NCLB - Measuring progress

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) requires that states (1) improve students' academic performance so that they achieve reading and math proficiency by 2014, and (2) close achievement gaps between high- and low-performing students. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently did a study on how states measure schools' academic achievement, or adequate yearly progress (AYP), in meeting these goals. States now set annual targets using status models that calculate test scores 1 year at a time. In addition to status models, 26 states use growth models that measure changes in test scores over time. Another 22 states, Hawaii among them, are considering implementing growth models. In its report, GAO assesses states' use of growth models, whether they achieve NCLB goals, and how the Department of Education (Education) is assisting states in using growth models.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce asked GAO to testify on its report. The testimony was released on July 27.

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT: States Face Challenges Measuring Academic Growth That Education's Initiatives May Help Address, GAO-06-661, July 17, 2006
     Full report (pdf, 2MB, 54p.)
     Highlights (pdf, 372KB, 1p.)
     Abstract (html)

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT: States Face Challenges Measuring Academic Growth, GAO-06-948T, July 27, 2006, Testimony (pdf, 1MB, 24p.)

Related FR posts:See Hawaii Dept. of Education (DOE) AYP news release, July 20, 2006

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Associated Press (AP) reported Thursday on cigarette maker Reynolds American Inc.'s support of Arizona's Non-Smoker Protection Committee and Ohio's Smoke Less Ohio, two advocacy groups which support exempting certain establishments ("venues like bars, bowling alleys, bingo halls etc.") from the growing state and city legislation banning smoking in public places. AP also reported Reynolds is working on defeating California's Proposition 86 (pdf) and Missouri's SJR 38 (pdf) which propose raising cigarette taxes in those states. According to the story, Reynolds is planning to spend $40 million in the four states. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says Reynolds' effort "puts profits before life and health."

In Hawaii this past 2006 session, the Legislature passed SB 3262, signed by Governor Lingle as Act 295 (pdf) July 10 and taking effect November 16, 2006, which prohibits smoking in most enclosed or partially enclosed places open to the public, including bars, workplaces and airports, with only few exceptions (e.g., tobacco stores, private residences, designated smoking hotel and motel rooms, etc).

A related Honolulu Advertiser Friday news story reporting that tobacco use among teens in Hawaii is declining, writes,
"Over the last 10 years the rates of illegal tobacco sales in Hawai'i have dropped from 44.5 percent to 5.9 percent," said Health Director Chiyome Fukino..."Our comprehensive tobacco prevention strategy has played a major role in getting Hawai'i to maintain one of the lowest rates in the nation for seven consecutive years...The reality is smoking kills. Even if you don't put a cigarette to your lips."

See also, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids :

artwork from CAMEL ad campaign for Kauai Kolada cigarettes; source: Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

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Higher energy prices - overall effects not bad

Contrary to general expectations, the large and persistent rise in energy prices that has occurred over the past two and a half years has not caused substantial problems for the overall U.S. economy.
So begins a recent paper from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analyzing the short-term macroeconomic effects of rising energy prices. The paper draws comparisons to the more negative fallout of the energy crisis that occurred in the 1970s. The current effects on gross domestic product (GDP), employment and inflation have been "moderate." Why? In brief: strong consumer spending, business investment and exports; better management of monetary policy; and the economy's increased flexibility and stability. Factors that have contributed to the economy's flexibility include deregulation, advances in informtion technology, and innovations in financial markets and institutions.
Deregulation and the newer information technolgies have joined, in the United States and elsewhere, to advance flexibility in the financial sector. Financial stability may turn out to have been the most important contributor to the evident significant gains in economic stability over the past two decades. --Alan Greenspan, Sept 27, 2005.

The Economic Effects of Recent Increases in Energy Prices (pdf, 448 KB, 26p.), July 2006

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States financially stable

The National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) and the National Governors Association (NGA) report in their annual survey that states' financial conditions remain stable, much like 2005, with states remaining wary of impending healthcare, education, and pension systems costs, to name a few concerns.
...revenue growth remains strong enough to support spending demands while reserve balances are being restored to levels adequate to begin addressing another fiscal downturn.
The survey (from data collected during spring 2006 from 49 of 50 states and representing the original budget recommendations submitted to state legislatures) also found: only four states were forced to reduce their enacted budgets; Medicare was the dominating expenditure impacting budgets; only four states reported negative growth; and states continued to support self-sufficiency social services programs for families.

