recently in the news in the Washington Post and WJZ-TV commenting on Gov. Hogan’s political strategy in Baltimore and the potential head-to-head Baltimore mayoral race between current Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and former Mayor Sheila Dixon. To read and view complete coverage, see below.

EGovernment Revolution? Not Quite Yet. (Citizen 2015)
Gov. Hogan’s decisions cause rift with Baltimore leaders (Washington Post)
Former mayor Slams Rawlings-Blake after violence spike (WJZ-TV)

John Rennie Short, School of Public Policy, Warns about the Dangers of Digital Distractions in The Conversation

In an article published July 7 in The Conversation, School of Public Policy Professor John Rennie Short explained the value of unplugging during an age where technology is so prevalent in our daily lives. “The age of distraction is dangerous,” he wrote. “A recent report by the National Safety Council showed that walking while texting increases the risk of accidents. More than 11,000 people were injured last year while walking and talking on their phones…texting while driving resulted in 16,000 additional road fatalities from 2001 to 2007. More than 21% of vehicle accidents are now attributable to drivers talking on cellphones and another 5% were text messaging.”

John Rennie ShortBeyond the statistics showing the dangers of distracting driving, Short also outlined cognitive impairment that can result from being “plugged in” to technology. “We are more efficient users of information when we concentrate on one task at a time. When we try to do more than one thing, we suffer from inattention blindness, which is failing to recognize other things, such as people walking toward us or other road users.”

Short provided his thoughts on what can be done to further prevent negative impacts of digital distractions. “We are witnessing a cultural shift occurring with the banning of devices, cellphone usage being curtailed in certain public places and policies banning texting while driving. This is reactive. We also need a new proactive civic etiquette so that the distracted walker, driver and talker have to navigate new codes of public behaviors.”

Professor Short has written several articles for The Conversation on sustainability, climate change, and response to the recent unrest in Baltimore.

Justin Vélez-Hagan, School of Public Policy, Weighs in on Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Crisis

With Puerto Rico currently $72 billion in debt, School of Public Policy Ph.D. student Justin Vélez-Hagan has been in the news recently explaining the severity of the situation and its potential impact on the world economy.

JVHVélez-Hagan, who is executive director of the National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce, shared his views on what has contributed to the debt crisis and what can be done to help get the economy back on track. “Not being able to have autonomous control over all of its policies puts Puerto Rico at a major disadvantage over other economies that it competes with for labor, business investment, and tourism,” he wrote in an op-ed for Fox News Latino.   

Vélez-Hagan was also a guest on “The Takeaway with John Hockenberry,” a co-production of WNYC Radio and Public Radio International, in collaboration with the New York Times and WGBH Boston, to discuss the debt crisis. “The best solution is really a court overseeing restructuring through Chapter 9 bankruptcy. I think would be the best way to start,” he said during the segment.

Update: Watch an interview with Vélez-Hagan that aired July 13 on the Al Jazeera English world broadcast about his analysis on Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis.