The report entitled “Efficiency and Effectiveness of K-12 Spending” issued last month by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) has been receiving a great deal of attention. For example, when VACo held its seventh regional meeting of the year in Rockingham County earlier this month, the report served as the focal point for presentations made both by Dr. Tom Smith, Legislative Liaison for the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) and Delegate R. Steven Landes.
One of the most significant findings in the JLARC report (available at this link: http://jlarc.virginia.gov/pdfs/reports/Rpt472.pdf) states that localities “pay the highest share of total K-12 spending in the southeast region.” The report also emphasizes the serious impact the Great Recession has had on public school spending. Even though annual state and local spending on K-12 started to gradually increase in 2011, spending levels still remain lower than they were in the peak year of 2009. The Governor, in a speech he made to the Virginia Municipal League on October 6, vowed to reverse that trend by making public education his highest priority in the budget that he will introduce to the General Assembly next December.
In addition to concerns about the funding, the report also addresses such significant issues as high teacher turnover rates, the need for improved management of school facilities, school bus routing along with other transportation issues, online education, the impact of rising health insurance costs, and the need for improved teacher training.
The JLARC report contains the following policy recommendations:
• Legislation requiring the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to track teacher turnover and provide annual reports to the General Assembly.
• That the Virginia Department of Education (DOE) provide guidance and share information with local school divisions about best practices in facilities management.
• Appropriate funds for DOE to employ up to three additional staff to provide guidance to assist local school divisions in sharing information about best practices in facilities maintenance.
• That the Virginia Information Technologies Agencies (VITA), in cooperation with DOE , asses the feasibility and potential savings of a statewide contract for school bus routing and monitoring software.
• That DOE provide transportation management expertise to local school divisions.
• Appropriate funds for DOE to employ up to three additional staff to provide guidance and assist school divisions in sharing information about transportation best management practices.
• That DOE collaborate with the Virginia Board of Education for any statewide fully online school created in Virginia to develop (or obtain) and distribute information to help families and guidance counselors make informed decisions about enrolling children in fully online schools.
• That DOE develop a methodology for estimating cost of fully online learning programs.
• That DOE annually compare the achievement of students enrolled in Virtual Virginia courses to student of the same characteristics in brick and mortar schools.
VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE