How States Have Secured Sustainable Funding for Data Systems

by Jenna Leventoff
January 12, 2016

Adequate sustainable state funding is essential to ensure that states can build, maintain, expand, and effectively utilize state data systems. That is why it is one of WDQC’s 13 Blueprint elements for strong data systems. However, adequate and sustainable funding can be challenging to secure. Below are examples of states that have done it successfully, as well as the reasons they believe they accomplished this feat. These methods may prove useful to other state data system administrators looking to receive state resources.

Multi-stakeholder Funding

Both South Dakota and Oregon have been able to sustain their data systems by splitting costs amongst all users of the systems. In this way, no single agency is saddled with the entire cost of system maintenance.

In South Dakota, the data sharing agreements necessary to populate the state’s Postsecondary Graduate Employment and Wage Outcomes tool contains a provision requiring cost sharing. Each participating institution contributes the same sum. The South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation is able to adjust that sum in each new round of data sharing agreements.

Similarly, Oregon evenly shares the cost of funding its legislatively mandated workforce data system, PRISM, amongst the three participating agencies – the Department of Human Services, the Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development, and the Employment Department. Each agency applies for its share of funds in its annual state budget proposal. To date, the agencies have always received the requested funds. One state officials credits the success of this funding model to PRISM’s legislative mandate and to strong working relationships between agencies.

Clear Legislative Research Agenda

In Alaska, the state legislature actually initiated funding for data linkages with unemployment insurance wage records. This is because the legislature is particularly interested in the number of non-residents employed in Alaska, and the linkages enable the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development to produce an annual report on the subject. One Alaskan official believes that a clear legislative research purpose helps lawmakers conceptualize the importance of data systems, and hence improves the likelihood of achieving sustainable funding.

Prompt Responses to Legislative Research Requests and a Policy Aligned Governor

In 2015, the Kansas Board of Regents received approximately $4.5 million from the state, about $550,000 more than in previous years. The additional funds were intended to sustain the state’s longitudinal data system. State officials credit this funding on (1) a governor with an aligned policy agenda; and (2) prompt responses to legislative research requests. In Kansas, the Governor initially proposes a budget, which is subsequently approved by the state legislature. In 2012, Kansas’s Governor, Sam Brownbeck, launched an initiative that provides high school students with free tuition for approved technical courses offered by Kansas technical and community colleges. Officials believe the Governor increased funding for the data system so that the system could be used to evaluate outcomes of the approved programs within the initiative. Those same officials believe the legislature approved the request because the Board of Regent’s always provides timely and accurate responses to legislative research requests. The Board fulfils most requests within 24 hours, and remains in constant contact with legislative researchers should a request take longer to fill.

The aforementioned methods are just some of many ways that state data system administrators can secure state resources. If you are a state official that has found another method, please let us know. For other resources about state funding, please see Data Quality Campaign and the SLDS Sustainability Toolkit. WDQC is always eager to share best practices on creating strong data systems.