JLF’s Terry Stoops, director of research and education studies, looks at the growth of North Carolina’s education bureaucracy — the state Department of Public Instruction.
The N.C. Senate proposes reducing the state Department of Public Instruction’s budget by 30 percent, while the House proposes a 1 percent cut. Should North Carolina put DPI on a diet?
In his 1957 book Parkinson’s Law or the Pursuit of Progress, naval historian C. Northcote Parkinson found that between 1914 and 1928 the number of admiralty officials in the British Navy increased by 78 percent, while the number of ships decreased by 68 percent. If the size of the British naval fleet decreased, why was there an increase in officers?
This question led him to formulate Parkinson’s Law, which states that work “expands to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words, there is no inherent relationship between the amount of work that must be done and the size of the staff assigned to do the work. As senior administrators hire subordinates, the administrative operation produces work for itself, expanding the bureaucracy.
In this way, the net rise in the number of state education employees has little to do with improving student performance and has everything to do with maintaining the bureaucratic machine.
Remember this when you hear the usual cries for more money. We must evaluate DPI’s work based on student achievement.