California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office has published analyses on two items found in the 2021-22 budget: the “Cradle to Career” Data System and the CalHeers Dashboard.
“Cradle to Career” Data System
In 2019, a one-time fund of $10 million was granted to the Office of Planning and Research (OPR) for initial planning activities to create an integrated “Cradle to Career” Data System “that would allow policymakers, educators, families, and others to answer key questions about student progression and outcomes.”
The LAO noted in their analysis that this data system could answer critical questions such as:
- “Which early education programs and services have the greatest effect on reading and comprehension in elementary school?”
- “What specific high school programs are associated with better postsecondary outcomes for low‑income students?”
- “Which health and social service programs are most closely associated with improved educational outcomes of K‑12 and college students?”
A data system with the ability to give context to some or all of these questions would inform policymakers to make more informed decisions on policy and budget matters relating to education and health and social services.
The LAO made three key recommendations regarding the future of the potential data system, including using the Project Approval Lifecycle process to track the progress of the data system., requiring the administration to back up their budget requests with market research, workload justifications, and a complete schedule for project activities, and redistributing a portion of the funding until certain PAL milestones have been reached.
CalHEERS, an IT system that refers Californians that are likely eligible for Medi‑Cal to county workers to determine final eligibility for the program, was implemented in 2013 and is consistently being updated and repaired as needed.
During the 2020-21 budget process, several defects and inefficiencies were detected in CalHEERS, prompting DHCS to create a new dashboard that corrected those issues.
In their assessment, LAO found through meetings with administration and stakeholders that the current dashboard “appears to capture known defects and required additional functionalities related to Medi‑Cal eligibility and prioritize them for inclusion in CalHEERS releases” and should continue to recognize its own functionality issues.
Some of those issues will be addressed iteratively over the course of the next 24 months, while others will be targeted in a 2024 overhaul of the State Automated Welfare System (SAWS) system.
LAO noted two opportunities for legislative oversight on the CalHEERS dashboard:
- Requiring an annual report on CalHEERS releases, describing new fixes and functionality as well as any new issues.
- Directing DCHS to develop a more user-friendly version of the dashboard that clearly identifies how the resolution of issues will lead to increased functionality.