The Death of One Best Way: Charter Schools as Reinventing Government
Reinventing Government is a social movement that, arguably, has had more impact on the public sector than anything since the scientific management movement of the Progressive era. This essay briefly outlines the origins and prescriptions of Reinventing Government. I also describe two sets of criteria for judging public administration outputs: the politics- based governance model of Karen Hult and Charles Walcott ( 1990) and the economics-based model of E. S. Savas ( 1987). Finally, I use these criteria to judge school reform in general and Arizona charter schools in particular, employing interviews conducted by phone and in person from November 1997 to December 1998 with twenty-nine Arizona policy makers, Department of Education officials, charter school operators, district school officials, and teachers' union officials. The bureaucratic production of public services, including education, was developed as scientific managers of the Progressive era sought the "one best way" of providing uniform public services ( Schultz and Maranto 1998). Hult and Walcott's governance model suggests that such traditional bureaucratic approaches are ill-suited to provide public service when both the social goals and the technologies used to achieve those goals are highly controversial, as in education. Savas points out that education can be provided effectively by markets through vouchers or public school choice. Indeed, markets have advantages over traditional bureaucratic approaches.