POLS 220: Intro to Public Policy

DuSable 461

Spring 2010

Instructor:  Katie Stone

Class Time:  Monday, Wednesday, & Friday 10:00- 10:50

Office Hours:  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 11:00 – 12:00, or by appointment

Office:  476 DuSable (Pols TA office)

Email: kstone3@niu.edu


Course Description

The first half of the course will introduce students to the policy process in the United States. Major actors and institutions as well as different policy models will be identified. Students will also be introduced to how and why certain problems reach the public agenda while others do not. The second half of the semester will focus on major policy issues, how they came to be and what their future is. The second half of the semester will provide students with an in depth look at the processes they studied in the first half.

Course Objectives

Students should leave the course with an understanding of the policy process, and whom it involves. They should also be able to analyze policy issues and apply the knowledge they have to the issues in their own lives. Students should be able to analyze issues and form them into logical written and oral arguments.

Course Text

Simon, Christopher. 2010. Public Policy: Preferences and Outcomes. 2nd edition. New York: Longman



Grading will be done on a point system. There will be 850 points available in the semester.

765-850 A        680-754 B        595-679 C        510-594 D      0-509 F



Point Distribution


            Midterm- 150pts

            Cumulative Final- 200pts

Policy Paper 1- 200pts

Policy Paper 2- 100pts

Presentation- 100pts

Participation- 100pts



Exams: Will be multiple choice, short answer, and essay. Test materials will come from the book AND from lectures. The final will be cumulative.

Policy Paper 1: Will be based on the topic of your presentation. You will analyze the policy area of your presentation and identify the best policy. Paper will be 6-8 pages in length. Due on the date of your presentation. Must also be submitted to SafeAssign.

Policy Paper 2: Will be a reaction paper based on a presentation topic other than your own. Paper will be 2-3 pages in length. Due the Friday after the topic is presented. Must also be submitted to SafeAssign.

Presentation:  Will be done in assigned groups. Each group will be given a policy area and will have to put together a presentation supporting or opposing a specific policy proposal.

Participation: Will be based on regular and meaningful participation in class discussion. Participation points will not be attained through attendance. Your participation grade can be reduced for infractions such as your cell phone ringing in class, texting in class, listening to your ipod in class, or otherwise distracting the class or coming in to class late.  Participation might also be based on in class assignments.


Academic Dishonesty

Regarding plagiarism, the NIU Undergraduate catalog states: “Students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources without identifying and acknowledging them. Students guilty of or assisting other in, either cheating or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the university.” The above statement encompasses a paper written in whole or in part by another; a paper copied word-for-word or with only minor changes from another source; a paper copied in part from one or more sources without proper identification and acknowledgement of the sources; a paper that is merely a paraphrase of one or more sources, using ideas and/or logic without credit even through the actual words may be changed; and a paper that quotes, summarizes or paraphrases, or cutes and pastes words, phrases, or images from an Internet source without identification and the address of the web site. For more information on plagiarism visit:



Students with Disabilities

Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for person with documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have an impact on their course work must register with the Center for Access- Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building (753-1303). CAAR will assist students in making appropriate instructional and/or examination accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability related needs during the first two weeks for the semester.


Undergraduate Writing Awards

The Department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300-400 level political science courses or directed studies.  Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing.  Winners are expected to attend the Department’s spring graduation ceremony, where they will receive a certificate and $50.00.  Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by the end of March.  All copies should have two cover pages – one with the student’s name and one without the student’s name.  Only papers written in the previous calendar year can be considered for the award.  However, papers completed in the current spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition even if the student has graduated.



Class Schedule (Subject to Changes per announcements in class and or via Blackboard)

Additional reading may be assigned at any time via an announcement in class or blackboard

Week 1 - Intro Simon Ch. 1

M (Jan. 11) - Introduction, syllabus, expectations

W (13) - What is public policy?

