Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Brookings Institution: a $1.2 billion social program that doesn’t work

This is a surprising article coming from the leftist Brookings Institution.

They write:

Afterschool programs, or out-of-school time programs, burst into view in the late 1990s. The federal government—flush with budget surpluses of hundreds of billions—began spending more on the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) program. The program was created by the 1994 Improving America’s Schools Act and had languished as an obscure provision to promote schools as community resources. Initially, the program received no appropriation, until Congress appropriated $40 million for it in 1998.

Spending exploded after the program pivoted to support afterschool programs. By 2002, the program’s appropriation was $1 billion. For a federal program to grow from $40 million to $1 billion in a few years happens rarely. The agency overseeing the program, the U.S. Department of Education, partnered with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to underwrite conferences and technical assistance for program providers, pumping millions more into the program.

In 1999, the Department of Education contracted with Mathematica Policy Research to evaluate the 21st Century program. The evaluation had elements that were both rigorous and representative. The elementary school part of the study was designed as an experiment; the middle school part was designed as a random sampling of programs around the country, with students participating in the program matched with students in neighboring schools (or the same school, in rural areas) that were not participating in the program. The evaluation collected data on a wide range of outcomes including grades, test scores, attendance, and behavior.[1]

Ultimately, the evaluation reported on how the program affected outcomes. In a series of reports released between 2003 and 2005 (here, here, and here), the answers emerged: the program didn’t affect student outcomes. Except for student behavior, which got worse. And small samples were not an issue explaining why findings were insignificant. The national evaluation included about 2,300 elementary school students and 4,400 middle school students. The results were insignificant because the estimates of program effects hovered around zero.

In the face of these results, one course of action would have been to at least reduce program spending, if not eliminate the program altogether. The Bush administration proposed a reduction of $400 million in the program budget, advocates rallied to the cause, Arnold Schwarzenegger got involved, and ultimately Congress left program spending unchanged. To this day, the program spends more than a billion dollars each year.

If the national evaluation was thought to be unreliable or errant, a sensible next step would be to do another, possibly with different focuses or features. That hasn’t happened. Or perhaps the evaluation findings were dismissed because other research has shown that afterschool programs are effective. It hasn’t. Echoing a previous 2006 review by Zief, Lauver, and Maynard, a 2015 review of dozens of studies that were published up to 2014 concluded that “mean effects were small and non-significant for attendance and externalizing behaviors.”[2](This is how researchers say the evidence shows that after school programs do not improve attendance or behavior.)

Two other pieces of evidence add to this picture. First, the U.S. Department of Education continues to collect and summarize the program’s annual performance reports (each state reports on its programs to the Department). Its most recent summary noted that ‘nearly all of the performance targets for the 2009-2010 reporting period were not reached.’ Second, a recent federal study of supplemental services programs found no effects on academic outcomes. The study examined programs that are required to be offered by schools that do not meet target levels of adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind. They are tutoring and academic support service programs offered outside the regular school day that have a stronger academic focus than the 21st Century programs (which can offer snacks, recreation, and youth development activities), and yet they still did not improve academic outcomes.

I am linking to this because I want people to understand that not every problem has to be solved by the government. It is possible that when politicians tell us that they want to solve a problem by taxing us and spending our money, it’s possible that what they spend our money on does not work. Normally, when it comes to government spending on children,it’s very hard to cut spending because compassionate people do not want to take money away “from the children”. Most Democrat voters do not even realize that money spent by the government either comes from taxation or borrowing from the next generation does not work, it can be very hard to cut funding for those those programs, because the powerful pro-government party has no interest in cutting government spending in any area. They get contributions from people who are very interested in big government.

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What is the greatest achievement of the Obama administration?

Newsbusters reports on the greatest accomplishment of the Obama administration.

Excerpt: (links removed)

It is clear that a huge amount of growth in SNAP happened under Obama’s watch.

Increases in the size of SNAP were “unprecedented” since 2008, according to a report by the Manhattan Institute, the conservative, New York City-based think tank. The authors of the report, Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Senior Fellow, and Claire Rogers, Research Assistant, attributed this expansion to a combination of “the difficult job market” and an “expansion of benefits” starting in October 2008.

Statistics released by USDA also showed the huge expansion of food stamps under Obama. In 2013, 20 percent of American households were enrolled in SNAP. Enrollment had increased from 32.2 million individuals in January 2009, to at least 46 million individuals during the last 35 straight months for available data. This upsurge represented a jump of more than 42 percent.

Meanwhile, spending on SNAP benefits rose by nearly 120 percent, from $34.6 billion to $76.1 billion, between 2008 and 2013. The increase in spending far outpaced enrollment, and could be attributed to greater benefits handed out per person. “SNAP began to pay more generous benefits to people who enrolled” between 2007 and 2011, according to an analysis published on The New York Times’ Economix blog Aug. 29, 2011.

