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Politics, governance, philanthropy, and organizations

Displaying 1 - 10 of 87

Melissa Arnold Lyon, Joshua Bleiberg, Beth E. Schueler.

State takeover of school districts—a form of political centralization that shifts decision-making power from locally elected leaders to the state—has increased in recent years, often with the purported goal of improving district financial condition. Takeover has affected millions of students throughout the U.S. since the first takeover in 1988 and is most common in larger districts and communities serving large shares of low-income students and students of color. While previous research finds takeovers do not benefit student academic achievement on average, we investigate whether takeovers achieve their goal of improving financial outcomes. Using an event study approach, we find takeovers from 1990 to 2019 increased annual school spending by roughly $2,000 per pupil after five years, on average, leading to improvements in financial condition. Increased funding came primarily from state sources and funded districts’ legacy costs. However, takeover did not affect spending for districts with majority-Black student populations—which are disproportionately targeted for takeover—adding to a growing literature suggesting that takeover unequally affects majority-Black communities.

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S. Michael Gaddis, Charles Crabtree, John B. Holbein, Steven Pfaff.

Correspondence audits document causal evidence of racial/ethnic discrimination in many contexts. However, few studies have examined whether local political party voting context influences individuals to engage in “stakeholder-centric” discrimination on behalf of or in response to expectations of others. We examine heterogeneity in racial/ethnic discrimination by the county-level Republican vote share with a correspondence audit of 52,792 K-12 public-school principals across 33 states. We email principals posing as parents considering a move to the school district and requesting a meeting. We find evidence that the county-level Republican vote share strongly moderates racial/ethnic discrimination against Black and Chinese American families. While all groups are less likely to receive a response from principals as the Republican vote share increases, the declines for Black and Chinese American families are largest. Thus, discrimination against Black and Chinese American families is sizable in counties with the highest Republican vote share. These findings shed light on how partisanship can shape the experiences of historically marginalized groups. Furthermore, there may be benefits to targeting limited resources to geographies where discrimination is more likely to occur.

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Jeremy Singer.

Educational policymakers, leaders, and researchers are paying increasing attention to student attendance and chronic absenteeism, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though researchers have documented the consequences and causes of absenteeism, there is limited empirical evidence about what schools and districts are actually doing to improve attendance. This study presents evidence about the types of attendance practices that forty-seven high-absenteeism districts in Michigan are planning and implementing. I draw on a combination of quantitative and qualitative data from principal surveys, case studies, observations, and school improvement plans. In the 2022-23 school year, principals reported using communication practices, incentives, and to an extent providing resources to address barriers to attendance. In improvement plans, districts planned to create new organizational infrastructure and hire new personnel, with less emphasis on specific practices. These findings highlight a reliance on communication-based strategies and limited existing organizational infrastructure for addressing attendance. Though these districts have planned to develop new attendance systems and practices, it is unclear whether they will substantially reduce absenteeism, since they do not substantially address social and economic inequalities at the root of high absenteeism rates. I conclude with recommendations for monitoring new attendance practices, addressing root causes, and avoiding counterproductive practices.

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Reuben Hurst, Andrew Simon, Michael Ricks.

To understand the causes and consequences of polarized demand for government expenditure, we conduct three field experiments in the context of public higher education. The first two experiments study polarization in taxpayer demand. We provide information to shape beliefs about social returns on investment. Our treatments narrow the political partisan gap in ideal policies---a reduction in ideological polarization---by up to 32%, with differences in partisan reasoning as a key mechanism. Providing information also affects how people communicate their ideal policies to elected officials, increasing their propensity to write a (positive) letter to an official of the other party---a reduction in affective polarization. In the third experiment, we send these letters to a randomized subset of elected officials to study how policymakers respond to constituent demand. We find that officials who receive their constituents' demands engage more with higher education issues in our correspondences.

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Sophie McGuinness.

