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March 12, 2007

policy ideas for civic renewal

I've written before about the need for concrete policies to support public engagement. The government cannot create an engaged democracy through law, but it can play a supportive role in civic renewal. Also, debating concrete legislation can help people to understand what "engagement" is and could be. It makes the whole topic seem serious and pressing.

I recently pasted some policy ideas on a private "wiki" (an editable webpage) for a group that I'm involved with. They have begun to edit it, and the following is the current version. Your suggestions (in the comments field or by email) are welcome.

  • Amend the No Child Left Behind Act so that communities, with substantial public participation, are permitted to create their own assessments and accountability measures.
  • Provide lifetime access to Veterans Health Administration benefits in return for a year of civilian service through USA Freedom Corps programs. Use this approach to expand health coverage.
  • Pass the Community Broadband Act to safeguard the legal right of municipalities to offer Internet access. Encourage communities to debate the pros and cons of becoming service-providers.
  • Support charter schools as opportunities for public participation in the governance of schools.
  • Provide opportunities for returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to work together to address problems in the US, including veterans services and benefits.
  • Redesign the process for providing online comments to proposed federal regulations so that it is truly interactive. Make the public comments into searchable discussion threads.
  • Double the small ($37 million) federal Learn & Serve America program so that instead of reaching 1.47 million students who participate for about 17 hours each, it serves 2 million students with more intensity and quality.
  • Double the appropriation for the Education for Democracy Act (now funded at $29.1 million) and open the program to competitive proposals.
  • Incorporate civic education in No Child Left Behind on a par with science. Require regular assessments of civic knowledge and skills with no increase in the total hours of testing experienced by each child.
  • Raise the minimum percentage of Federal Work Study jobs that involve community service from seven percent per institution to 20 percent.
  • Contract with selected nonprofits to organize public deliberations in the wake of disasters. Use these deliberative forums to guide reconstruction and resettlement.
  • Initiate a new round of "reinventing government" to change norms, training, and procedures in the federal civil service. This time, the goal should be public engagement, not merely efficiency.
  • Include questions on the Immigration and Naturalization Service citizenship exam that concern active participation. Support programs that help candidates for citizenship to prepare for these questions.
  • Provide funds for community-based art with local artists mentoring young people in the creation of public art.
  • March 12, 2007 2:09 PM | category: none


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