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School Districts Might Benefit from Changes

California Forward Proposes Ballot Initiative Aimed at Reforming Budget Process, Program Performance

November 17, 2011

In California, continued budget impasses have resulted in repeated hits to critical areas - such as education, job creation, and public safety. And as a result, opinion polls show California voters have very little confidence in their elected officials.

To address this situation, the nonprofit, nonpartisan group California Forward started circulating a petition in early November to put a ballot proposition before California voters. The California Forward Action Fund has introduced The Government Performance and Accountability Act (GPAA), a constitutional amendment that would change the culture of governance in California.

California Forward contends the GPAA will make local governments the nexus for action, producing major improvements in government accountability, transparency and responsible budgeting. It is built around a simple idea: Californians need to know what they are getting for their tax dollars.

“The people of California have told us that they want to fix the state in a long-term meaningful way,” said Action Fund Board co-chair Sunne Wright McPeak. “By assuring performance, participation and results, the Government Performance and Accountability Act encourages local, regional and state groups to work together to achieve positive social gains that are financially sustainable over time.”

Action Fund Board co-chair Bruce McPherson said state government has been ineffective at improving outcomes, but the GPAA will change that.

“The current system often prohibits cooperation and participation,” McPherson said. “As a result, Californians no longer share in the bounty the state once promised: good jobs, world class education, affordable health care and safe neighborhoods. It’s time Californians have a government structure that allows for greater local responsibility and authority.”

Susan Lovenburg, a school board trustee in Davis and California Forward’s regional coordinator for the Sacramento area, said the proposed initiative should be of interest to educators. “The education community has long recognized that society's ills cannot be cured solely in the classroom,” Lovenburg said. “These reforms, if approved by voters, would provide the incentive and increased flexibility for local governments – cities, counties, school districts and special districts – to come together to design programs addressing the needs of the child and family in the community.”

“Additionally, school districts will identify goals as part of the annual budget process and regularly report progress to the public.  This data, over time, can serve as the basis for determining resource needs to support desired education outcomes.  Future resources can be allocated to programs with proven record of success,” she added.

The GPAA would adjust the state role and introduce measures to manage and control the process:

  1. Provides a stable and results-oriented state budget process. Local governments need a stable state budget process that helps them reach community goals.  The proposal would require a two-year state budget to reduce the nearly endless wrangling and uncertainty. The state would establish goals and performance metrics and the Legislature would review all programs once every five years. Lawmakers would have to identify ways to pay for major policy choices, rather than putting all programs at risk of being cut in future years.
  2. Ensures local governments are accountable for results. Californians expect local governments to spend public money wisely. To communicate clearly and manage effectively, local governments must identify goals and performance metrics as part of their budgets.
  3. Encourages cooperation among local governments. Experience shows that to solve difficult public programs, public agencies must work together. Schools must work with social service agencies, and social service agencies need to work with law enforcement. Through Community Strategic Action Plans, local leaders would be given the flexibility and incentives to work together to develop integrated approaches to meet community needs.

If the signature requirements are met, the GPAA will be on the November 2012 General Election Ballot.

Source:  California Forward