Short-term certificate (STC) programs at community colleges represent a longstanding policy priority to align accelerated postsecondary credentials with job opportunities in local labor markets. Despite large investments in developing STCs, little evidence exists about where and when STCs are opened, and whether community colleges open new programs of study in coordination with labor market trends. Using public workforce and postsecondary data, I examine health and manufacturing STC program openings to understand the conditions in which STCs are launched and whether the timing of program openings correspond with labor market activity in related industries. I find that STCs are spatially aligned across labor markets within a state, but not necessarily temporally aligned with county-specific trends. One additional STC per college is associated with labor markets that had 2-3% more employment and 4-6% greater share of employment in related industry.

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Lauren Mena Shook, Lizeth I. Lizarraga-Dueñas.

Emerging literature on anti-CRT, anti-DEI efforts in education suggest that these attacks represent a rearticulation of racial ideologies which seek to contain racial progress. Although crafting anti-CRT and anti-DEI policies is primarily conducted through discourse, few studies explore the specific discursive mechanisms used to justify these efforts as racially neutral. Using critical discourse analysis and insights from color-evasive racism, we examine the discourse of public hearings on anti-DEI and anti-CRT bills introduced in Texas’ 88th legislative session. We find that policy actors employ denials of racism and articulate three of the four frames of color-evasive racism. By examining the role of racism denial in legitimizing anti-CRT and anti-DEI efforts in higher education policy, we hope to attend to the specific roles of discourse in legitimizing racist policies and actions in education more broadly.

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David M. Houston, Alyssa Barone.

What happens to public opinion when prominent partisan officials intervene in education policy debates? We analyzed the results of 18 survey experiments conducted between 2009 and 2021 with nationally representative samples of U.S. adults. Each experiment explored the effect of an endorsement of a specific education policy by a high-profile partisan official on the public’s attitudes toward that policy. Our results indicated that the engagement of such officials in education policy issues typically did little to move public opinion in the direction of the cue-giver’s preferred policies. Instead, the chief consequence was increased polarization among the public along partisan lines. A key exception applied to endorsements of policies that diverged from the traditional position of the cue-giver’s own party, which tended to shift aggregate public opinion modestly in favor of those policies. Such cross-party cues also had minor de-polarizing consequences.

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Sarah Ruth Morris, Andy Parra-Martinez, Jonathan Wai, Robert Maranto.

This mixed-methods study synthesizes Standards-Based Grading (SBG) literature, analyzes 249 Arkansas administrators' survey responses using OLS regressions, and identifies themes through in-vivo coding of qualitative feedback. Results show more SBG support among liberal, elementary-level administrators in larger, economically diverse districts. Qualitative insights highlight structural barriers and mindsets against SBG, emphasizing its importance for mastery-focused assessment and grading alignment. These findings underscore the influence of principals' beliefs on SBG support and suggest researching the contextual and ideological factors influencing SBG's implementation.

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Brian A. Jacob.

Media reports suggest that parent frustration with COVID school policies and the growing politicization of education have increased community engagement with local public schools. However, there is no evidence to date on whether these factors have translated into greater engagement at the ballot box. This paper uses a novel data set to explore how school board elections changed following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. I find that school board elections post-COVID were more likely to be contested, and that voter turnout in contested elections increased. These changes were large in magnitude and varied with several district characteristics.

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Heather McCambly, Quinn Mulroy, Andrew Stein.

A common point of contention across education policy debates is whether and how facially race-neutral metrics of quality produce or maintain racialized inequities. Medical education is a useful site for interrogating this relationship, as many scholars point to the 1910, Carnegie-funded Flexner Report—which proposed standardized quality metrics—as a main driver of the closure of five of the seven Black medical schools. Our research demonstrates how these proposed quality metrics, and their philanthropic and political advocates, instantiated a racialized organizational order that governed the distribution of resources, the development of state certification processes, and the regulation of medical schools. This analysis provides traction for uncovering how taken-for-granted standards of quality come to maintain racialized access to opportunity in education.

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