Fri, 11 Apr 2003

BOCES -- A Bad Idea

BOCES (Board Of Cooperative Educational Services) is a New York State educational institution. It's a part of the system of publicly-funded schooling that New York residents pay for. BOCES provides various services to public schools. For example, they provide special education aids and teachers. They also provide vocational training not available in the schools themselves. They also provide payoll services and Internet access.

The spirit behind BOCES is a good idea, of course. "Hey, let's help the public schools by providing services for them that they can't reasonably provide for themselves, like distance learning." Oh, and while we're at it, let's help schools pay for this by giving them state taxpayer money. This will even-out the educational system so that the level of schooling you get is not dependent upon the wealth of your school district.

Unfortunately, like all well-intentioned ideas whose implementation is not critically-examined, BOCES has turned out to be a bad idea. Not only has it turned out to be a bad idea, any economist could predict that it was a bad idea beforehand. Why establish a bureaucracy to provide services which are available on the open market? There are any number of companies which are happy to provide payroll services, or Internet access.

Anything that BOCES provides could be simply purchased by schools that want it. Or not. That's how free markets work. Instead, the market for services that BOCES provides is very much tilted in BOCES favor. You don't get state aid if you purchase payroll services from the cheapest vendor. You only get it if you purchase it from the "company store".

By interfering in the market, New York State is providing BOCES with artificial demand. The best thing that New York State could do is stop providing BOCES with state aid. Let BOCES compete with the private sector. Fortunately, that is exactly what Gov. Pataki is doing. He has proposed a 25 percent cut in BOCES aid for the 2003-04 school year, and elimination of aid for many services in the following year. Thank you, George!

A big raspberry to the Nassau County BOCES. They're spending your tax dollars to lobby for more tax dollars. They're also seeking to deceive you in the process. They're implying that state aid dollars come from some magic pot of gold up in Albany. Not true, Nassau County taxpayers! State aid comes from your pocket, goes up to Albany, and then comes back down to your BOCES, diminished by everyone who has their hands in the till. That would be, um, me, because your taxes pay more for my county's BOCES than my taxes pay for your county's BOCES.

BOCES must die, to be replaced by companies that perform those services in exchange for real money, not funny-money state aid.

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