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mona-vakilifathi

I am a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. My research and teaching interests include American political institutions, state politics, bureaucratic politics, and education governance. Starting in Fall 2017, I will be an Assistant Professor at the NYU Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

My research interests and dissertation project are largely influenced by my prior experience in K-12 education. I worked as a Research Analyst at the Center for Education Policy Analysis and Policy Analysis for California Education at Stanford University. Before and during graduate school, I worked at the San Diego Unified School District, the New Jersey State Department of Education, the New York City Department of Education, and the California Assembly Committee on Education.

My dissertation demonstrates the indirect effect of state legislative institutions on K-12 charter school outcomes. I argue that legislative institutions indirectly impact the quality of public goods by the degree of statutory and regulatory discretion that legislators grant to the bureaucracy. Based on interviews with California education committee consultants and legislative staff, I use automated text analyses to create a new measure of policy discretion that accounts for the number of mandatory (e.g., shall) words added to a state’s education code per state-year. In the first substantive chapter, I introduce the new measure and demonstrate a negative effect of legislative term limits on the degree of statutory discretion granted to charter school authorizers and applicants. My second chapter uses the measure to show a positive relationship of the legislative regulatory veto and teacher union strength with regulatory discretion. I use the new measure in the third chapter to confirm a negative effect of statutory and regulatory discretion on the percent of operating charter schools and charter school test scores.