Teachers’ Out-of-Pocket Expenses: Why Autonomy Increases Allocation Efficiency in Street-Level Bureaucracies
34 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2014
Date Written: 2014
This study tests the proposition that the autonomy teachers have in making discretionary decisions over the materials, curriculum, and disciplinary techniques that are most appropriate to their classrooms will lead to a more efficient allocation of resources and reduce out-of-pocket spending by teachers. Using the US Department of Education’s Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), we provide an IV regression approach that models teachers’ out-of-pocket spending as a function of the relative autonomy they have over resource allocation within their respective classrooms. We find that the less autonomy teachers are given to allocate resources, the more they use their own personal resources toward their organizational role. The findings suggest that agency theory’s argument that bureaucrats seek to maximize slack resources is dreadfully inadequate to the context under examination. The substantial economic and policy impact of teachers’ out-of-pocket spending must be considered in debates about top-down education policy schemes, school district expenditures, and human capital issues in education policy.
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