Economist Peter Ferrara agreed with labeling Obama the “food stamp President,” calling out the administration’s “anti-growth, economic policies, which are precisely crippling the poor and the middle class” in a Forbes article Dec. 31, 2013.

While these increases were partly attributed to Obama’s economic policies, they could also be linked to lax enrollment policies implemented by the president. These policies included waivers for healthy individuals with no dependents and who were not actively seeking work.

“The food-stamp work waiver is part of a larger agenda. Poverty advocates have long sought to convert food stamps into a no-strings-attached entitlement,” Heather MacDonald, Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, wrote in a New York Post op-ed on May 15, 2014.

Two Heritage Foundation fellows said that while part of the growth in SNAP could be attributed to the country’s poor economic conditions, Obama has also increased the size of the program through his budget proposal.

“Part of that growth is due to the recession, but under Obama’s proposed budget, food stamp spending will not return to pre-recession levels when the economy recovers. Instead, it will remain well above historic norms for the foreseeable future,” Robert Rector, Senior Research Fellow, and Katherine Bradley, Research Fellow, at Heritage wrote.

Of course, if you’re a Democrat, this is a feature, not a bug. They like Americans to be dependent on government, because then more of them vote for bigger government – and that means Democrats get to raise taxes and spend even more money they didn’t earn. That’s good news, but it gets even better – because then they give speeches about how generous they are! With your money.

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Obama’s debt: federal debt up over 7 TRILLION dollars since January 2009

CNS News has the story.

Excerpt:

The total federal debt of the U.S. government has now increased more than $7 trillion during the slightly more than five and a half years Barack Obama has been president.

That is more than the debt increased under all U.S. presidents from George Washington through Bill Clinton combined, and it is more debt than was accumulated in the first 227 years of this nation’s existence–from 1776 through 2003.

The total federal debt first passed the $7-trillion mark on Jan. 15, 2004, after President George W. Bush had been in office almost three years.

[…]The $7,060,259,674,497.51 in new debt that the federal government has taken on during Obama’s presidency equals $61,341.82 per household.

The median household income in the United States in 2012 (the latest year estimated) was $51,017. Thus, President Obama has increased the federal debt by more than the typical household’s annual income.

I sometimes get annoyed by the fact that the stock market hasn’t tanked under Obama in the last 6 years, but there is a reason why. The reason is that he has borrowed and spent SEVEN TRILLION dollars. This makes the lack of economic growth caused by his anti-business policies, e.g. – Obamacare, look less harmful than they are. If you were in debt 30,000 and borrowed another 20,000 and started buying cars and taking vacations, you’d look pretty good. That’s basically what this President did. We look OK, but only because he borrowed $7 trillion from the next generation of Americans.

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If you want to annoy the left, then raise your children to be like Texas senator Ted Cruz

Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz

Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz

Here’s a profile in National Review of my one of my favorite senators.

Excerpt:

The party’s highest-profile Texans, George W. Bush and Rick Perry, tended to match inarticulateness with cowboy swagger and lend themselves to mockery as intellectual lightweights. Bush went to Yale and Harvard Business School, yet no one naturally thinks of him as an Ivy Leaguer. The two Lone Star State governors played into the Left’s stereotypes so nicely that if they didn’t exist, the New York Times editorial board would have had to invent them.

Cruz is different — a Princeton and Harvard man who not only matriculated at those fine institutions but excelled at them. Champion debater at Princeton. Magna cum laude graduate at Harvard. Supreme Court clerkship, on the way to Texas solicitor general and dozens of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cruz is from the intellectual elite, but not of it, a tea-party conservative whose politics are considered gauche at best at the storied universities where he studied. He is, to borrow the words of the 2008 H.W. Brands biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt, a traitor to his class.

Democrats and liberal pundits would surely dislike Cruz no matter where he went to school, but his pedigree adds an element of shocked disbelief to the disdain. “Princeton and Harvard should be disgraced,” former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell exclaimed on MSNBC, as if graduating a constitutionalist conservative who rises to national prominence is a violation of the schools’ mission statements.

[…]In a Washington Post column a year ago, Dana Milbank noted Cruz’s schooling and concluded that his tea-party politics must be a put-on, that he is, underneath it all, an “intellectually curious, liberal-arts conservative.” Note the insulting assumption that an interest in books and ideas immunizes someone from a certain kind of conservative politics.

One of the Left’s deepest prejudices is that its opponents are stupid, and Cruz tramples on it. At hearings, Cruz has the prosecutorial instincts of a . . . Harvard-trained lawyer. Watching Attorney General Eric Holder try to fend off Cruz’s questioning on the administration’s drone policy a few months ago was like seeing a mouse cornered by a very large cat.

