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Why Has Public Administration Ignored Public Education, and Does It Matter?


Jeffrey A. Raffel is the Charles P. Messick Professor of Public Administration and director of the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Delaware. His research focuses on school desegregation, urban education, teacher recruitment and retention, schools and housing, and state and local management. He now chairs NASPAA’s Standards Review Steering Committee and has served as chair of that association’s Commission on Program Review and Accreditation, as a member of NASPAA’s executive council, and as president of the Delaware ASPA chapter.


Although education accounts for one-quarter of the United States’ state and local government spending, employs one-third of all governmental employees, and consistently ranks as a high priority of citizens, public administration has neglected public education. This article considers the neglect of public education by public administration scholars, researchers, and practitioners and documents the sparse coverage of public education in textbooks, journals, books, professional association activities, and curricula. This neglect can be attributed to public administration’s federal focus, ideological views about the relationship between public education and politics and resulting structural and organizational barriers, and the costs of overcoming these barriers. The separation limits the generalizability of public administration research and theory, harms policy development, constrains the capabilities of public administration program graduates, and impedes the success of public education. This article outlines steps needed to bring public education under the umbrella of public administration.