In the recent past, public policy in the US has been extensively debated, conceived, and assessed via the lenses of ideology and politics. According to Cizek, policies are Republican or Democratic, liberal or conservative, government or free market controlled. The discussion concerning the vaunted bipartisan seems to focus on the politics of compromise rather than the impact or substance of the policy. However, the key question is: how well can the policies work? Frequently, this question is ignored or gets short shrift. On the contrary, evidence-based policymaking grows in popularity in the United Kingdom and other democracies facing challenges similar to those of the U.S. Initially, the term evidence-based policies might sound esoteric to many citizens of the United States. On further manifestation, many scholars might view evidence-based policies as truism or an academic pipedream. Funkhouser pointed out that evidence-based policymaking is a rigorous approach, which draws on careful collection of data, experimentation, and qualitative and quantitative analyses. In this regard, Funkhouser affirmed that the analysis of evidence-based policymaking answers three crucial questions. What is the exact problem? What are some of the possible solutions addressing the problem? What are the probable effects and costs of each solution? Some authors have also evaluated what social and political values are reflected by the proposed solutions. Despite social and political values being outside the scope of evidence-based policy, hard evidence and analysis can assist in building consensus, binding the political battlefield, and identifying the economic and social costs of various policy choices. In this regard, the paper argues for the fact that Texas uses evidence-based policies.
A review of various secondary sources indicates that evidence-based policies have limitations whether the policy drives research or research drives the policy. According to Rizvi & Lingard, knowing where and how to apply even the unquestionable evidence seems to be tricky. Evidence can also be contradictory or even ambiguous. The Texas Education Agency added that evidence could be difficult or complex to interpret. As a result, Texas authorities can interpret the evidence wrongly. As a result, the use of evidence-based policies in Texas suffers a major blow because of difficulties or complexities in interpretation. Some authors have also pointed out that the path from research to sound policy can be extremely long and winding. Frequently, research results gradually turn into conventional wisdom, as in the cases of counting the homeless or the uninsured. In addition, researchers, especially the concerned Texas authorities, do not often understand or overcome their own biases in collecting, sampling, or analyzing data. These are some of the serious pitfalls, though they dismiss the Winston Churchills famous description of democracy as the worst form of government.
Rizvi & Lingard and Golsan mentioned that evidence-based policies were simply the best policy Texas could follow, compared with the available options. From this perspective, Rizvi & Lingard noted that policy positions based on political or ideology considerations seemed to agitate the fragile body of politics and alienate a considerable portion of Texas citizens. As a result, policies based on political or ideology considerations are most likely to fail. The reason is that they might not be grounded in the institutional, social and economic reality of Texas governance problems. Horse-trading is likely to get a bill ratified, though it is not a guarantee that the problem will be actually addressed. According to the Texas Education Agency, policies based on political and ideology considerations result in three effects. There are: goal proliferation, diffusion of responsibilities, and inflated promises. This simply implies that politics does not essentially imply affordable, effective or otherwise viable.
The primary reason for basing policies on evidence rather than belief or political considerations is to offer taxpayers an acceptable return of the huge investment the State of Texas makes in its public programs. There seems to be no feedback from market tests in the public sector, which is not the same as in the case of public sector. There are no empty shelves or stock prices to show that government produces the desired results or offers good value. Evidently, regular elections take the publics temperature, though they are infrequent and organize referendums on various issues. As a result, they can hardly offer a clear direction to certain policies.
The second reason why evidence-based policies are urgent for Texas is that government programs can be politically popular even when they are not extremely effective. According to the Texas Education Agency, programs can be effective, but unnecessarily expensive. They can also be efficient in a narrow sense but involve considerable side effects. Some studies on policies have also indicated that some of the policies might have unsung successes that need to be replicated in other areas of issues or with other populations. According to the Texas Education Agency, unsung successes imply that the policies are both affordable and effective. Without objective measurements of impact, reach, cost effectiveness, and unplanned side effects, the Texas government cannot know when it is time to establish the policies. As policy costs continue rising, the costs of knowing also continue rising.
Another factor also heightening the urgency of evidence-based policies in Texas is the unusually fierce competition for funding. Studies conducted by the Texas Education Agency show that increased requirements for homeland and defense security, coupled with the tax cuts of the 2001 and 2003, have pressurized other government programs in the state of Texas. The Texas Education Agency concluded that decisions will have to be made concerning which government programs will have to be scaled back. One should also decide which programs must be restructured so that they are more effective. As a result, Texas authorities will have to determine which priorities deserve the extremely limited resources and which will be available for new starts. Compounding the federal situation there are fiscal woes of some states, including Texas. According to Rizvi & Lingard, this problems need the hard-nosed trade-offs, even as the subprime mortgage meltdown, higher housing and food price and economic deterioration combine to increase the burden on social services sponsored by Texas authorities.
