Outcome-Based Funding Makes Sense

April 11, 2005
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State Rep. Jerry Kooiman, R-Grand Rapids, is proving his leadership as Speaker Pro Tempore and as a member of the State Appropriations Committee. While Gov. Jennifer Granholm over and over talks about the state budget crisis, she is walking away from real solutions and overdue reforms. Kooiman is offering common sense solutions, and to ignore them is just plain stupid.

Michigan’s great upheaval as a manufacturing state is not news, nor is the resulting budget crisis. The systemic change has long been seen and discussed, not just by Alan Greenspan but by Alvin Toffler and others of his ilk. Government leaders, however, have continued the business of bureaucracy as usual. Making changes is thought to be politically untenable, but crisis management is equally so.

The governor is modeling a plan from Grand Rapids City Manager Kurt Kimball, based on the book, “The Price of Government.” After taking a survey of residents, the programs and services the majority believes are important will be given budget priority; those at the bottom of the list will be cut. But much more of the governor’s “business plan” is a tax shift or tax increase.

None of those actions address the fundamental changes long needed and now obviously necessary. Kooiman and his fellows, State Reps. Dave Hildebrand and Glenn Steil Jr., have requested simple program outcomes as a way to deliver the taxpayers’ money — or not — to the myriad of state appropriations. Kooiman, a member of the subcommittees on community colleges and higher education and career preparation, requested the success rate of the prison inmates who have earned their GEDs. Through that process he learned that Michigan spends approximately $20,000 per GED. When compared to per-pupil spending in grades K-12 or for colleges and universities, he rightly finds that amount appalling.

Kooiman has asked colleges and universities for outcomes: Those that fail to graduate a student in the prescribed amount of time receive less. He also explained that Michigan residents often pay for any number of years of college expenses, and that foreign students’ educations are often paid for, ultimately at the cost of a resident student’s admission.

The legislator wants to see that outcome-based budgeting in regard to revenue sharing: funding would be tied to metropolitan cooperation, to consolidation of services like water and sewer, planning and purchasing. KentCounty leaders would do well to begin such a process, particularly for the immediate cost savings provided under the most severe budget constraints anyone can remember. Kooiman also would tie funding for K-12 to such endeavors.

Beyond the savings to taxpayers, Kooiman’s plan also assures greater strength of state institutions and programs. Kooiman’s “outcome-based” funding is pure common sense. Unfortunately, state elected officials rarely exhibit such. It is time for a change.

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