HD24 - Interim Report: Best Practices for the Support Services of School Divisions

Executive Summary:
House Joint Resolution (HJR) No. 34 from the 2002 General Assembly Session requires that the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) "examine the best administrative, fiscal, and service practices in the Commonwealth's public school divisions" (see Appendix A). The resolution references the General Assembly's constitutional responsibility to provide for a system of public education and to "ensure that an educational program of high quality is established and continually maintained." In light of this responsibility, HJR 34 indicates that "integral to the provision of a quality public education system is efficiency in the administration of programs, services, and budgetary matters." The study resolution notes that while there have been mechanisms in place in Virginia to identify and analyze effective instructional programs and practices, "no similar mechanism" has been available to accomplish this task for non-instructional activities.

The study mandate notes that "the Commonwealth's public schools face continuing challenges as enrollments grow and required programs and services increase." At a time of constrained State and local budgets, the mandate recognizes that to provide a high quality system of education for the students, funding for schools will need to be used effectively and efficiently.

One of the ways this might be achieved is through the greater dissemination of non-instructional best practices among school divisions. However, the extent to which there are best practices for providing these services that could be more widely disseminated, and thereby achieve results leading to greater effectiveness and efficiency, is not currently known.

This JLARC review is designed to assess this issue. The study mandate requires an interim JLARC report prior to the 2003 General Assembly Session, and a final report by the end of November 2003. Pursuant to the mandate, JLARC has initiated a review of school division best practices for providing non-instructional services.

The review has proceeded using a two-step approach. In the first step, undertaken during this interim phase of the review, the focus has been upon identifying potential best non-instructional practices that are being used in some school divisions in the Commonwealth. JLARC staff established a location on the JLARC internet site where school division staff could submit practices that have been successful in their division. Through this process, over 180 best practice ideas have been submitted to date for the following categories of non-instructional services:

• Administrative systems and services,
• Attendance services,
• Health services,
• Operation and maintenance services,
• Pupil transportation,
• Safety and security,
• Technology support services,
• Food service operations, and
• School construction.

In the second phase of the study, JLARC staff will examine the potential for wider use of the best practices that have been reported. In addition, the potential impacts upon the costs, quality of services, and funding of divisions that might be achieved through more widespread use of the best practices will be examined.

Chapter I of this interim report provides some background information to describe the context and scope of the review. It describes Virginia's funding of school division costs, especially the manner in which non-instructional services have been funded. The extent to which local governments and the State currently participate in paying for these services will likely have an impact on the relative savings through greater use of best practices that might accrue to each. The chapter also describes the types of services included in the scope of this review, and provides an overview of expenditure growth and the per-pupil daily costs of the services covered by this study.

The second and final chapter of this interim report provides an overview of the research activities that have been undertaken to date. The second chapter also provides an overview of the research activities that are planned for the second phase of the review.