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Report: North Carolina Department of Public Instruction should modernize, streamline services

A newly released organizational assessment of North Carolina’s K-12 oversight agency says the state could save some cash by modernizing its information technology and streamlining services.

The report, prepared by international consulting agency Ernst & Young, estimated the state’s Department of Public Instruction (DPI) could ultimately save more than $5 million by implementing 18 recommendations, although the investment would cost about $4 million.

Chris Librizzi, an Ernst & Young managing director who specializes in K-12 consulting, told members of the State Board of Education Tuesday that his office went into the assessment with an “open mind” for its would-be financial implications, although state lawmakers’ budgeted in roughly $1 million in anticipated budget savings from the review next year.

The audit was ordered during last year’s budget process by a Republican-controlled General Assembly that’s been bitingly critical of the state agency’s spending habits in recent years.

Librizzi’s office completed the assessment in twelve weeks, they said, conducting interviews with more than 300 DPI staff workers, teachers and school system administrators.

DPI Superintendent Mark Johnson

State Superintendent Mark Johnson said the review was needed to determine “where we are as a department now and where we need to make improvements.”

The 106-page report’s recommendations broadly touched on modernizing and centralizing school data systems, eliminating “siloes” within the agency’s operations and speeding the hiring process within the organization.

The state bureaucracy manages North Carolina’s $9 billion in K-12 funding. The central office primarily supports the state’s 115 local school systems and provides services in poor and struggling school districts, although state lawmakers have ordered more than $22 million in cuts for the department since 2009, much to the consternation of public school advocates.

The report also calls for a “streamlined” system of providing support for school districts. Ernst & Young’s recommendation would decrease field personnel by 5 percent, the report said, with the savings reinvested in local support services.

Look for more on the report later this week from Policy Watch.

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