When it comes to data, when everyone’s in charge, no one’s in charge. That is why it is so important for state decisionmakers to demonstrate leadership in how data is collected, protected, accessed, and used through establishing cross-agency data governance. It may be a dry term, but agency leaders coming together to make decisions about how data is collected and used—in the sunshine—is one of the best ways to ensure that states maximize investments in state data systems. And one of the best ways to make cross-agency data governance happen is through legislation.
Now that most state legislative sessions are in full swing, we’re encouraged to see that legislators in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Tennessee have filed strong cross-agency data governance bills. These different but robust proposals would each codify leadership-level governance bodies charged with ensuring that data linked between state agencies is quality, protected, and put to work to meet state goals.
Formalized data governance codified in law creates sustainability for a statewide longitudinal data system (SLDS) by ensuring that there is a clear body charged with making decisions about data. These bills would move those states closer to being able to effectively leverage their existing SLDSs to support access and put more useful insights in the hands of decisionmakers across their states.
- Massachusetts legislators are considering a bill (SD 2288 and HD 3666) that would establish a governing board for the Massachusetts Education-to-Career Data System, which includes six members of the public. A new Education-to-Career Data Center would be charged with providing the public with one location to access education and workforce data. This bill outlines several purposes for the system, including informing student and family decisionmaking.
- Rhode Island’s FY 2024 appropriations bill (H 5200) would allocate state funding to establish a governing board and managing center for the Rhode Island Longitudinal Data System and affirms that the system exists to “improve the well-being of all Rhode Islanders.” The new center would allow policymakers to explore critical research policy questions and measure investments in education and workforce development.
- Tennessee’s SB 0461 and HB 0902 would establish a Future of Work Commission to govern the longitudinal data system, including four members of the public. The bill, which affirms that families and communities should have access to resources that inform them about education and career opportunities, would charge a new Education and Workforce Data Center with publishing a web-based platform that provides an overview of education to workforce pathways.
These bills contain provisions that seek to improve data access and use, and ensure that state goals drive decisions about data infrastructure—putting people first, not systems. Legislators in these states have the potential to sustain and maximize significant state investments in data by creating bodies that are accountable for making this data work for people today and over the long term.
Other states should follow their lead.