Home > Uncategorized > When Evidence Contradicts Political Conviction… Starve the Funding Of It!

When Evidence Contradicts Political Conviction… Starve the Funding Of It!

An article in Politico offers the ultimate legislative solution to politicians who seek to ignore the facts: pass a budget that eliminates the funding for the collection of evidence!

The Politco piece by Harry Stein, the Executive Director of the Center for American Progress, “Evidence Comes Under Attack”, is one that seldom finds its way into the mainstream media because it involves the fine print of the budget bill that is wending its way through Congress. While the idea of using data to determine the effectiveness of laws or to determine the kinds of laws that might be considered appears to have bi-partisan support, the actual funding for the bill runs into problems in Congress. As Stein writes:

The current versions of spending bills on Capitol Hill would defund data collection, analysis, and pilot programs that are helping to solve some of the toughest challenges facing the nation.

Amid the larger debate about overall spending levels under sequestration, some cuts to evidence-based programs were probably inevitable. But this Congress seems to be targeting evidence-based initiatives in particular, and for reasons that seem deeply political.

And where is the evidence collected problematic? Stein cites climate change, gun violence, violent crime in general, health care, and… you guessed it, education! 

Congress is also threatening significant progress towards evidence-based practices in education. Both the House and Senate appropriations committees advanced funding bills that would terminate the Investing in Innovation Fund—a relatively new federal initiative that is scaling-up promising evidence-backed education programs, and evaluating these expansions to determine which programs can be scaled up effectively.

One of the programs supported by the Investing in Innovation Fund is Success for All, an education model first deployed in 1987 that has demonstrated positive outcomes in scientific evaluations. In South Carolina, Success for All recently turned around a once-failing middle school featured in the 2005 documentary “Corridor of Shame,” with the school now reporting higher test scores, fewer behavioral problems, and more parental involvement. After an elementary schoolin the impoverished Tohono O’odham Reservation in Arizona adopted Success for All, 63 percent of its students in the third through fifth grades passed statewide reading tests—up from an abysmal 18 percent just three years earlier.

As stated in a recent independent evaluation of the Success for All scale up, “At a time when school districts are facing straitened economic conditions, it is all the more important to adopt policies and programs that have been shown to work.” Yet Congress is undermining exactly that effort.

As Stein notes in his concluding paragraph, quoting Paul Ryan: “If we want to make government more effective, we need to know what works.” De-funding agencies the the Bureau of Labor Statistics and preventing the collection of data on climate, gun ownership, and violent crime will leave Congress in the dark when funding is needed. Inconvenient truths are needed far more than hollow rhetoric.


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