Professors Juan Pablo Martínez Guzmán and Phil Joyce, renowned experts in public budgeting and administration at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, collaborated with Meagan Jordan from Old Dominion University to co-author a journal publication in the academic journal Public Administration. The article, titled "Towards Inclusive Public Administration Systems: Public Budgeting from the Perspective of Critical Race Theory," is likely to spark a significant conversation surrounding the transformative potential of critical race theory (CRT) in reshaping public budgeting practices and fostering more equitable government policies.
In their article, Martínez Guzmán, Jordan and Joyce explore the application of CRT principles to the budgeting process, advocating for its potential to rectify historical biases and advance equity in government policies. A central focus of their research is the concept of racial equity budgeting (REB), a framework designed to disrupt established norms and ensure fairness within existing policies.
The article provokes a central question: How can policymakers effectively navigate the challenges and resistance that often accompany attempts to disrupt long-standing policies and practices? The authors contend that a critical examination of the budgeting process, rooted in CRT principles, can reveal entrenched biases and systemic inequalities in need of correction. “Instead of viewing inequities as the result of ‘one bad apple’ or some minor policy inadequacies, CRT pushes us to take a more comprehensive view of the nature and legacy of inequities and, therefore, to take more comprehensive actions to address them,” shares Martínez Guzmán.
Integral to the REB framework is the acknowledgement of past injustices deeply-rooted in government budgets. This framework seeks to rectify historical biases by directly addressing them, with reparation statements playing a pivotal role. “Reparation statements remain the most elusive component for governments that want to implement reforms in line with our REB framework,” shares Martínez Guzmán. “Besides the political resistance that can arise from these initiatives, reformers and political leaders tend to be forward-looking which pushes them to focus on ensuring that their ongoing programs are equitable, and not necessarily on addressing the damage caused by previous policies.”
Promoting equity involves acknowledging and addressing past discrimination rather than ignoring it. “It is undoubtedly true that addressing past inequities is invariably going to create budgetary ‘losers’ and it takes leadership from elected officials to persuade the public of the ultimate fairness of such an approach,” explains Joyce. By recognizing historical injustices and incorporating them into budgeting decisions, governments can promote fairness and equity in their allocation of resources.
Martínez Guzmán, Jordan and Joyce’s work also highlights successful instances where the REB framework has been implemented to rectify historic biases in government budgets. “One of the reasons that we wrote this article is because we felt that governments were lacking a ‘road map’ on how to do this,” Joyce emphasizes. While budgets have predominantly shifted to address gender inequalities rather than racial ones, efforts to boost historically underrepresented groups and allocate specific funds to tackle inequities are positive steps. However, calls for a more comprehensive approach to address these issues remain strong. With this article, these authors provide compelling evidence that integrating CRT principles into budgeting can yield tangible improvements in policy outcomes.