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Education Reporter

Study: Rules Choke U.S. Schools
Land-Use Laws Hamper Formation of Private Schools
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U.S. schools are greatly overregulated, in many cases to the point of paralysis, according to a study by the bipartisan legal reform coalition Common Good released last November.

The study sets forth thousands of laws and regulations applicable to public schools in New York City. Similar rules typically govern other large school districts across the U.S.

The Common Good website (cgood.org) lists 63 different sources of regulation, with links. Extensive flowcharts illustrate how convoluted procedures impede disciplining a student, firing an inept teacher, filling a teacher vacancy, or even conducting an athletic event.

Sources of regulation include state education laws and regulations, the federal No Child Left Behind Act, teachers' contracts, student disciplinary regulations, and appeals decisions.

"The demands of excessive paperwork are taking precious time, money and attention away from education nationwide," said Paul Houston, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, in a statement accompanying the report.

"Educating our children — not compliance — should be the top priority for teachers," said Common Good chairman Philip K. Howard in another statement accompanying the report. "We should let the administrators and teachers use their judgment and then hold them accountable for their performance."

Most of the rules should be thrown out, Howard subsequently argued in a New York Times op-ed piece. Law is "brilliantly ill-suited" as a management system and "leaves no room to adjust for the circumstances." (12-3-04)

Barriers to private schools 
A separate report released in December analyzes the effect of overregulation on the supply of private schooling, focusing on three case studies in California.

Environmental laws, zoning and parking requirements, and building codes place large and expensive hurdles before anyone seeking to build a private school, according to Bahaa Seireg, a George Mason University Ph.D. candidate. These barriers have prevented the supply of private schools from keeping up with the demand.

In one case study, state land-use regulations tripled the cost of school, including the requirement of "a red tile roof."

"The government buries anyone interested in building a school under a mountain of needless regulation," said Reason Foundation's Lisa Snell, the study's project director. (School Reform News, Mar. 2005)

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