Cizek and Funkhouser pointed out that the costs and lost opportunities of running public programs without thorough monitoring and disinterested assessment are high in all cases. They include both evidence and political considerations. However, for some forms of public programs, the costs and lost opportunities could prove particularly serious. Some of the public programs include the Medicaid and Head Start, which are designed to assist the vulnerable populations. Other programs in Texas whose creation and continuation should rely significantly on evidence are those that cost large sums or take many years to pick up. For example, there is the housing assistance. According to Funkhouser, programs such as Medicare and Social Security that meet both aforementioned criteria deserve full considerations.
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The first evidence-based policy in Texas is the Health Insurance Coverage. One year before, the health plan reform was introduced. Two years before the legislation was enacted, the Urban Institute had collaborated with other necessary government bodies to develop alternatives in order to lead the state to universal coverage. The Texas Education Agency estimated the amount that had been spent on healthcare for the uninsured and had developed various alternatives for expanding the coverage to all residents of Texas. Deploying the micro simulation model of the Urban Institutes, Golsan declared the coverage and cost effects of various alternatives. According to Golsan, this model deployed data insurance expenditure and coverage. It also produced statistical evidence on how respective firms reacted to changes in public policy eligibility and the deployment of various subsidies to buy private insurance. Rizvi & Lingard analysis indicated that voluntary approaches, including income-related subsidies and Medicaid would decrease the number of the uninsured by less than half. As a result, an individual mandate was needed in order to approach the universal coverage. By individual mandate, Rizvi & Lingard implied the legal requirement that individuals signed up for at least a specified minimum of coverage. According to Rizvi & Lingard, such mandate could significantly decrease the costs to the poor and near poor. Rizvi & Lingard estimated the amount Texas was spent on the uninsured to be about half the cost of universal coverage. Therefore, some of the funds required for the expansion were already in the system, but the new revenues were also needed. The state of Texas eventually ratified the legislation that showed the analysis of Urban Institute in various ways. Previous research has indicated that the number of the uninsured in Texas has decreased by approximately half since the implementation of the policy began, but before the individual mandate took effect. According to the findings of this study, employer coverage has not decreased, and both reductions in financial burdens and medical debts have become large. Nevertheless, spending increases have been greater than anticipated since the enrollment has rapidly grown.
The second prime example of evidence-based policies in Texas resides in the criminal justice. According to Funkhouser, state and federal governments have been strengthening sanctions against criminal offenders for not less than two decades. Nevertheless, one has not paid close attention to the available evidence. By the 90s, each state in the U. S. and the federal government had performed the following actions related to criminal justice: truth-in-sentencing policies that rewarded states with federal funds; mandatory sentences for most federal crimes coupled with reduction in judicial discretion; the suspension of parole programs; and mandatory life-sentences without parole if convicted three times for certain felonies. Because of these measures, jail and prison populations soared to about 2.4 million by the end of 2007, which is more than six fold increase since 1970. At this point in time, more than one adult in each hundred is now in prison or jail. For African American males over the age of 18 years, the figure is one in every 15. In some populations in Texas, more than two thirds of young makes are regulated in some way by the criminal justice system. Certainly, almost every individual who is jailed or imprisoned comes out. More than 700 thousand prisoners are released from state prisons every year, and about half a million individuals go in and out of Texas jails. Recent years have witnessed a flood of released prisoners whose prior experience was not wide. As a result, they could not reenter their communities. According to Rizvi & Lingard, these patterns resulted in three significant predictions concerning Texas criminal justice system. The first prediction is that the increase in incarceration would outstrip the capacity of the criminal justice system to produce severe overcrowding in jails. The second prediction is that the correction budgets would increase commensurately. The last prediction is that communities and families will suffer extra damage and disruption. Born out of credible research, these predictions have become facts. For instance, Texas prisons have become proliferated but have not kept pace with the increase in the inmate population. In many jurisdictions, there are more prisoners than prison systems were intended to hold. The state budgets for corrections have increased from about 10 million in 1987 to about 45 billion dollars in 1987. As a result, Texas is forced to divert funds from welfare, education and social services to prison systems. In the first half of 2008, evidence-based policymaking seemed to be on the increase. Various states, including Texas, are assessing the effects of their correction policies and programs. The Texas Sentencing Commission is holding open discussions concerning the mandatory federal sentencing guidelines.
