Better, Faster, Cheaper

Public Transit’s Costly Compensation Bonanza

It appears that a strike has been averted at the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), but the confrontation is just the latest reminder of what a sweet deal most unionized public-transit workers have.

Between base salary and overtime, the average LIRR employee makes nearly $84,000 annually, over 17 percent more than New York's subway and bus workers. LIRR workers' total compensation is 30 percent higher than for employees of Metro-North, which provides comparable commuter-rail service to Connecticut and upstate New York. READ MORE

Teacher Tenure and the Need for a Culture of Merit

A Los Angeles County judge's ruling last month that tenure and several other state laws governing the hiring and firing of teachers run afoul of the state constitution was a step in the right direction. But governments have more to do if they hope to attract the teaching force our country needs.

In his ruling, Judge Rolf M. Treu found that 1 to 3 percent of California's teachers -- between 2,750 and 8,250 in all -- are "grossly ineffective" and that a single year with such a teacher costs students $1.4 million in lifetime earnings per classroom. The judge went on to note that attempting to fire such a teacher can take as long as a decade and cost between $50,000 and $450,000. That's because of the higher level of job protection that California teachers receive once they are granted tenure after a probationary period of less than two years. READ MORE

How Technology Can Stretch Infrastructure Dollars

The gap between what it would cost to properly maintain and upgrade America's infrastructure and what governments currently spend is vast. Technology alone can't bridge the gap, but the more we learn about its applications, the clearer it becomes that technology can significantly narrow that chasm.

One example comes from South Carolina, where an innovative bridge-monitoring system is producing real savings despite being in use on only eight bridges. Girder sensors installed on a bridge can measure its carrying capacity and be monitored 24/7. The monitors don't eliminate the need for inspections, but the technology does make the need less frequent. READ MORE

Paying the Price to Keep Government’s Best Workers

You run an important state data center. Google and Facebook have moved in nearby and are offering top dollar for skilled workers. How do you retain your best employees? When it comes to situations like this one, governments often lose talented workers because their bureaucracies either prevent them from offering the pay raises needed for them to retain the workers or make it difficult to do so in a timely manner.

The data center example is among the challenges that convinced North Carolina to confront the employee recruitment and retention problem. The state put $7.5 million into a fund this year to help retain workers in high-demand fields and has used the money to hike the annual pay of nearly 3,500 employees by an average of $2,500, or 4 percent. READ MORE

How Indiana Is Supercharging Data for Efficiency

As the importance of data to efficiency in the public sector becomes increasingly clear, one of the models for integrating new uses of it into government operations stands out. This model relies on two seemingly opposing factors: strong central leadership in setting policy and implementation accompanied by a broadly distributed ability to use the data throughout the organization.

The city of Chicago has been a pioneer of this strategy. Its Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT), led by CIO Brenna Berman and with strong mayoral support, is ensuring that data use spreads throughout the city. DoIT is developing an advanced analytics platform while at the same time engaging users across departments to identify problems they can solve with better data. A recent pilot project, for example, enabled the Department of Streets and Sanitation to target rodent-baiting to areas where data predicted infestations. READ MORE