Assessing State School Education Laws on Administrative Safeguards

This paper reviews the quality of all laws governing K-12 education across sixteen states. The authors assess these laws on four parameters: (i) procedural safeguards (due process and principles of natural justice) encoded in the law; (ii) guidance provided by the law for the quasi-judicial functions of the executive; (iii) the proportionality of the provisions of the law (based on its intended objective); and (iv) checks that the law places on the rulemaking powers of the executive. These parameters have been drawn based on a review of international literature on administrative law. Laws that fare poorly on these benchmarks can impinge heavily on the rights and liberties of individuals they govern. In the case of the K-12 sector, the absence of such safeguards in the law may ultimately affect children 's access to quality education.

We find that most state laws fare poorly on one or more of the parameters listed above. There is no parameter on which all states perform well. While these laws continue to expand the scope of discretionary powers granted to the executive, they fail to provide procedural safeguards which could guide or limit the said discretion. Furthermore, some laws have also introduced provisions that are excessive or arbitrary in nature.

Wide discretionary powers often run the risk of abuse in the form of rent-seeking and corruption. Past analyses show the numerous ways in which the departments of school education commit excesses while exercising their discretionary powers. Given that the executive draws its powers from the legislations studied, it is imperative that laws encode the safeguards highlighted in this paper.