Friday, March 29, 2013

PBB Explores Role of Local Government in Ensuring Quality Education

In Part #4 of the National League of Cities Report, the focus is on Education as a policy priority, and once again NLC has hit the nail on the head with their perspective. How can local government be a partner in the success of our schools?

In our work implementing Priority Based Budgeting in city and county organizations, a very interesting question tends to emerge: what is the local government’s role in ensuring quality education? In most communities, it is beyond the local government’s sphere of influence to impact education; that’s the role of the school districts. And on the other hand, the success of the school districts has everything to do with the success of the community. What to do?

Fairfield, California

The City of Fairfield is geographically interesting – not far from wine country, neighboring Napa, as well as the City of Vallejo, California. There are few places in the Country who have experienced the type of economic upheaval that this region has gone through, thus the launch of Priority Based Budgeting in the City (see Fairfield PBB article here).

In our work with Fairfield citizens, attempting to define all the influences on the City’s Economic Health Result, something very interesting took place. As citizens and civic leaders spoke of incentive programs to attract new businesses, or services to minimize “red tape” to please existing businesses, another citizen reluctantly spoke up about the role of schools. Families weren’t moving to Fairfield, and in fact some were moving out, in part because of the challenges the school district was having. Incentive programs to attract new businesses sounded fine, but if the company could not be sure that a stable, local workforce would reside to fill jobs, and worse if families were leaving the City, what good would incentives do?

The health and effectiveness of the local education system was at issue, and no amount of businesses incentives could make up for the need to improve the schools. And that’s how Fairfield came to recognize the importance of partnering with schools as an economic issue (as you see in their Result Map, “Promotes Quality Job Creation and Provides a Skilled and Educated Workforce to Fill those Jobs” as a means to achieve a Prosperous Local Economy).

Fort Collins, Colorado

The City of Fort Collins, Colorado was also recently profiled on this blog regarding their unique contribution to the wildly successful business incubator, the Rocky Mountain Innosphere (RMI).

Fundamental to this incredible story is how local government came together with the university to jointly support a business incubator for the creation of new jobs. RMI is not a city program, although the cities of Fort Collins and Loveland are contributors to the partnership. If anything, RMI is the holy grail of the “shared service model” that you hear about from ICMA’s Center for Management Strategies. “The incubator is a private nonprofit corporation. Its operations are funded through private donations and annual contributions from the state government, Colorado State University, local banks, Loveland and the City of Fort Collins.”

The City of Fort Collins, just like every other city and county we’ve helped to implement PBB, also strives to achieve (in their words) “Economic Health.” It’s a priority (just as you can see from their website, here).

But City leaders were brilliant enough to realize that creating a nirvana of job creation need not come in the shape and size of a City program.

Most interestingly, the City’s share of funding to support RMI scored well in the PBB process – it’s was a high priority. However, using the filters of the PBB Model, it was clear that this was a program that others could offer and were offering in the form of business support (in other words, the City need not be the only player in providing this service), that the City wasn’t mandated to do, and was unlikely to pay for itself. Through the lens of PBB, this points precisely in the direction of a partnership. The role of government, even in a high-priority program, is not always to be the direct service provider; it can be a key partner!

1 comment:

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