Exploring the Relationships Between Political Culture in Education Policy Practices and Outcomes in the American States
Carr, Isla-Anne Schuchs
AdvisorFrench, P. Edward
Emison, Gerald A.
Shaffer, Stephen D.
Education policy and funding is, and has historically been, the purview of the individual states. Each state developed its own education system and did so within the specific historical contexts unique to that state. Although federal involvement in education policy has grown drastically since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2002, education policies and practices are still largely controlled by the individual states. In addition, for most states the single largest expenditure of state and local government resources is education. This dissertation addresses the question of whether differences in educational practices and policy outcomes are attributed to state political culture. A path analysis model was used to analyze causal relationships between state education policy outcomes and political culture, as well as other variables identified by the literature as strongly tied to student achievement or state policy outcomes such as: societal factors, economic factors, political factors, and education practices. A major goal of this research was to identify factors that may be influencing the success of national education policies, including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1964 (ESEA) and its subsequent reauthorizations such as the NCLB Act of 2002. These policies address long-standing education policy issues—such as the achievement gap between minority and impoverished students and their statistically higher achieving peers. The results indicate that political culture does influence differences in policy outcomes, although indirectly through other variables such as societal and economic factors. Very often factors such as societal and economic factors are treated only as causes or predictors of student achievement and other policy outcomes. This analysis shows these causes to themselves be functions of political culture, providing additional insight into factors influencing state policy outcomes in order to aid public administrators in the development and implementation of more successful policies.