Deprofessionalizing State Governments: The Rise of Public At-Will Employment

Source: Paul R. Verkuil, Public Administration Review, Vol. 75 Issue 2, March/April 2015
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A trend that bears watching is the state expansion of at-will employment in the public sector. There are 28 states that now fall into that category to various degrees, and the number may be growing. The purpose of at-will employment is to import business practices into the public sector, which is not a bad idea in itself, but in application, salient differences between the two sectors can be lost or ignored. While reasonable grievances against public employment need to be addressed, there are also values that need to be preserved. …. That said, states and the federal government could certainly improve their respective civil service systems. Take two disparate examples: teacher tenure in two years or less and removal of nonperforming officials that takes two years or more. These are unacceptable situations. The system can and should be fixed, but it should not be eliminated. Doing so would send us back to a time when politics trumped administration and public sector incompetence was business as usual. ….