Monday, February 28, 2011

Educational Investments

The Center for American Progress recently released a report, Return on Educational Investment: A District-by-District Evaluation of U.S. Educational Productivity. The project measures the academic achievement of a school district relative to its educational spending, while controlling for factors outside a district’s control, such as cost of living and students in poverty. Since the recession began, 30 states have had to cut educational spending, this report serves as a great tool for policymakers because it suggests gains can be made in school districts without increasing funding, but rather if funding is used by districts more productively. Some of the reports suggestions include:

  • Promoting educational efficiency
  • Reforming school management systems
  • Smarter fairer approaches to school funding
  • Reporting far more data on school performance

PolicyforResults recently released a new section on increasing high-school completion that includes strategies for states to increase graduation rates as well as information on funding opportunities, information on funding inequity, and strategies for making effective investments that lead to a state’s intended outcomes.

Monday, February 21, 2011

TANF’s Uneven Response

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities released a report on the unevenness of TANF’s response during the financial crises. The report, which examines TANF in the first two years of the economic downturn, asserts that TANF has only been modestly responsive and goes on to say that in 22 states TANF responded very little or not at all to the crises. When we invest in policy and programs they should yield their intended results and the responsiveness of TANF is particularly important because TANF provides basic support to low-income families who are at increased risk when the economy is in crises.

When TANF is reauthorized, a critical consideration should be the program’s responsiveness in times of economic crises. The report outlines some of the factors that should be considered.

  • Redesign the Contingency Fund.
  • Systematically track, by state, measures that assess the effectiveness of TANF as a safety net for deeply poor children.
  • Replace the work participation rate and caseload reduction credit with a new performance measure that focuses on employment outcomes or other measures of family well-being, with adjustments during hard economic times.
  • Make modest changes in the types of work activities that states can count in order to refocus TANF employment activities on improving outcomes for families.
  • Provide additional funds to help states maintain and build on the successful subsidized employment programs they created through the TANF Emergency Fund.

The report provides context about TANF and its uneven response, detail on the suggested policy changes needed to address the problem, and state by state fact sheets.

To see previous PfR posts on TANF read A Safety-Net that Works through Tough Economic Times, Evaluating TANF and TANF in Tough Economic Times.

For further strategies to promote Family Economic Success.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Affordable Care Act: Costs and Savings for States

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has many provisions that will affect State budgets. In a research report by the Urban Institute, Net Effects of The Affordable Care Act on State Budgets, the authors address the new costs and savings for states. The report asserts that between 2014-2019 states will increase Medicaid spending for low-income individuals by between $21.1 billion and $43.2 billion. However, during the same time period, the ACA will save states significantly by allowing them to shift higher-income adults from Medicaid into coverage where subsidies are funded entirely by the federal government; as well as to substitute newly available federal Medicaid dollars for prior state and local spending on uncompensated care and mental health services. Those provisions will save states between $83.8 billion and $153 billion. In total, these provisions will lead to net state and local gains of between $40.6 billion and $131.9 billion.

In their conclusion the report states that throughout Medicaid’s history smart and creative state officials have responded to changes in the federal law, which often have allowed for maximizing fiscal gains and minimize losses for their state. However, even without any state-level creativity, the straightforward implementation of the ACA’s coverage expansion is likely to yield state savings that greatly exceed net state costs resulting from increased coverage of low-income adults.

This report is a good resource for learning about the costs and savings that states will experience through the ACA. The report address the above mentioned factors in detail as well as provides information on potential savings under CHIP, the possibility to integrate Medicaid and Medicare funding and services for the duel eligible, and the changing cost of health insurance coverage for public employees and retirees.

For a Framework for Policy Success.

Monday, February 7, 2011

New on PolicyforResults! Policies to Prevent Childhood Obesity

State policymakers are uniquely positioned to serve the needs of both rural and urban communities in their efforts to promote health and reduce childhood obesity. Policies that improve access to healthy foods, support healthy community design and require healthy school initiatives are all ways to make a significant impact on children’s’ health. By creating environments across communities and schools where physical activity and access to healthy foods are the norm, states will decrease both the health costs and financial burden that childhood obesity generates, creating healthier, more vibrant communities for children and families.

There are new funding opportunities available to reduce and prevent childhood obesity. Two of these opportunities are aimed at research that supports the reduction and prevention of childhood obesity. A federal grant aimed at achieving the long-term outcome of reducing the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents (ages 9-14 years) is available. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering seven grants of up to $2.5 million each for their Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Eating Research: Building Evidence to Prevent Childhood Obesity Program is offering $2.35 million in total program funding in multiple awards to build research on environmental and policy strategies with strong potential to promote healthy eating among children, especially among lower-income and racial and ethnic populations at highest risk for obesity.

To learn about more funding opportunities available, as well as strategies to support states in preventing childhood obesity, please visit our new section on PolicyforResults: Preventing Childhood Obesity.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Supporting Potential College Students

The Center for American Progress and The Hamilton Project recently released a report, Grading Higher Education: Giving Consumers the Education they Need. The report addresses the complicated process and incomplete and uncertain information that potential students and their families face when deciding what college to attend, what to study, and which career to pursue. Making the right choices regarding post secondary education might increase the benefit for students from the growing economic burden of college as well as improve the likelihood of degree completion. The report proposes that the federal government expand the types of information that are available and allow users to com­pare indicators like cost, financial aid, student debt, employment outcomes, and average salaries following graduation, across peer institutions.

Visit our homepage to sign-up for e-mail updates on results-based policy regarding increasing college completion - coming soon!