By Marilyn Rubin

Equity measures as part of department/agency performance assessment are essential to government efforts to incorporate equity into decision-making, programming, and service delivery. Equity in agency performance assessments helps to ensure that public dollars do not fund programs, projects, or policies that exacerbate inequities. In New Jersey, the state government is proactively advancing equity through several actions including the creation of the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging in the Office of the Governor and through several budget initiatives such as the “Cover all Kids” initiative to ensure that more NJ children receive access to quality health care coverage.

However, executive branch departments are not required to specifically account for equity in their annual performance assessment reports. According to the Governor’s Performance Center, the State “…has instituted a …program to track the operations and performance of each department of state government, with a particular focus on effectiveness, efficiency, timeliness and service quality.”

The purpose of this project is to recommend how the state of New Jersey can advance equity for all its residents through the incorporation of equity into the required performance assessments of government departments/agencies. Recommendations will be based on findings from our research on how other U.S. state governments are using equity measures as part of department/agency performance assessment protocols.

Progress to date:

In our research, we have divided the U.S. into five geographic regions and are using several different paths to identify the use of equity measures in the states in each of the regions. We are in the initial stages of examining the equity pathways for each state and region, government-wide and in specific policy areas. Examples are presented below that demonstrate both executive and legislative branch actions.

Oregon: In addition to issuing executive orders to further equal opportunity, diversity, and inclusion in state hiring (Executive Order 22-11) and in the procurement process (Executive Order 22-15), Oregon has begun to require state agencies to consider equity in their budget requests. In 2021, Governor Kate Brown released her Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan: A Roadmap to Racial Equity and Belonging. This plan includes racial equity vision, values, and goals, as well as specific strategies to help the state achieve equity. One of the strategies is that agencies develop racial equity plans and incorporate equity into their budget requests. This has been actualized in the budget preparation instructions to agencies that, for example, provide worksheets to help state agencies apply a racial equity lens to their budget development processes and requests.

Washington: Washington’s executive branch has issued multiple executive orders to advance equity outcomes. The state legislature has also worked to advance equity. In 2020, it passed HB1783 that created the Washington State Equity Office (WSEO). HB1783 delineates WSEO’s roles and responsibilities and requires state agencies to work with the Office. The law also requires that state agencies designate a diversity, equity, and inclusion officer; apply an equity lens to existing and proposed policies; develop and submit diversity, equity, and inclusion plans; and submit data and performance information to the WSEO.

California: The California Arts Council (CAC) is a state agency with eight members appointed by the governor and the state legislature. The CAC is California’s only public arts grants provider with funding that is accessible to all 58 counties. To advance its commitment to equity, CAC requires that applicant organizations submit a racial equity statement and offers technical assistance, resources, and webinars to support organizations in creating this statement. The CAC has also conducted a baseline data analysis of the demographics of its grantees. Initial results indicated that: “…the geographic distribution of arts organizations at the neighborhood level is less likely to include populations of color, populations with lower education levels and rural communities.”

A Way Forward

Once we complete our research, we will synthesize common elements of equity used by U.S. state governments in department/agency performance assessments and provide recommendations for New Jersey departments/agencies to use in their assessment of performance and service delivery.