Notes from the Teachers
Some of the boldest education, health, and security policy initiatives of the past decade have only begun to produce evidence of their merits and demerits. But like midterm grades, the early marks are instructive as well as inconclusive. They can either signal initial progress or alert us of potential failures that can then be averted.
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is an apt case in point. Signed in January 2002 with goals stretching clear to 2014, the landmark education legislation represents the largest insertion of federal authority into school management in U.S. history. RAND researchers Laura Hamilton, Brian Stecher, Georges Vernez, and Ron Zimmer, who have analyzed the effects of the law at nearly every level of the education system, have issued a set of mixed grades, early warnings, and general guidelines that can help the law fulfill its promise.
Health care financing for elderly Americans has undergone major changes since passage of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, which took effect on January 1, 2006. The most historic change has been the creation of dozens of alternative prescription drug benefit plans, nearly all of which are subject to a coverage gap, known as the “doughnut hole.” Although it is still too early to assess the effects of the new public benefit plans, Geoffrey Joyce and Dana Goldman have assessed the effects of a comparable private plan. They warn of potential long-term costs and propose adjustments in policy and research to help spare Medicare similar encumbrances.
Progress in one pioneering area of security policy requires that it first be recognized as a distinct policy area. As noted by Richard Solomon, president of the U.S. Institute of Peace, “The world of the 20th century was burdened with the rise of powerful, imperial-minded nation-states. The 21st, ironically, begins with the security challenge of weak and poorly governed territories.” Angel Rabasa rises to the challenge by distinguishing among three types of ungoverned territories, assigning separate policy packages for each, and suggesting how we can strike a better balance between security and development, particularly in ungoverned territories that exhibit the attributes of terrorist sanctuaries.