Local Responses to Performance
Incentives and Implications
for Program Outcomes
Carolyn J. Heinrich
In his classic piece on “street-level” bureaucracy, Lipsky (1980) describes the critical position occupied by public employees engaged in social service delivery. These employees, he argues, constitute the scope and function of government services, and the individual decisions of these workers become agency policy. Street-level bureaucrats shape citizens’ expectations of government services, determine who qualifies for services, and implement service delivery.
This chapter presents research that explores how local (street-level) bureaucrats in the JTPA program shaped or moderated the role and effects of performance standards in program administration and service delivery. A case-study approach is used to investigate these effects in a county-level agency (located in the Chicago metropolitan area), using data on subunits (contractors) and their staff and individual participants. The local JTPA participant selection and service assignment processes are modeled using quantitative and qualitative data to facilitate a more precise understanding of how and the extent to which performance standards and related administrative policies influence participant access to training and the types of services provided to participants.
Although WIA superseded the JTPA program, the WIA program preserves major elements of the JTPA performance standards system and extends its role in managing local program processes and service delivery. WIA requires states to institute a performance-based certification system for training service providers that establishes a minimum performance level for all providers receiving individual training account (voucher) dollars. Local workforce investment boards and service providers continue to be responsible for guiding service and fund