Invest Taxpayer Dollars in What Works

Floor Speech

By:  Mary Landrieu
Date: Dec. 20, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, as Congress continues its work addressing our Nation's looming fiscal crisis, we must also remember that we have a responsibility to our taxpayers to improve outcomes for young people and their families by driving Federal funds more efficiently toward evidence-based, results-oriented solutions.

In August, I shared promising news from my home State, where evidence-based Federal programs, including the Social Innovation Fund, the Investing in Innovation Fund, and the High Quality Charter Schools Replication and Expansion Program, are improving education and other important outcomes for thousands of young people throughout Louisiana.

Bipartisan support for investing in what works has been growing for decades.

Under the George W. Bush administration, the Office of Management and Budget put a priority on improving the performance of Federal programs and encouraged more rigorous evaluations to assess their effectiveness.

In 2010, the Simpson-Bowles Commission Report, the ``National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform,'' specifically recommended urging all Federal agency heads to ``identify ways to shift from inefficient, unproductive spending to productive, results-based investment.''

And in May of this year, the Office of Management and Budget, OMB, instructed all Federal departments and agencies to demonstrate the use of evidence throughout their fiscal year 2014 budget submissions.

At a time when America is facing enormous social and economic shifts, budget constraints at all levels of government, significant demographic changes, and an increasingly globally competitive, changing workforce, our Federal Government must continue to drive public resources toward evidence-based, results-driven solutions that work.

I believe the following principles can serve as the foundation of an ``invest in what works'' agenda: develop and use a common evidence framework to inform program design and management; use evidence, data and information about performance to inform policy and drive continuous improvement in Federal programs and grantee interventions; promote innovation and flexibility and focus on outcomes rather than simply on compliance; increasingly target investments in interventions with the strongest evidence of effectiveness, as well as support the development and rigorous evaluation of promising, innovative interventions; and, seek opportunities to promote and invest in systems and communities that are collaborating to achieve significant community-wide impact or change at scale.

I would encourage the administration to incorporate these principles in its fiscal year 2014 budget request, and to consider reserving 1 percent of Federal program funds for independent, third-party evaluations. These recommendations, which are consistent with the 2010 Simpson-Bowles report and the 2012 OMB memo on evidence and evaluation, would provide Members of Congress with reliable information to gauge program effectiveness and drive continuous improvement.

In pursuing this approach, we should remain steadfastly focused on equity and serving children and families in greatest need. Done right, an ``invest in what works'' framework can advance an equity agenda. Competitive grants can augment and help maximize the impact of important formula funding. When designing such policies, we must prioritize grantees serving children and families most in need and leverage lessons learned to improve the impact of larger scale programs. Moreover, the Federal Government should make technical assistance a priority to potentially high-impact grantees--including rural grantees--that have less expertise in preparing Federal grant applications.

I am fully committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to help improve outcomes for young people and their families through the development and implementation of an agenda that invests in what works.