Live from Philly: Political Scientists Examine Policy Challenges in Education, Poverty & Health
Scholars shared their research in presentations at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Northeastern Political Science Association.
John Portz (Northeastern University) explained how accountability has been a dominant focus of education policy over the past two decades. Portz identified four key components of educational accountability.
1) Goals: For what are individuals or organizations held accountable?
2) Actors: Who is accountable to whom?
3) Metrics; What are the reporting tools for accountability?
4) Consequences: What are the rewards, punishments and other consequences in an accountability system?
No Child Left Behind was in place from 2002 to 2015. The law has since been replaced but “cast a long shadow.” Testing was central to measuring educational accountability. In recent years, there has been push back. “Tests have their place, but what else should be used? What are other worthwhile goals?” Political Scientists, for example, think civic education is an important and neglected subject.
Portz researched two states, Massachusetts and California, in examining what the next focus may be. Current trends in educational policy designs found movement toward including broader accountability goals, multiple metrics with different data types, and an emphasis on school improvement.
Local school leaders are most interested in using accountability to help build capacity. The movement toward “next generation accountability” has expanded the conversation and raised debates over what is actually good data and how to effectively gather this.
Child Poverty Policy
Daniel Tagliarina (Utica College) explained how child poverty in the United States is much higher in the United States compared to other Western industrial nations. This poverty produces three main types of harm: 1) physical harm; 2) mental and emotional harm; and 3) cognitive harm. The negative consequences include higher infant mortality, increased susceptibility to physical and emotional ailments, and more limited cognitive ability and development.
Such problems compound over time and create systematic disadvantage, contributing to what is commonly referred to as “the cycle of poverty.” Most related policies seek to address poverty generally, while relatively few target child poverty in particular.
Tagliarina focused on two federal policies. Temporary Assistance Needy Families (TANF) has raised the income of families with children, but work requirements take parents and caretakers out of the home, which doesn’t help the cognitive harm poor children face. Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP) targets children more specifically. States with CHIP have better health outcomes, but the policy was not renewed. This month Congress voted to fund the law, but did so by reallocating money from The Affordable Care Act.
Tagliarina contended that related policy would be enhanced by understanding child poverty from a human rights perspective and putting children, not parents, at the center of related policy. Overcoming the rhetorical obstacles, such as conceptions as “the deserving poor” versus “the undeserving poor,” can be done through increased adoption of policies that benefit all, such as child lunch programs, rather than targeting impoverished people in particular.
Peter Mameli (John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY) examined why some Western African states were better Able to contain Ebola than others. Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea were the countries most affected. 28,000 in these countries were diagnosed with Ebola between 2014 to 2016. 40 percent died from the disease.
The initial phases of controlling Ebola in these three countries were “disastrous.” The situation improved as time went on. The entire framework of the response was different when the disease spread beyond the initial three countries.
Mameli contends the second phase was “handled meticulously and quickly with supports that should be have been in place in the first three countries if anyone was thinking of this ahead of time.” This directly resulted in better disease management countries such as Nigeria, Senegal, and Mali, who experienced less cases and better control of the disease when cases were identified.
Phase one spread more quickly and was addressed less effectively, making it much more difficult to eradicate. Increased success was on contingent on many factors, including leadership by heads of state, reactions by local populations, media coverage, and the role of nongovernmental organizations and nonprofits.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College.