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E-Texas, TSPR Save Taxpayers Billions of Dollars

E-Texas has recommended more than $16 billion in taxpayer savings for hardworking Texans. Texas School Performance Reviews have recommended more than $840 million in savings for our Texas schools. Since I was sworn in as Comptroller in 1999, e-Texas has recommended more than $9 billion in taxpayer savings for hardworking Texans, and Texas School Performance Reviews have recommended more than $500 million in savings for our Texas schools.

The e-Texas review function, initially called Texas Performance Review, provides a unique, independent view of state government. E-Texas makes recommendations to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of state government, saving taxpayer dollars instead of raising taxes and cutting critical services. These reviews have recommended more than $16.6 billion in taxpayer savings. Recommendations from the 2003 e-Texas reports alone generated $1.3 billion in savings and new revenue.

The e-Texas review is successful primarily because of the resources available within my office. During the e-Texas process, team members review functions and operations across agencies and recommend substantive changes in financing and state government administration. E-Texas analysts work closely with other Comptroller staff members who oversee appropriations spending, research and revenue estimating. They analyze the state spending patterns across agencies, identify national trends and best practices and estimate potential and certifiable savings, revenue gains and economic impact.

This integrated team environment produces quality recommendations and certified savings and helps government agencies become more efficient and more effective. Since its inception in 1991, the e-Texas performance review has saved and provided revenue gains to Texas taxpayers of $10.3 billion in general revenue.

The performance review is responsible for initiating major change in state policies including reform of state welfare, consolidation of health and human services agencies, implementation of the Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Detection System and implementation of the Health Care Claims Study--now a federal model for other states. Reviews also resulted in creation of the Electronic Benefits Transfer system and the prepaid tuition program and the college savings plan, consolidation of the Treasury into the Comptroller's office, establishment of the state Council on Competitive Government and reform of child support.

The e-Texas performance review has received numerous public policy awards from prestigious organizations like the Ford Foundation, the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and the National Council of State Governments. It has also served as a model for similar programs in nine other states and 19 foreign countries including China, Germany, Japan, Mexico and Russia.

Nothing is more important than education. We must have an educated workforce for the 21st century. We must raise the bar on student performance. And we must drive more of every education dollar directly into the classroom with the teachers and the students.

As the independent education watchdog for the people of Texas, this agency does Texas School Performance Reviews to drive more of every education dollar directly into the classroom with the teachers and the students where it belongs. Right now only 51 cents out of every education dollar is going into classroom instruction. That's unacceptable.

The Texas Legislature created the Texas School Performance Review (TSPR) in 1991 to provide an independent look at our schools. By the end of August 2003, my office will have conducted 105 reviews of school districts and higher education institutions. The 99 reviews released so far contain more than 7,800 recommendations that will save taxpayers more than $843 million when fully implemented. Ninety percent of the recommendations are being voluntarily implemented.

When I came into office in January 1999, I cut my overall budget by more than $3 million, but with legislative approval, I redirected $1 million of that to the school performance reviews. The additional funding allowed me to increase the number of reviews from three or four a year to 10 my first year as Comptroller, and 20 each year since. By the end of this August, I will have completed 75 reviews since I came into office.

For every dollar invested in these reviews, TSPR identifies an average of more than $60 in savings opportunities--money well spent.

The Comptroller's office provides a fair and impartial source for these reviews because we have no ownership of the issues. As an independent watchdog agency, past and present comptrollers have administered this program with integrity and have understood the balance needed to make these reviews useful to the school districts and higher education institutions they serve.

Because of my office's many other duties, we have an infrastructure in place to support TSPR, which relies heavily on the agency's internal resources including the general counsel division, which writes contracts and issues 12 to 15 major bids each year, the information technology and resource management divisions, which assist in the maintenance of a school district "best practices" database, upload the more than 10,000 pages of text to the Web site and support the data gathering that is required during a review.

The document processing and quick copy divisions enter corrections, format and prepare the document for publication and print and bind the publications. And a host of agency analysts and experts follow school finance and various policy issues dealing with school district operations. Without these already existing resources, TSPR administrative costs would be higher.

As one of our nation's first state-level vehicles for improving the management and finances of public school districts, TSPR has won praise at a national level. School improvement programs in at least five other states are modeled after TSPR. Two other states are currently considering implementation of similar programs.

TSPR was the 1999 award winner for "Innovations in American Government" from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, Council for Excellence in Government. With the $100,000 in grant money that came as a result of this award, we built the A+ Ideas for Managing Schools Database so that best practices and exemplary programs identified during the reviews can be shared with similar school districts across our state.

These two programs, e-Texas and TSPR, are not just about dollars saved in these tough economic times. They are important for the positive difference they make for hardworking Texas taxpayers and for our most precious resource--our children--who are our future.

Carole Keeton Strayhorn
Texas Comptroller