NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 25, 2005

Multiple layers of bureaucracy, set in place to ensure higher standards, render school districts hopelessly inefficient and rigid, and exacerbate, rather than alleviate, the corruption problems plaguing schools, says Neal McCluskey (Cato Institute).

Researchers at Common Good completed an exhaustive assessment of every rule and regulation governing a typical New York City high school. They found:

  • The schools operate under more than 60 separate sources of laws and regulations, with thousands and thousands of discrete obligations.
  • They adhere to the 846-page New York State education law; 720 pages from the New York State commissioner of education; more than 200 pages on controlling the discipline of students; and the 690-page No Child Left Behind Act.
  • To suspend a disruptive student, administrators must follow more than 66 steps, a process typically taking 105 days, and must adhere to an 83-step, year-long process to fire an inept teacher.

Given the morass of rules and regulations which New York City high schools must follow, it is little wonder that the city's schools seem incapable of efficient operation. Furthermore, says McCluskey, purveyors of corruption use these layers of bureaucracy to hide their fraud and to deflect blame if their misdeeds are discovered.

McCluskey contends that autonomous schools and market forces provide better, more efficient education, and prove less hospitable to corruption. The evidence demonstrates that when left to their own devices, individuals will collectively produce accountability mechanisms that far exceed, both in effectiveness and efficiency, any governmental system.

Source: Neal McCluskey, "Corruption in the Public Schools: The Market Is the Answer," Cato Institute, Policy Analysis No. 542, April 20, 2005.


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