Policy Making Process in the American System of Government
In the American system of government, the separation of power among the three branches of the government is taken to the extreme. The president is the chief executive (Stewart). The executive arm of the government, consisting of the president and his cabinet, do not hold office, unlike in a parliamentary system, at the pleasure of the legislature, and have considerable executive powers. However, they have no legislative powers. The American president unlike the prime minister of others countries does not command the majority in the legislature (Jeffrey). He and his cabinet officers cannot even introduce a bill, much less be assured of legislative approval of a bill they wish to enact. The power of the American president is often no more than the ‘power to persuade’. Policymaking is often a long, tortuous process of intense bargaining with considerable wheeling and dealing (Stewart). Policy process often gets caught in a gridlock and it requires quite an effort to get the policy process moving again. So much so, that some tend develop a belief that the whole process is a crisis and the system responds to crisis. That is the only thing it responds to. They believe that one has to be hit in the head before doing anything.
The American political decisions are made through consultations between the president, the cabinet, advisers, federal and state courts, and agency bureaucrats. Policy policies are made with a goal and course of action that the government will have to deal with issues affecting the country (Wong). The American public policies are solely based on law and are set by the people excluding the legislators. After the policies have been set, individuals or groups that do not comply with the set policies can be penalized. As noted, the process of formulating these policies is long and involves a number of steps (Wong).
The policymaking process can be quite fragmented. Different arms of the national government tend to have many areas of responsibility as well as overlapping jurisdictions. The fragmentation of the policymaking process makes the process to conform to what is referred to as the pluralist model. Generally, the general public in most cases is not well-vast with politics. This ignorance among the public is a threat to the decisions that the public makes. Conversely, people who make connections related to public policy develop a high level of expertise to deal with matters related to public policies (Jeffrey).
Courts in the United States have the responsibility of resolving conflicts involving contentious public issues. Indeed, one of the most perspective observers of American politics, Alexis de Tocqueville, suggested that “there is hardly a political question in the US which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one.” This transformation of political issues into legal disputes furnishes judges with the opportunity to influence the course of public policy. Additionally, judges have sometimes been more than willing to seize the opportunities presented to them (Wong).
Since courts regularly decide cases that involve important policy issues, it might seem that they are in a position to dominate policymaking in the US. However, in actuality the relationship between judicial decisions and public policy is quite complex. Regents of the University of California versus Bakke, the U.S Supreme Court’s first ruling on affirmative action, reveal some of these complexities (Jeffrey).
Current policy issue: Five Stages of Policymaking
Education policy issues in the United States can be approached from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, but the law holds a unique position. Few if any disciplines are as fundamentally intertwined with the history and current status of U.S schools. This is particularly true as regards equal access and equity issues related to gender race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, language-minority status, and social class. It is also seen in controversies about religious freedoms, speech issues, due process, and sexual harassment. Accordingly, a great deal of insights are to be found through a study of the rich history of litigation and today’s legal problems and challenges that affect the American K-12 schooling (Walker).
Walker argues that comparative studies of policy-making often focus on one or two of elements of policymaking. However, accurate depictions of policy processes and outcomes require investigation and analysis of all elements across the manner in which both goals and are articulated. Works in this vein have developed several key insights into the policymaking process and behavior which inform contemporary comparative policy studies. One is the finding that policy processes generally unfold as a set of interrelated stages through which deliberations concerning the education issue flow in a more or less sequential fashion. It changes from being an input to the government deliberations to being an output or subject of the government action. The sequence of stages through which decisions related to issues in education policy are made is often referred to as the policy cycle (Walker). Policy decisions that can address an issue such as the education policy issue can be divided into five distinct stages.
The American education policy issue begins with intelligence gathering. Intelligence gathering in this case involves the collection, processing, and dissemination of information for those who participate in decision-making process related to education issues in the U.S. It will then move to the promotion of particular options for addressing the problem by those involved in making the decision (Walker). In the third stage, decision-makers will have to prescribe a course of action to address the issue of racial segregation in American schools. In the fourth stage, the most proposed course of action will then be invoked alongside a set of sanctions to penalize those who fail to comply with these prescriptions. The policy can then be applied by the courts and the bureaucracy and runs its course until it is terminated or cancelled. Finally, the results of the policy can be appraised or evaluated against the original aims and goals (Walker).
This way of thinking about policy-making as a staged process of problem-solving is highly influential in the development of education policy sciences. The staged process forms the basis for further work on the subject. Through comparative studies of decision-making process in many sectors and jurisdictions, a simpler and more economical version of the policy cycle can emerge and can clearly link the stages of public policy-making with the logic of applied decision-making process (Walker).
Much comparative policy study has focused on detailing the operation of particular stages of the cycle. For instance, it may involve examining through a comparative case study techniques the nature of agenda setting dynamics in the U.S, or comparing the roles played by specific actors like the media (Walker).
Jeffrey, Berry. Lobbying for the People: The Political Behavior of Public Interest Groups. Princeton: Princeton University Press.1977. Print
Lohrey, Jackie. The Five Stages of the Policy-Making Process. n.d. Web. March 23, 2015. Retrieved from <http://www.ehow.com/info_10040221_five-stages-policymaking-process.html>
Stewart, Charles. “Congress and the Constitutional System in the Legislative Branch, Selected Readings. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press. 2005. (3-34). Print
Walker, Elaine. Educational Adequacy and the Courts: A Reference Handbook. New York: ABC-CLIO, 2005. Print
Wong, Kenneth K. Policy-Making in the American States: Typology, Process, and Institutions. Review of Policy Research. 2005. 8:3:527–548. Print