WEST POINT — Did Old Dominion University's addition of football in 2009 cause a rise in mandatory student athletic fees? Did Longwood University's move to NCAA Division I result in higher fees for students? Will year-round schooling for Virginia's K-12 student result in higher Standards of Learning test scores? If a committee of the Virginia General Assembly wants to know the answer to these and many more questions that might impact legislation they are considering, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission or JLARC for short is available to help. The guest of club member Paul Diggs, the Executive Director of JLARC, Hal Greer visited the Rotary Club of West Point last Thursday to explain the work of his agency.
Of course JLARC does more than simply answer questions. In fact the answers to many questions are the result of an investigation launched by JLARC. "We're generalists, sometimes we have to go out and learn about something that we didn't know about before we started," explained Greer. According to its website, "JLARC is the oversight agency of the Virginia General Assembly, established to evaluate the operations and performance of State agencies and programs." Other main objectives of the commission include recommending program and agency saving, findings ways to better accomplish program and agency objectives and ensuring laws are being carried out as the state legislature intended.
Even though studies by JLARC are initiated by the General Assembly, anyone with access to the Internet can view their website (http://jlarc.virginia.gov) and use the information gathered by the agency. In addition to the study on year-round schools, recent studies have covered subjects as diverse as the Virginia Retirement System and the Virginia Ports Authority. A particularly interesting yearly study is Virginia Compared to the Other States which compares the Commonwealth with the other states in regard to everything from population, per capita income, and unemployment rates to per pupil school funding (Virginia $4411) and state corrections expenditures per offender (Virginia $11,858).
By the way, football at ODU and moving up to Division I at Longwood did result in higher mandatory fees for students and even though there were some increases for specific student subgroups, JLARC found "no appreciable difference in SOL test scores of general student populations at year-round schools compared to traditional calendar schools."