The Fiscal Survey of States (June 2006, pdf, 55 pages/608 kB; available from NASBO)



Paperwork reduction?

A major goal of the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) is to minimize the burden of Americans providing information to federal agencies while maximizing the public benefit of the information collected. Under PRA, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is required to approve all information collections and to make an annual PRA report, the Information Collection Budget (pdf, 140p.). The Government Accountability Office (GAO) presented testimony, released July 18, on OMB's annual report on estimates of agencies' paperwork burden and on a May 2005 GAO report on PRA processes and compliance.

GAO testified on OMB's report that paperwork burden increased 5.5 percent to 8.4 billion hours in FY2005. "Nearly all this increase is the result of the implementation of new statutes. For example, there was an increase of about 224 million hours from the implementation of voluntary prescription drug coverage under Medicare." OMB expects an increase of 250 million hours in the burden estimate of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for FY2006 because of a new model for estimating, but it will not affect the burden on taxpayers.

PAPERWORK REDUCTION ACT: Increase in Estimated Burden Hours Highlights Need for New Approach, GAO-06-974T, July 18, 2006
     Full testimony (pdf, 448KB, 36p.)
     Highlights (pdf, 60KB, 1p.)
     Abstract (html)

PAPERWORK REDUCTION ACT: New Approach May Be Needed to Reduce Government Burden on Public GAO-05-424 (pdf, 1.3MB, 82p.), May 20, 2005

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Congress and state corporate income taxes

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently published a report giving an overview of state corporate income taxes and analyzing current congressional activity affecting those taxes. There are two reasons Congress has a role in state corporate income taxes: (1) interstate commerce regulatory oversight, and (2) federal and state corporate income tax interaction.

The report focuses on four bills that are now before Congress:

H.R. 1956 (pdf, 10p.) and S.2721 (pdf, 10p.) are similar. These bills impose uniformity for nexus determination and expand the definition of goods and services relative to nexus.

S.2152 (pdf, 21p.) and S.2153 (pdf, 29p.) are streamlined sales tax legislation. States would have to simplify their sales and use taxes before they can compel remote vendors to collect those taxes.

State Corporate Income Taxes: A Description and Analysis, CRS Report RL32297 (pdf, 104KB, 19p., from Open CRS), June 30, 2006

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Medicaid costs - getting a grip

Donald B. Marron, Acting Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), presented testimony today before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging at its hearing on "From Medicaid to Retiree Benefits: How Seniors Impact America's Health Care Costs."

In Marron's testimony, CBO projects that federal spending for Medicaid will nearly double over the next 10 years, from $190 billion in FY2006 to $363 billion in 2015, when it will account for about 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Medicare spending by the states will also increase, and for the economy as a whole, health care costs of GDP will climb from 16.5 percent in 2006 to 20 percent in 2015.

CBO offers the following options for controlling Medicaid spending:
  • Reduce the federal contribution
  • Reduce mandatory benefits or restrict coverage
  • Increase beneficiaries' cost sharing
  • Encourage greater use of lower-cost services

Testimony on Medicaid Spending Growth and Options for Controlling Costs
(pdf, 168KB, 28p.), July 13, 2006

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Developing geothermal energy

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today released testimony presented in the Senate on the future of geothermal energy in the U.S. The testimony was based on a GAO report issued in May.

The testimony notes, "In the United States, geothermal resources are concentrated in Alaska, Hawaii, and the western half of the country, primarily on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)." Also,
Geothermal resources currently account for about 0.3 percent of the annual electricity produced in the United States, or 2,534 megawatts--enough electricity to supply 2.5 million homes. Even though the percentage of electricity generated from geothermal resources is small nationwide, it is locally important. For example, geothermal resources provide about 25 percent of Hawaii's electricity, 5 percent of California's electricity, and 9 percent of northern Nevada's electricity.
Not only do geothermal resources currently play only a small energy role, developing these resources involves "significant financial, technical, and logistical challenges." The Energy Policy Act of 2005, P.L. 109-58 (pdf), attempted to address some of these issues with provisions for tax credits, clean renewable energy bonds, transmission facilities, and incentive-based rates for electricity in interstate commerce. Because several of the Act's major provisions require implementation by agencies in the Dept. of the Interior (DOI), the testimony concludes that the future of the nation's geothermal energy depends on these agencies' actions.

