Mona Vakilifathi

American political institutions, state politics, bureaucratic delegation, education governance, legal text analysis

Dissertation Title: The Indirect Effect of State Legislative Institutions on Charter School Outcomes

Description: My dissertation demonstrates the indirect effect of state legislative institutions on K-12 charter school outcomes. I argue that legislative institutions indirectly impact public goods by the degree of statutory and regulatory discretion that legislators grant to the bureaucracy. Based on interviews with California education committee consultants and legislative staff, I use automated text analyses to create a new measure of policy discretion that accounts for the number of mandatory (e.g. shall) words added to a state’s education code per state-year. In the first substantive chapter, I introduce the new measure and demonstrate a negative effect of legislative term limits on the degree of statutory discretion granted to charter school authorizers and applicants. My second chapter uses the measure to show a positive relationship of the legislative regulatory veto and teacher union strength with regulatory discretion. I use the new measure in the third chapter to confirm a negative effect of statutory and regulatory discretion on the percent of operating charter schools and charter school test scores.

Committee: Thad Kousser [Chair], Gary Jacobson, Kaare Strøm, Seth Hill, Julie Cullen (Economics), and David Plank (Stanford Graduate School of Education)