Public Administration students contribute two key research papers to statewide funding initiative

Monday, July 10, 2017

Seven students in the MPA program’s course on Policy Process and Civic Engagement (PA715) spent spring semester researching two key issues for a project to promote dedicated funds for children in cities and counties in California. The initiative, Funding the Next Generation, is a project of the School of Public Affairs & Civic Engagement aimed at helping local communities develop Children’s Funds.

Funding the Next Generation report cover

“Our partnership with the Public Administration program has proven invaluable. The students are not only academically prepared to address complex issues, but their commitment to social justice means that they go way beyond what our project requested,” said Margaret Brodkin, director of Funding the Next Generation.

Richard Cockrell, Terryn Liljedahl and Destiny Pletsch investigated and put together the latest data about the cost-benefits of children’s services — citing the huge “return on investment” of every dollar spent on childcare, preschool, career development and mental health (ranging from $4 to $12). The goal is to give organizers and advocates immediate tools to make the case to local officials. Not only did they produce a paper, but created graphically appealing materials (including a simple fact sheet) that could be immediately handed out to the media, the public and decision-makers.

The second group, Jordan Harrison, Kevin Miller, Adam Patterson and Evan Xu, studied the implementation of marijuana regulations and taxes at the local level in California. Advocates for local revenue streams for children’s services are eager to find new revenue ideas and wanted to consider whether marijuana taxes were an option. The student group had little information on the subject, since it is so new and so little has been written. They combed through news articles, regulations, budgets, legislation, information from other states, minutes of local policymaking bodies and anecdotal information to produce a thorough assessment of the issue, including recommendations to advocates on types of taxes, ways for child advocates to frame the issue, and potential allies.

“We could never have done this on our own and the information was just not out there until the students did the work,” said Brodkin.

The students all expressed gratitude for having the opportunity to be on the front line of an initiative that they saw as an “important cause.”

Liljedahl said, “It made us really want to do a good job.”

PACE faculty member Sheldon Gen, the instructor for the course, said this was “…a perfect example of how our coursework integrates with on-the-ground community service.”