F (15) - Ideological Contexts

Week 2 - Theories of Public Policy Simon Ch. 2

M (18) - No Class!

W (20)-Rational Model, Instrumentalism, Public Choice, Group Theory

F (22) - System Theory, Institutionalism, Elite Theory, Game Theory, Neo- Intuitionalism

Week 3 - Values and Public Policy and Policy Analysis Simon Ch. 3 & 4

M (25) - Values, Civic Engagement, Social Capital, Value Changes

W (27) - Economics, Growth of Public Policy

F (29) - Central Questions, Tools for Analysis, Ethics

Week 4 - Agenda Setting Simon Ch. 5

M (Feb. 1) - The President

W (3) - Congress

F (5) - The Courts and outside Groups

Week 5 - Policy Formulation Simon Ch. 6

M (8) - How is policy Formulated?

W (10) -Major Actors

F (12) - Demographic Changes, Explaining Policy Formulation

Week 6 - Policy Implementation and Policy Evaluation Simon Ch. 7 & 8

M (15) - Theories of Implementation, Issues in Implementation

W (17) - Participants in Implementation, Policy Evaluation Skills and purpose

F (19) - Internal and External Evaluations

Week 7 - Policy Termination Federalism Simon Ch. 9 & 10

M (22) - Actors in Termination, Reasons, Roadblocks

W (24) - When and How to Terminate Policy

F (26) - Models of Federalism

Week 8 - Intergovernmental Relations and Review Simon Ch. 10

M (Mar. 1)-Intergovernmental Relations and collaborative Policy Making, Review for Midterm

W (3) - Midterm Exam

F (5) - Research Day- Spring Break Starts

Week 9- Coast of Policy Simon Ch. 17

M (15) - Budget Process

W (17) - Size of the National Budget, Budget Cycle

F (19) - Budget Theory, Implications for Policy

Week 10 - Defense Policy

M (22) - Presentation

W (24) - Overview

F (26) - Discussion (Defense response papers due)

Week 11 - Public Health Policy

M (29) - Presentation

W (31) - Overview

F (Apr. 2) - Discussion (Public Health response papers due)

Week 12 - Social Policy

M (5) - Presentation

W (7) - Overview

F (9) - Discussion (Social policy response papers due)

Week 13 - Education Policy

M (12) - Presentation

W (14) - Overview

F (16) - Discussion (Education response papers due)

Week 14 - Criminal Justice Policy

M (19) - Presentation

W (21) - Overview

F (23) - Discussion (criminal justice response papers due)

Week 15 - Green Policy

M (26) - Presentation

W (28) - Overview (Green response papers due)


Final Exam

Monday May 3

10:00- 11:50


Paper and Presentation Expectations

Policy Paper 1- This should be a formal paper that has at least 4 academic sources and uses APA format. Paper should present a cohesive analysis of the topic as well as a clear argument for why the policy you identify as the best is indeed the best. The paper should be organized into an introduction a body and a conclusion. Headings are not required but can be useful. Creative titles are encouraged. Paper should be in Times New Roman, 12 pt. double spaced with 1 inch margins on all sides. Failure to abide by the guidelines will result in a lower grade. Unstapled papers will not be accepted. Late papers will not be accepted. Paper must be submitted in hard copy AND to SafeAssign in order to count.

Policy Paper 2- Though less formal than the first paper, this assignment should still present a clear and logical analysis of the topic you are responding to. No outsides sources are necessary but if you use them they must be cited. Paper should be in Times New Roman, 12 pt. double spaced with 1 inch margins on all sides. Failure to abide by the guidelines will result in a lower grade. Unstapled papers will not be accepted. Late papers will not be accepted. Paper must be submitted in hard copy AND to SafeAssign in order to count.

Presentation- Presentation should be 15 -20 minutes long. While content is the most important aspect of the slideshow, reading directly from the slides or note cards will not result in an A.  Using videos that take up a large portion of your time is frowned upon. Each group member will receive the same grade