RENEWABLE ENERGY: Increased Geothermal Development Will Depend on Overcoming Many Challenges, GAO-06-930T, July 11, 2006
     Full testimony (pdf, 276KB, 19p.)
     Highlights (pdf, 136KB, 1p.)
     Abstract (html)

RENEWABLE ENERGY: Increased Geothermal Development Will Depend on Overcoming Many Challenges, GAO-06-629, May 24, 2006
     Full report (pdf, 1.7MB, 53p.)
     Highlights (pdf, 600KB, 1p.)
     Abstract (html)

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Restore census $ for disaster planning

In an Op-Ed today, Andrew Reamer of the Brookings Institution calls for the Senate Appropriations Committee to restore $58 million cut from the Census Bureau budget by the House of Representatives.

On June 16, the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) issued the Nationwide Plan Review (pdf, 3.8MB, 174p.), a comprehensive national assessment of state and urban emergency plans. Reamer notes the report's finding of "inadequate planning for special needs populations" and its recommendation that the federal government help states and localities incorporate "disability-related demographic analysis into emergency planning." And what federal agency can provide this kind of population data? The Census Bureau. Which just had its budget cut.

Also, in the aftermath of Katrina, budget cuts can threaten the accuracy of data. Reamer writes:
Disaster recovery requires knowing where people fled to. If fully funded, the new American Community Survey will generate detailed annual data on place-to-place migration, allowing recovery authorities to determine the number, characteristics, and location of displaced persons.


Health care - is competition good Rx?

The June 2006 issue of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law is a special issue to "review and assess" the 2004 report, Improving Health Care: A Dose of Competition (pdf, 4.4MB, 361p.), produced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

From the journal's Editor's Note:
...the guiding framework for the report, and its fundamental conclusions, hewed close to norm for health policies under the Bush administration: more information and choice for consumers, stronger incentives to purchase medical care in a cost-conscious manner, less regulation, and greater effort to transform medical care into a service that more closely resembles other marketable commodities.

As the report's title suggests, a starting assumption is that the American health care system is ailing. This is not a difficult case to make. But the attribution of these shortcomings to misguided government interventions is far less compelling. And the prescription is even less compelling than the diagnosis. In most cases, the predicted benefits from making medical care markets more competitive (either by enhancing consumer information, altering incentives, or eliminating regulations) are based almost entirely on theoretical predictions about the purportedly welfare-enhancing attributes of competitive markets.
David A. Hyman, a coeditor of this special issue, was the project leader and principal author of the FTC/DOJ report.

Abstracts of the articles may be accessed from the website.

The Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, published by Duke University Press, is in the serials collection of the Library and is available for borrowing.



Child support expenditures

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a study today on federal expenditures for the child support enforcement (CSE) program. CSE is a federal-state partnership, and states are generally reimbursed 66 percent of their administrative costs. On the federal level, CSE is run by the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) which establishes program policies and oversees and audits state agencies.

From FY 2000 to FY 2004, total net federal expenditures for administrative costs increased, but child support collections and the program's cost-effectiveness ratio (total collections divided by total administrative expenditures) also increased. For FY 2004, cost-effectiveness ratios ranged from 8.70 for Hawaii to 1.83 for the Virgin Islands. The minimum to receive an incentive payment is 2.0.

The report provides a 50-state map of percentage changes in net federal expenditures, from FY 2000 to FY 2004, on p. 17.

CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT: More Focus on Labor Costs and Administrative Cost Audits Could Help Reduce Federal Expenditures, GAO-06-491, July 6, 2006
     Full report (pdf, 2MB, 62p.)
     Highlights (pdf, 80KB, 1p.)
     Abstract (html)

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High balancing act

The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education released in June a report on Virginia's restructuring of their public higher education system. The foreword states:
an almost perennial tug-of-war has existed between the states and their colleges and universities: the states seeking more control over their institutions, and these institutions seeking greater autonomy.
Analyzing the 2002 Virginia conflict involving the setting of tuitions, the report's author found Virginia's statewide examination and discussion of institutional management and accountability "yielded an almost unprecedented broad legislative 'reconstruction' of Virginia's public higher education system in 2005."
The resulting groundbreaking legislation promises now to serve as a valuable framework for eliciting measurable institutional progress toward explicit public policy goals in exchange for a state commitment to funding and institutional autonomy in certain key areas.
The accountability of public colleges and universities to public policy goals is felt to be necessarily balanced by higher education's need for "an appropriate degree of flexibility in the means by which they achieve these goals."

Checks and Balances at Work: The Restructuring of Virginia's Public Higher Education System (June 2006, pdf, 105 pages/338 kB)

Executive Summary (available in html)