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The third evidence-based policy resides in the education sector of Texas. Until recently, the fads significantly influenced policymaking. Education authorities regularly instituted new policies and programs in order to improve education. As a result, national policies and school systems lurched from one heralded universal remedy to another. However, things have changed significantly recently because of the three major reasons. The first reason is that recognition is increasing to an extent that Texas competes with other states. In relation to fixed measures of skills, the human capital of Texas simply does not stack up well against Texas economic competitors. The second reason is that rigorous research by the National Institute of Child Development resulted in convincing evidence. Partly, as a result, the recent state legislation demanded that practices and policies supported by the state funds were scientifically based. However, Texas lacks abundant rigorous findings required in order to meet all the requirements of the policy, though an appetite and appreciation for solid research was developed. The third reason, and perhaps the most significant, is that the new accountability policies have resulted in rich education data sources in order to guide policymaking. Almost each state, including Texas, now has a system allowing student files to be linked in order to enable the calculations of academic gains. The Texas education system also link students to their respective teachers. This offers researchers a way of estimating the effectiveness of instructors. In addition, sampling and multiple comparisons can be made because all these files include all teachers and students.
A study conducted by the Texas Education Agency indicated that emerging findings were influencing policymaking in Texas. This is partly because the findings defy the conventional questions and wisdom. According to several education observers, teachers are the most significant school factor influencing the achievement of students. However, until now, few people knew how significant the variation in productivity was among teachers. The findings of the Texas Education Agency revealed that top teachers got approximately three times the achievement of the student gains that weak teachers did. From experience, Texas has also learnt that advanced degrees are not mainstays of the effectiveness of teachers, even though teachers are properly compensated based on seniority and advanced degrees. Therefore, various reforms are now advocating performance-based incentives for teachers and applying the new knowledge.
Another evidence-based policy relates to Housing Discrimination. The Texas Department of Housing has heavily invested in monitoring the progress of the state in averting housing discrimination. The department has sponsored various studies in order to find out how frequently African Americans and Hispanics are denied apartments or homes available to comparably qualified white Americans. In a paired study, two participants, who included one white person and the other was of the minority, with the same qualifications visit rental offices to ask about the availability of homes. This paired study directly revealed the difference in the treatment attributed solely to the race or ethnic of individuals. A study conducted by Rizvi & Lingard revealed remarkably high levels of discriminations and assisted in building the support for the amendments of Fair Housing Act of 1988. The findings also revealed little progress in the reduction of discrimination in the 1980s. They were deployed in justifying the significant increases in spending on fair housing enforcement. The results of the most recent round of paired study in 2002 indicate that a decade of increased enforcement is effective. According to these findings, housing discrimination has decreased considerably for both African Americans and Hispanic homebuyers. The recent state testing measured the discrimination against American Indians and Asian Americans seeking housing outside tribal lands. Findings have also indicated that Asian homebuyers experience discrimination comparable to that of Hispanics and African Americans.
Texas citizens have contradictory views concerning the government. Even though they regularly express distrust of the Texas government, programs like Social Security and Medicare are very common. Nevertheless, the analyses of these two policies also show the peril of policy. Over the long term, both policies seem to be headed for insolvency, which makes the considerable changes unavoidable. According to the Texas Education Agency, change need to draw upon solid evidence of the strengths and weaknesses of the policies. In addition to these behemoths, there are several other policies, which cost billions of dollars and affect the lives of all citizens. Rizvi and Lingard also pointed out that evidence could not be a solution to every problem. Moreover, it could not fix every policy either, though it can light up the path to more efficient public policy.
Despite social and political values being outside the scope of evidence-based policy, hard evidence and analysis can assist in building consensus, binding the political battlefield, and identifying the economic and social costs of various policy choices. A review of various secondary sources indicates that evidence-based policies have its limitations whether the policy drives research or research drives the policy. Knowing where and how to apply even the unquestionable evidence seems to be tricky. Evidence can also be contradictory or even ambiguous. The primary reason for basing policies on evidence rather than belief or political considerations is to offer taxpayers an acceptable return. This return will be estimated according to the huge investment the State of Texas makes in its public programs. Another factor which also heightens the urgency of evidence-based policies in Texas is the unusually fierce competition for funding. Texas authorities will have to determine which priorities deserve the extremely limited resources and which will be available for the new starts. The first evidence-based policy in Texas is the Health Insurance Coverage. Another evidence-based policy relates to Housing Discrimination. The Texas Department of Housing has heavily invested in monitoring the progress of the state in averting housing discrimination. Texas citizens have contradictory vies concerning the government. Even though they regularly express distrust of the Texas government, programs like Social Security and Medicare are very common.