MIDLAND-The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is asking Michigan teachers, school principals, administrators and parents to help in its research on confusing, conflicting and overlapping mandates that hamper the operation of Michigan school districts, by coming up with the most outrageous school regulation or rule they can find. The winner of this contest-the results of which will be revealed in April in conjunction with the release of a forthcoming Mackinac Center report on school regulations-will receive a "Palm Pilot" hand-held computer organizer, a prize symbolic of the order and clarity school administrators want and deserve.
"You can do all the research, but still miss some rule or regulation that frustrates teachers and administrators the most," said Mary Gifford, one of the Center's education policy experts, who co-authored the forthcoming Mackinac Center report. "Our contest encourages the very people who grapple with the rules to tell us the single most flagrant instance of unnecessary, wasteful, or outright harmful regulations. The contest makes it more than an academic exercise, and brings it down to the real world."
As for the prize being offered, Gifford quipped that "After slogging through school mandates from the U.S. Department of Education, the state Legislature, Department of Education, Board of Education, and Departments of Treasury, Agriculture, Management and Budget, and Consumer and Energy services, as well as local planning and zoning commissions-we thought the winner of our contest would yearn for the orderliness of the Palm Pilot."
"None of these authorities publishes a standing list of its requirements, to say nothing of a comprehensive listing containing everything by which schools must abide," said Gifford. "This leaves school district officials on their own with regard to figuring out whether they've discovered all of the regulations that apply to them. They live in constant fear lest some authority declare them in violation of some obscure requirement, which could result in a cutoff of funding."
The Mackinac Center report, to be released in early April, will show that Michigan school districts operate in an atmosphere of confusion and fear of arbitrary reprisal when it comes to the rules and regulations by which they must abide; a situation that stifles innovation and flexibility, and consumes massive amounts of funding that might otherwise be spent on improving classroom education.
Even State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Watkins, when confronted with the preliminary findings of the upcoming Mackinac Center report, admitted that "[The body of school regulations is] like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz-a little bit of him is over here, a little bit is over there, some of him is scattered everywhere."
School principals, teachers and other administrators who believe they have a candidate for the Mackinac Center's Most Outrageous School Regulation Contest can submit their entry by calling Christopher Martens at (989) 631-0900, e-mailing Martens at Martens@mackinac.org, or by faxing their entry to (989) 631-0964.
The deadline is April 1.