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Capitol Comment: Evidence-based results are needed in gov’t decisions

Capitol Comments by Peggy Bennett

If there is evidence that proves something isn’t working, should we just continue to do it?

Peggy Bennett

In state government, we create laws and fund thousands of programs. Most of the time, we just assume those laws and programs are working. I believe it is the responsibility of government to be accountable to the citizens of Minnesota by making sure that the laws we pass and the programs we fund are working and serving their intended purpose. 

Along those lines, I will once again be offering legislation that would begin to create a process to measure and report the effectiveness of government programs, starting with K-12 education grant-funded programs.

Under my bill, each program that receives grant funding awarded by the Minnesota Department of Education must provide an educational goal; a summary of the strategies used to meet the goal, data collection process; and a short report summarizing the data and the effectiveness of the strategies in a report to the commissioner of education. The report would also be submitted to the majority and minority chairs of the education committees.

The education committees would then be able to look at the data and determine program effectiveness. If it’s working well, we can prioritize the program. If it’s not working, let’s eliminate it and focus our funding on things that work.

Evidence-based results should be required across state government. Too often we have programs that take money but return nothing. I’m asking that Minnesota government have the information needed that ensures it is funding the most effective programs. We have tight budgets, and we all want our tax money to go as far as it can and go toward programs that work.

This process of evidence-based government should be used throughout government, including for laws, rules, regulations and mandates. We should never maintain programs and laws just for the sake of doing “something.”

As an elementary school and special education teacher of many years, I relied on research and data to guide my teaching methods and help my students. I would collect data and chart the effectiveness of the strategies and interventions I used. If what I was doing worked, I kept on. If it didn’t work, I discontinued that strategy and chose a different method. Government should operate in that same common-sense way. Sadly, that rarely happens. Government often continues programs and laws into perpetuity, even if the evidence is clear they do not work.

As a lawmaker, one of my goals is to make sure that what government is doing works — and if it doesn’t, we should quit doing it. It’s as practical as that.

Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, is the District 27A representative.

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