What would it take to ensure every dollar spent on education benefits students?

Summary

The Puerto Rico Department of Education has disbursed nearly $110M in federal funds to equip students and teachers with books, devices, and other learning tools lost in Hurricanes Maria and Irma. They've also taken a close look at their budget to identify and address any inefficiencies.

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Description

In late 2017, Hurricanes Maria and Irma had a devastating impact on Puerto Rico’s communities, infrastructure, and economy. Most of the island’s education facilities were closed, and thousands of books, computers, and other equipment were lost. RESTART, a $589M federal program, was launched to assist local education agencies with expenses related to the restart of elementary and secondary schools in areas where a major disaster or emergency was declared. All 300,000 Puerto Rican students were set to benefit from the program.

Real-world challenges

Securing federal or other funding is just the beginning; it takes disciplined prioritization to define interventions, track progress against goals, drive accountability, and ultimately ensure every dollar spent goes to improving outcomes for people on the ground. This work is ongoing, with continuous opportunities to review and refine expenditures.

Real-world solutions

Knowing this, the Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE) worked up front to improve and automate tracking for every project within the RESTART program. Delivery Associates provided 1-on-1 support for owners of each initiative, along with a data and tracking system designed to evaluate impact and drive outcomes.

We also conducted a detailed review of PRDE utilities (electricity and water) expenditures and identified several cases of overcharging, including billing of inactive buildings.

Results

After DA’s work on RESTART began, the government implemented their largest initiative ($110M) to buy and distribute tablets and computers to most students and all teachers. During DA’s short engagement, the Department increased the allocation of resources from 4% to 50% of the available funds, without sacrificing compliance.

Most of the island’s 300,000 students benefited from the purchase of new books, equipment, and devices.

Students also benefited from the additional presence of nurses and psychologists, which were funded through the program. Furthermore, an extension was granted by the US Department of Education for funds to be used for an extra year based on the progress made during 2019, a major win for PRDE.

Independent audit helped PRDE redirect ~84M to classrooms and schools.

Our expenditures audit helped the PRDE save ~$84M in 2020 and 2021. Funds saved were directed to improve classrooms and repair schools.

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What would it take to ensure every dollar spent on education benefits students?
What would it take to ensure every dollar spent on education benefits students?

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