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Battling Corruption in America’s Public Schools

Thursday February 2004


Lydia Segal Associate Professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY

Introducing a brand new perspective on why public schools are failing and what to do about it, Lydia Segal puts the spotlight on a little-known problem in education: how embedded waste and corruption deplete classroom resources, block initiative, and distort educational priorities, and explains how to remedy the problem.

Drawing on over ten years of research in America’s three largest school districts, New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, Segal shows how regulations that were established to curb waste and fraud provide perverse incentives. Districts following rules designed to save every penny, for example, spend thousands of dollars to hunt down checks as small as $25. To fix leaky toilets, caring principals may have to pay workers under the table because submitting a work order through the central office, with its many fraud checks, could take years.

As reformers strive to improve education, Segal offers a bold, realistic blueprint for reducing waste and fraud, getting more money to the classroom, and letting managers manage.