The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) has just published its draft report “Efficiency and Effectiveness of K-12 Spending.”  Unfortunately, that report does not even look carefully at where Virginia is spending its educational dollars, much less answer the (much harder) question of what we are getting for that money.

The Mandates

The General Assembly gave JLARC two decently clear mandates.

SJR328 (2013): JLARC shall

study the efficiency and effectiveness of elementary and secondary school spending in Virginia.  [It] shall (i) study the efficiency and effectiveness of elementary and secondary school spending in Virginia, including evaluating the findings from School Efficiency Reviews and assessing the extent to which recommendations have been implemented; (ii) compare to other states how and to what extent Virginia funds elementary and secondary education; and (iii) identify opportunities to improve the quality of education students receive in consideration of the funds spent.

2014 Appropriation Act, Item 30 (at p. 62 of the link): JLARC to examine virtual instruction, to include “effectiveness of  virtual schooling in terms of  student academic achievement outcomes on assessment tests and course completion or graduation rates.”

The “Study”

The result is a 112 page draft that ignores the instructions of the General Assembly. 

Of the nine recommendations, six talk about efficiency; half of the six deal with school busses; only one of the six deals with something that relates to education.  None tells us about the educational effectiveness of our school spending or how to improve it:

  1. Track teacher turnover.
  2. Provide facilities management expertise.
  3. Provide “guidance” regarding sharing information about facilities management best practices.
  4. Consider statewide contract for bus routing and monitoring software.
  5. Provide transportation management expertise.
  6. Assist with transportation management best practices.

As to virtual schooling, JLARC again avoids answering the question.  The three recommendations:

  1. Provide information about online schools.
  2. Estimate costs of online learning.
  3. Compare achievement of virtual v. physical schools

That last one is particularly rich: JLARC is recommending that VDOE do what the General Assembly told JLARC to do.

Cranky’s Conclusion

This study is a wordy waste of money.  It does not answer the questions posed by the General Assembly.  Instead, it raises a new question: Why are we paying JLARC to not do what it’s been told to do?

A Reader’s Conclusion (added on 9/17)

A reader suggests an alternate (and more pertinent) conclusion: Why are we paying JLARC not to do what it’s been told to do, when we already are paying VDOE that should be doing [what JLARC failed to do]?