Public Services

RECENT POSTS

Explaining Insurance Exchanges and Other Sexy Healthcare Lingo

Includes video animations

I’m going to go out on a limb here in suggesting that the nitty gritty of the Affordable Care Act may not be the most exciting topic of conversation. But now, even as the government settles into shutdown mode, state insurance exchanges across the country are opening their virtual doors for business, offering a healthcare marketplace to the million of uninsured Americans. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation produced this series of short animated explainers on some of the central components of the law and the programs it establishes. These are concepts that get thrown around a lot in the news but are pretty hard to grasp. So take a look (and just maybe, you’ll be the hit of the cocktail party). Also, check out KQED’s comprehensive interactive Obamacare guide to explore the topic in greater depth.

Health Insurance Exchanges

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Is California’s Prison Realignment Experiment Working?

Depends whom you ask (real helpful, huh?).

On the one hand, the state has significantly reduced its prison population since realignment went into effect last October. At the end of September 2011, there were 144,456 inmates in the state’s 33 prisons, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. (Note: that does not represent California’s total prison population, which also includes prisoners in in-state and out-of-state private facilities, and those in work camps).

California’s 33 prisons are designed to hold about 80,000 prisoners (based on one inmate/cell). So at the start of realignment, the prisons were at about 180% overcapacity. Continue reading

The Cost of California’s Public Universities

Includes: interactive map

Click on each marker for undergraduate cost and debt information. California State University’s 23 undergraduate campuses are in blue. University of California’s nine campuses (excluding UCSF) are in red.

Sources: The California State University; University of California; Collegedata.com

The cost of knowledge at California’s public universities ain’t what it used to be.

About 600,000 college students attend one of the 32 California State University and University of California schools (UC San Francisco is the 33rd, but doesn’t have an undergraduate program). The state has, by far, the largest network of public four-year colleges in the country. And until fairly recently, going to school at a public school in California was a really good deal for in-state students.
But recent steep cuts in higher education funding have led to major spikes in the tuition tab. Just last year, California’s public universities enacted a tuition hike of 21 percent, the steepest increase of any state, according to the College Board.
The average in-state tuition and fees for a CSU school – at about $6,500 – is still relatively affordable compared to public universities in other states, but just ten years ago it was just about a third of the cost. Tuition increases in the UC system have followed suit; undergrads can now expect to shell out more than $13,000 a year. And of course, that’s before you even begin to consider books, supplies, and room and board, which more than doubles the cost. The result: fewer options for lower-income students and more loans and debt for graduates to pay off.

10 Resources To Help Make Sense of the Health Care Decision

Includes: resource links

In the week since the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling upholding key parts of President Obama’s health care law (“Obamacare”) – namely, the individual mandate that everyone buy insurance –  Americans have been inundated by an endless deluge of analysis and commentary. Making sense of it all is challenging, so here are 10 good resources that help connect the dots. Continue reading

What’s A Park Worth?

INCLUDES: ARTICLE; KQED AUDIO CLIPS

Natural-Bridges State Beach, near Santa Cruz (credit: Ca. Dept. of Parks and Recreation)

“These state parks are our cathedrals. This is what defines us as Californians to the rest of the world.  But they are not cheap to run. And so I think Californians need to decide whether it’s worth it to them to save these parks … I think it begs a much deeper question of what we value as Californians.
– Ruth Coleman, California state parks director

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A (mini) Guide to California’s Parks

INCLUDES: INTERACTIVE MAPS AND KQED MULTIMEDIA LINKS

Click on the photo to explore KQED's radio and interactive series on California's parks.

California has a lot of state parks. 278 to be exact – more than any other state in the U.S. Some are tiny specks on the map – mini historic sites that you may have driven by without even noticing. Others are vast swaths of land – thousands of preserved acres of old growth forest, sweeping vistas, pristine beaches. Size and stature aside, each has it’s own significance, and the majority were spearheaded as a result of citizen-led campaigns to make the land public and accessible to anyone who wanted to visit. Continue reading

Packing the House: The Back Story on California’s Prison Boom

California’s prisons are old, crumbling, and packed to the gills with inmates. The inmate population  exploded in the late 1980s and 90s. It rose almost 900 percent over three decades and reached an all-time high in 2006, with more than 172,000 inmates behind bars. During that same period, the state almost tripled the number of prison facilities: Continue reading

Why Does California Have So Many Charter Schools?

Courtesy of Dave Parker/Flickr

California’s charter school industry is booming. Even as school districts reel from punishing budget cuts and school shutdowns, new charters are sprouting in every corner of the state: just this year, a hundred schools opened for business. There are now 982 of them in California, the most in the country by far, Continue reading

What’s So Fair About Fair Housing Laws?

INCLUDES: ARTICLE AND KQED AUDIO CLIP

Rick Reinhard/Flickr

In the 1960’s Congress began enacting a series of civil rights laws intended to (among other things) protect certain classes of home-buyers or renters from discriminatory housing practices,  and to help increase the supply and access of housing for lower income and underrepresented populations. Continue reading