A study of the differences in the political activity and positions of policy actors on education bills during the 2008 Virginia General Assembly
Houck, Russell, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Butler, Alfred R., Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Gansneder, Bruce, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Heinecke, Walter, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Several societal trends in the United States including an increasingly diverse population, a global economic transformation, and changing social values present unprecedented challenges at the beginning of the 21st century. The fundamental belief of Americans in the ability of education to solve social problems as led to excessive and unrealistic demands being placed upon public schools. The subsequent blaming of schools for failing to satisfy these demands have intensified, and coupled with increased competition for scarce public resources, these forces threaten the necessary political support for public education to function in the future.
The purpose of the study was to determine the effects of three factors upon legislators' perceptions of the political activity on differing types of education bills that were introduced in the state legislature of the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2008. Tue factors of interest are: 1) the political party membership of the legislator; 2) the types of policy actors active in the state education policy arena: elected officials, public education interest groups; non-public education interest groups; non-education interest groups 3) the type of education bill introduced: bills that place additional demands upon local public schools; bills that provide for increased financial support or other forms of support for local public schools. A second purpose of the study was to determine the positions of the policy actors who were active in attempting to influence the outcomes of the education legislation of interest.
The necessary data on the political activity and positions of education policy actors in the Virginia Genera! Assembly were collected ~sing a self-administered survey distributed to all 140 members of the State Senate and of the House of Delegates. Tue survey gathered data about the perceptions of the state legislators with regard to the amount of political activity exhibited by fifteen different education policy actors and the policy actors' positions on seven bills which represented an additional demand upon public schools and seven bills which provided increased financial support for public schools. From this population a sample of 46 surveys was achieved, a 32.8% return rate. By employing a 3-way ANOVA test using a 2X 4X 2 format, the effects of the political party of the respondent, the types of policy actors and the types of bills under consideration were analyzed.
The analysis of the data revealed significant differences in perceptions of political activity based on the party affiliation of the respondent with Republicans perceiving higher levels of political activity than Democrats. Significant differences in political activity were evident based on the types of policy actors involved with elected officials and public education interest groups exhibiting higher levels of political activity than no public education and non-education interest groups. The types of bills under consideration also showed significant differences as bills representing increased support for public schools had higher levels of political activity than bills representing additional demands upon public schools. (The analysis of the positions of policy actors was not subject to statistical! tests due to insufficient data provided by the respondents.)
EDD (Doctor of Education)
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