Enforcement and informal pressure in the management of federal categorical programs in education

by Paul T. Hill

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This paper reviews the federal government's management of its largest program of aid for elementary and secondary education, ESEA Title I. It argues that the program has two distinct management systems. The first, called the centralized enforcement system, is the only one generally recognized by researchers and policymakers. It is a formal regulatory system, whereby (1) state and local agencies are informed of their duties through a body of explicit and detailed rules; (2) federal employees monitor compliance by on-site performance reviews and fiscal audits; and (3) agencies violating the rules are charged and, through formal quasi-judicial proceedings, are punished by withholding and collection of misspent federal funds. The second set of incentives is the informal management system. It operates through informal methods of persuasion, relying on the professional loyalties and pride of state and local administrators, and on the actions of local beneficiaries and supporters of federal programs, to generate decentralized pressure for faithful adherence to federal program objectives.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

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