NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Quantifying Federal Regulatory Impact On Education

March 27, 1996

Experts suspect that federal educational regulations, mandates and other costs imposed by Washington are acting as a drag on states and local school districts. Four states -- Alabama, New Hampshire, Montana and Virginia -- have already opted out of the federal "Goals 2000" program and others are considering following, because the federal money involved is less than the burden of associated regulations and mandates.

Payments to nonteaching personnel in U.S. school systems are significantly higher, on a percentage basis, than for systems in most other industrialized nations. Reformers believe this is due in large part to the costs of complying with federal rules and regulations. Indeed, Virginia Governor George Allen and others believe the federal government spends less money aiding schools than it imposes in mandates and regulations.

  • Payments to administrators, social workers and other nonteaching personnel constitute 24.6 percent of U.S. public education spending -- compared to 17.7 percent in the U.K. and 15 percent in Japan.
  • The gap between what the U.S spends on nonteaching staff and what is spent by a number of other developed countries amounts to 7 to 10 percent of our educational spending.
  • If only one-third of the gap is due to the regulation-mandate, then the net impact is 2.3 to 3.3 percent of America's educational budget -- or $11 billion to $15 billion annually.

From another perspective, America's public secondary and elementary schools employ 2.6 million people who do not teach and three million teachers. By contrast, the ratio of teachers to nonteachers is two-to-one in U.S. private schools -- about what it was 40 years ago in the public schools.

Some of the federal programs requiring additional local costs are: special education, gender-role discrimination education, asbestos removal, school recycling programs, an arbitrage rebate on local bonds, and safe drinking water tests. According to the National School Boards Association, these mandates alone cost schools more than $15 billion annually.

Source: Gregory A. Fossedal (Alexis de Tocqueville Institution), "Help for Schools? Try Deregulation), Wall Street Journal, March 27, 1996.


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