Are innovation projects money well spent?
The executive budget is big on innovation. Gov. John Kasich's proposed budget contains six line items supporting “innovation funds” of one kind or another, at a cost of $262 million over the next two years. That's an increase of $33 million over the prior budget.
In an environment where local governments and schools have lost billions in revenue sharing, proposed funding for need-based financial aid remains $67 million below what is was in the recession, and state funding for protective services remains extremely low relative to the nation, funding of experimentation should be closely examined. What outcomes are anticipated? How will innovation dollars for education, mental health and other areas help rebuild a frayed base of critical public services? Who will decide what is a worthy outcome that benefits the entire system?
State Representative Nicki Antonio tried to get some answers about experimentation in the recent budget hearings. “Will we get a report?” she asked Job and Family Services Director Cynthia Dungey after listening to a description of how performance metrics would be developed for the delivery of county social services. The director assured her there would be a report.
Lawmakers should be getting reports on all innovation funds and new processes, and there should be public evaluation of the outcomes of experimentation in this lean, post-recession environment.
-- Wendy Patton