The Virginia School Efficiency Review Program
What it is.
Total expenditures for the operations of public elementary and secondary schools includes over $13 billion in state, federal and local money.
The goal of the school efficiency review program is to ensure that non-instructional functions are running efficiently so that as much of this funding as possible goes directly into the classroom. The program identifies savings that can be gained in the school division through best practices in divisional administration, human resources, finance, purchasing, educational service delivery costs, special education, facilities, transportation, technology, management, and food service.
Business practices in the school divisions that appear to be more efficient than those found elsewhere are documented and shared in the review and with other school divisions across the state.
The approach of the school review program is modeled after Texas' protocols administered by that state's Comptroller. Arizona and Oklahoma are also modeling on these procedures, and most recently Minnesota has introduced legislation to begin similar reviews using Virginia's approach.
What we've done.
Virginia first developed the concept for our review program in 2003. Three pilot reviews were completed by Department of Planning and Budget staff in 2004. The program was codified in the Code of Virginia in 2005.
Since 2005, 35 additional reviews have been completed using private sector consultants with oversight and review provided by the Department of Planning and Budget. To date, school reviews have been completed in the following school divisions and recommended net savings of the reviews have been significant - almost $42 million total annually and over $1.1 million annually per review -- as shown in the following table.
|Study#||School Division||Report Released||Implementation %||Annual Savings|
|15||Isle of Wight||6/13/2006||93.68%||-$437,184|
What we've achieved.
Although the reports contain recommendations and not requirements, there are requirements for implementation of the review recommendations. The goal of these requirements is to ensure that reviews are used for improvement and do not 'sit on the shelf.'
If the school division does not initiate at least half of the recommendations or experience half of the budgetary savings offered in the review, the school division must provide a recovery local share of 25% of the costs of the school efficiency review into the general fund of the state treasury. Local school divisions are implementing the vast majority of the recommendations. The table above reflects the implementation percentage of past reviews and the total implementation percentage for the program. As of May 2012, the overall implementation rate of the program is 91%. Because the implementation rate of all school divisions is well over 50%, no school divisions have been required to pay this additional recovery cost.
What we've learned.
Some divisions may find that not all recommendations can be implemented for a variety of reasons. The reports are intended to generate options for the consideration of locally elected and divisional administration officials.
While the challenges facing school divisions as they attempt to fulfill their core mission are very similar, there are enough differences in funding, community issues, and history to support the assertion that there can be no "one size fits all" solution to these challenges.
This program is gaining national attention as a "best practice." Other states are now modeling programs on Virginia's approach.
Full text versions of all completed reviews are available on the Virginia Department of Education's website at