The benefits of local government transparency extend to both the citizen and administrator. For the former, transparency provides a low-cost mechanism to monitor the allocation of their tax contributions. For the latter, transparency offers cost savings, as well as social, political, and strategic benefits. For these reasons, The Good Governance Project (GGP) – originally known as the Texas Transparency Project - at the Bush School of Government and Public Service set out to measure the online transparency of management practices of local governments, first Texas cities, then Texas school districts, before broadening their to scope to US cities (coming in 2016).
The Pew Center’s Government Performance Project (GPP), Grading the States (2008), formed the foundation of our project. Since 1997, the Pew Center’s GPP has provided information about state government performance to the public through evaluation in four main areas: Information, Money, Infrastructure, and People.
The GGP adapts the Grading the States evaluation model to local governments and school districts and:
- Aims to provide citizens, city officials, and school administrators with a tool for understanding and improving administrative performance
- Introduces a framework for evaluating the transparency of best practices at the local level
- Tests basic assumptions regarding budget, population size, median income, and per capita spending
The purpose of this website is to provide an avenue for citizens and local officials to begin a conversation about local governance for residents and potential residents alike. We want the users to be able to interact with data by comparing cities and school districts using charts, tables, downloading datasets; contacting local government staff; and exploring novel ways to look at the data with ongoing blog posts. The GGP hopes to improve citizen knowledge of and participation in local government by providing a tool – this website – to explore and learn about local government.
The Capstone Research Teams
The Good Governance Project (GGP) began as series of Capstone projects focused on examining the performance and transparency of the public sector. The research teams were made up of graduate students completing a Master of Public Service Administration at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.
The Municipal Performance Index (MPI), the inaugural report of the GGP, examines the role of transparency in local governments. The information was collected from December 2012 to January 2013. Data was collected for 217 Texas cities with a population of 10,000 or higher, as cities with populations under that threshold had limited information on their websites or no website at all.
The Education Transparency Index (ETI) is the 2014-2015 installment of the GGP that evaluates managerial transparency in Texas school districts. Texas has over 1,000 school districts so the GPP narrowed the scope of the project to include school districts which coincided with the 217 Texas cities measured in the MPI. Because school districts are not contiguous and they do not align themselves perfectly with municipal borders, 285 school districts were analyzed. The researchers were primarily interested in public school districts, therefore open enrollment charters were not included.
In the most recent iteration of the Good Governance Project, the National Municipal Performance Index (NMPI) assesses the level of transparency between local governments and their citizens in 272 U.S. municipalities with populations of 100,00 and above. A new variable group was created, Information Communications Technology, along with three new subvariables added to the index to explore how governments provide access to online information through the use of Internet-based platforms.