Cruz hasn’t played by the Senate rules that freshmen should initially be seen and not heard. In fact, he joined the upper chamber with all the subtlety of a SWAT team knocking down a drug suspect’s front door.

For people who care about such things — almost all of them are senators — this is an unforgivable offense. At another hearing, as Cruz says that the highest commitment of senators should be to the Constitution, another senator can be heard muttering that he doesn’t like being lectured. Chairman Pat Leahy (probably the mutterer) eventually cuts him off and informs him he hasn’t been in the Senate very long.

Cruz lacks all defensiveness about his positions, another source of annoyance to his opponents, who are used to donning the mantle of both intellectual and moral superiority.

And here’s a quick review of where Ted Cruz came from:

Rafael Cruz, the father of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, invigorated the crowd during tonight’s FreedomWorks Free the People event.

Describing his own personal journey escaping Cuba and working hard to build a life for himself in the U.S., the elder Cruz noted comparisons that he believes exist between Fidel Castro’s governance and President Barack Obama’s executive actions.

Upon rising to power, he said that Castro, like Obama, spoke about hope and change. While the message sounded good at the time, it didn’t take long for socialism to take root in his home country. And he paid the price.

For his part in the revolution — one that many originally assumed would yield a more vibrant country — Cruz was punished while in Cuba.

“I was in prison,” he said. “I was tortured, but by the grace of God I was able to leave Cuba on a student VISA and came to the greatest country on the face of the earth.”

Cruz described his efforts working as a dishwasher in America and paying his own way through the University of Texas. From there, he built a life for himself — one that was filled with experiences that caused him to greatly appreciate the country that had given him so much.

His plight in Cuba colored his American experience

“You can’t understand a loss of rights unless you’ve experienced it,” Cruz told TheBlaze following the speech.

His unique perspective leaves Cruz with the ability, he argues, to see the troubling signs surrounding socialism. Young people in America today, he told TheBlaze, take for granted the rights and privileges that the U.S. has afforded them.

Fascinating.

Now people always complain when I say that I am trying to find a wife with the background, education, experience and temperment to raise effective, influential children. I have a whole list of influential people I want to clone, in fact. I want a William Lane Craig, a Wayne Grudem, a Michael Licona, a Guillermo Gonzales, an Ann Gauger, a Jennifer Roback Morse, a Scott Klusendorf, a Mark Regnerus, and… a Ted Cruz. And I’ve saved the money to be able to get at least a few of those, too. The truth is that I had some of the experiences that Cruz’s father had, and if he can make a Ted Cruz, then so should I be able to. They have to come from somewhere!

Now of course it’s hard to guarantee outcomes when it comes to raising children, but there are some things you can prepare for. You can study things you hate that are hard, and save your money for Ph.D tuition. You can go to grad school yourself and publish research. You can look for a wife who shows the ability to nurture people so that they get better and rise higher. And maybe, you might just raise the next Ted Cruz. I think the old adage “if you aim at nothing, then you will surely hit it” is a good saying for marriage. If you are going to put hundreds of thousands of dollars and decades of your life into a marriage, then you should aim at something. You might hit it. You’re not just there to make another person feel good – you’re there to make the marriage serve God. Raising influential, effective children is one way of doing that. But it doesn’t happen by accident. And it isn’t necessarily going to be “fun”.

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Higher education spending produced no improvement on standardized tests

Education spending has tripled since 1970

Education spending has tripled since 1970

The Heritage Foundation reports.

Excerpt:

The U.S. Department of Education recently released the 2013 results of math and reading achievement for 12th graders on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It’s hard to say what’s been achieved.

According to the NAEP—a standardized test often referred to as the nation’s “report card”—just 26 percent of the country’s 12th graders are proficient in math. Only 38 percent are proficient in reading. Those numbers are entirely unchanged since 2009, when the NAEP was last administered.

Notably, reading achievement was significantly higher overall in 1992 when the NAEP exam was first administered in reading. Forty percent of students were proficient in reading in 1992. The new NAEP scores confirm the outcomes found on the NAEP long-term-trend assessment, which has assessed reading achievement since 1971 and math achievement since 1973. Twelfth graders today perform no better in reading than high school seniors of the early 1970s.

So is spending on education the same today as it was in the 1970s?

Let’s see:

Since the 1970s alone, inflation-adjusted federal per-pupil spending (part of the goal of which was to narrow achievement gaps) has nearly tripled.

The behemoth federal Department of Education filters all of this taxpayer money through more than 100 federal education programs, many of which are duplicative, most of which are ineffective. It’s no surprise then that this administration’s policies, which seem designed to increase program count and spending, haven’t moved the needle on achievement either.

The article has a graph showing that the biggest reason for this increase in costs is “Non-Teaching Staff”. I think that might be a problem. Maybe the task of education should be pushed down to the states or even local governments, where they can be more responsive to the needs of the customers?

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