Project LEGAL's

Public Policy Analyst

Public Policy Steps


Evaluating existing public policies

Evaluating an existing policy or product can lead to improvements. Car companies, for example, evaluate the current models’ advantages and disadvantages to make improvements for next year’s models. Some new car models may have a very minor change, such as reducing the weight to improve gas mileage. Sometimes, though, the evaluation may result in the decision to totally replace an existing model, such as the short history of the Ford Edsel.

Years ago, most urban public schools had very lax security policies. Anyone could enter a school and go anywhere in the building. Then, the increase in school violence forced school officials to examine their existing security policies. Many schools simply had the policy of posting a sign at the entrance that all visitors should report to the office. The main advantage to that policy was that the only cost was the sign. However, the disadvantage was that there was no way to enforce it. Gang members, vandals or thieves who did not attend the school could enter without visiting the office. Also, students could easily bring guns into school. Reviewing the advantages and disadvantages of the security policies led to policy changes. Schools in large cities began requiring all visitors to pass through metal detectors at entrances. Other new policies allocated money to hire security guards or city police.

Evaluating the main existing policy or policies to deal with a social problem is an important step in the PPA process. Analyzing both the advantages and disadvantages of existing policies can suggest what parts of the current policy should be kept or strengthened, and what parts should be changed. If the existing policy seems to be totally ineffective, then perhaps, like the Edsel, it needs to be replaced.