Category Archives: Policy

Education Policy – Effective Spending

Downey’s editorial cites research in NC showing that the most effective expenditure of public funds in relation to achievement is that spent in the classroom.

In their High School Resource Allocation Study, Henry and Charles Thompson of East Carolina University found that money spent in the regular classroom produced far greater achievement than money spent on after-school programs, summer school or Saturday classes.

In fact, spending on supplemental programs outside the classroom —- including guidance counseling and psychological services —- was linked to lower student test scores

Can you construct an evaluation model that would systematically record classrrom expenditures school-by-school (which would then aggregate to district, system, state) to validate this finding?

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Filed under Education, Policy, policy tools

Rebuilding the Internet

Current internet policy debate seems to focus on incremental evolution of the Internet — protocols, physical layer infrastructure, security, etc.  But, what if we started from scratch?  Can the ROI on incremental “improvements” beat the ROI (and all the multiples from the ripples of such investment through the economy) of a start from scratch venture?

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Evaluating Education Policy

Susan Lacettie Meyers makes some conclusive evaualations of the current education system.  And, she notably states:

After two decades of following public education as a journalist then a legislative policy advisor, I have witnessed no return on escalating taxpayer investment in public education. We’ve dropped from 41st to 49th in graduation rates since the Quality Basic Education Act was drafted in the mid 1980s, according to a new study by The Center for an Educated Georgia. We’re still at the bottom, 47th in SAT scores.

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Drug Policy In Brazil

NYT story on rising use of ecstasy in upper class Brazil.

Couple of interesting twists:

  1. If you have a college degree, you get sentenced differently.
  2. Use of illicit drugs gets you treatment
  3. Financiers of drug dealers get harsher punishment than drug dealers

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Filed under Illegal Drugs, policy tools

FAA Security Problems in Cyberspace

Despite efforts to secure the federal territory in cyber space, the FAA finds its admin server hacked — and employee records were compromised:

While the FAA was hit this time, it certainly is not alone. Uncle Sam’s main jobs database, USAJobs, which is run by Monster.com, was hacked last month.

The security of government computers has been deemed a “high-risk” area, by the Government Accountability Office. “Most agencies continue to experience significant deficiencies that jeopardize the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of their systems and information,” the GAO said last month. “For example, agencies did not consistently implement effective controls to prevent, limit, and detect unauthorized access or manage the configuration of network devices to prevent unauthorized access and ensure system integrity.”

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Filed under federal cyber security, Policy, Uncategorized

Implementing and Evaluating Broadband program at Ag Dept in question

So, what do you do with a $6 billion policy initiative when the agency responsible for administering $1.5 billion has had serious questions raised as to the prior performance of its management of funds designated for rural broaband?

According to the report, $45.6 million went to wire several luxury subdivisions near Houston. About $30 million in loans defaulted, and the agency approved another $137 million in loans even when applications weren’t completed. A separate report from the inspector general in June found that $430,000 went to a Lubbock, Texas high-speed Internet service provider that used the money for pilot lessons for its president and treasurer.

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E-Records Transition Can be costly

BBC reports one manager in Britain very upset over the cost to his organization:

Andrew Way, chief executive of London’s Royal Free Hospital, said technical problems had cost the trust £10m and meant fewer patients could be seen.

The Department of Health said lessons had been learnt from the trial.

The England scheme, part of a £12bn IT upgrade, aims to put 50 million patient records on a secure database by 2014.

Implementation costs are important to consider when designing and evaluating policies.

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Science and democracy have always been twins.

A simple statement with a magnitude of implications.  From an essay in today’s NYT by Dennis Overby:

It is no coincidence that these are the same qualities that make for democracy and that they arose as a collective behavior about the same time that parliamentary democracies were appearing. If there is anything democracy requires and thrives on, it is the willingness to embrace debate and respect one another and the freedom to shun received wisdom. Science and democracy have always been twins.

Then, in the Post, an article concerning Wayne Clough’s vision to make the holdings of the Smithsonian available to all using the internet.  The curators of the Smithsonian are having some difficulty understanding what their role will be if everything is available for anyone to see.  The gatekeepers ask, “Who will guarantee the quality of knowledge?”  To which, Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired, replies:

“Is it our job to be smart and be the best? Or is it our job to share knowledge?” Anderson asked.

Sharing knowledge, sharing information — that’s what makes democracy work.  And, sharing information makes markets more efficient.  I think the philosophers and economists can agree on that point.

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Filed under Government, Information, Market Failure, public values

The word is “Data”

Stephen Baker of Newsweek, starts this week’s essay with the following line:

About three minutes into his speech on Jan. 20, President Barack Obama spoke a word never before uttered in a Presidential inauguration speech: “data.”.

The Obama campaign managed data like no other campaign before.  One would expect, and hope, that data, and the interpretation thereof, will have a prominent place in policy debates.

Which brings me to my point –  data is essential to building an information stream.  Without data, you have no information from which to make valid choices.  No data – no information — and you have either market failure, public failure or both.

How many bills do you think become law – federal, state and local, without data.  How many bills become law without sufficient data?  And how many bills become law without necessary data?

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Chasing the link to The Numerati (Baker’s book), led me to ThinkingAnalytically – where I found a mindmap of the book.  Remember to check out mindmeister for more info.

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Filed under Policy, public failure

Cyber Policy – Safety and the Internet

Post reports Berkman study challenging assertions that the internet makes children more likely to be abused than real life circumstances:

“The risks minors face online are complex and multifaceted and are in most cases not significantly different than those they face offline.”

There are opposing views from law enforcement and other advocacy groups:

Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a District-based consumer advocacy group, has been critical of the report because its expenses were underwritten by interested parties such as MySpace, Google and Microsoft. “Surprise, surprise,” he said. “They pay for a study, and it says there’s no problem. It was kind of a brilliant PR move.”

However, note that Chester doesn’t provide data to oppose the report, he attackes the source of funding for the report.  The lack of data is actually a concern, for both sides of the argument do not have enough data from which legislators and policy makers can make competent choices:

One online safety advocate, named as a member of the report’s task force, said she is embarrassed by the report because it highlights the fact that there isn’t enough good data on the subject and it doesn’t give lawmakers a clear to-do list. Parents’ concerns about Internet predators are sometimes overblown, said Parry Aftab of WiredSafety.org, but it’s nearly impossible to tell how overblown they are; when quizzed about online activity, kids don’t usually tell the truth if their parents are around, she said.

Market failure occurs, among other reasons, for lack of sufficent information for the market to behave efficient and effectively.  Public failure occurs for the same reason.

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Filed under Market Failure, Policy, public failure