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Politics, governance, philanthropy, and organizations
School board candidates supported by local teachers' unions overwhelmingly win and we examine the causes and consequences of the "teachers' union premium" in these elections. First, we show that union endorsement information increases voter support. Although the magnitude of this effect varies across ideological and partisan subgroups, an endorsement never hurts a candidate's prospects among any major segment of the electorate. Second, we benchmark the size of the endorsement premium to other well-known determinants of vote-choice in local elections. Perhaps surprisingly, we show the endorsement effect can be as large as the impact of shared partisanship, and substantially larger than the boost from endorsements provided by other stakeholders. Finally, examining real-world endorsement decisions, we find that union support for incumbents hinges on self-interested pecuniary considerations and is unaffected by performance in improving student academic outcomes. The divergence between what endorsements mean and how voters interpret them have troubling normative democratic implications.
Partisanship influenced learning modality after the pandemic’s onset, but it is unknown whether partisanship predicted other aspects of educational operations. We study the role of partisanship, race, markets, and public health in predicting a range of operations—from modality to family engagement to social-emotional support to teacher PD—throughout 2020-21 in the context of Virginia. Districts’ partisan makeup and racial composition were similarly predictive of in-person offerings throughout 2020-21 but partisanship was less predictive over time. District characteristics explained limited variation in other aspects of operations, though districts with larger private school sectors provided more supports. Results emphasize the role of partisanship, race, and markets in reopening but also suggest school operational decisions were less politicized than choice of modality.
Congestion is a persistent and expensive problem, costing the nation collectively over $300 billion each year. Cities have generally attempted to address congestion using an unoriginal set of expensive strategies, like building new roads or expanding public transit, and many cities are considering implementing congestion pricing. Expanding school bus service may be a palatable solution because it provides a service instead of involving lengthy and costly construction or charging a new fee. School travel is also a sizeable portion of total daily tra c. Indeed, over 50 million children travel to and from school each day and their commutes account for about one-quarter of total daily commuter trips. School travel and school-provided transportation is generally the domain of school districts and not city governments and the school districts in most large cities are independent from city governments. This may lead to a coordination problem if school districts ignore congestion caused, or exacerbated by, school travel. To determine whether pupil transportation reduces congestion, I exploit the interaction of pupil transportation provision (variation in pupil transportation spending and school bus use within districts) and idiosyncratic, within-city and within-month variation in the percentage of weekdays that are instructional school days in a month. I build a rich, monthly, longitudinal data set for congestion, school days, and transportation policy for 51 cities from 2013 to 2019 and find congestion is significantly higher on school days and pupil transportation alleviates congestion caused by school children’s travel. A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests cities should subsidize the additional spending needed by the school district to transport more students and lower congestion.
Frames shape public opinion on policy issues, with implications for policy adoption and agenda-setting. What impact do common issue frames for racial equity in education have on voters’ support for racially equitable education policy? Across survey experiments with two independent representative polls of California voters, framing effects were moderated by voters’ prior policy preferences. Among respondents concerned with tax policy, a frame emphasizing the economic benefits of equity elicited higher priority for racial equity in education. Among respondents concerned with social justice, an “equal opportunity” frame elicited higher priority ratings. However, exploratory analyses showed frames only mattered when respondents held mixed policy preferences. Among respondents who (a) valued both tax policy and social justice issues, or who (b) valued neither, both frames were equally impactful.
This mixed methods research study explores superintendents’ beliefs about and engagement in state education policymaking processes. Through interviews with 58 superintendents and a national survey of superintendents, I find that many superintendents feel that their voices have value in state policymaking spaces; however, superintendents’ actual engagement in state policymaking processes is relatively low. Three factors shape superintendents’ state policy engagement: (1) personal capacity, (2) proximity to state capitol, and (3) district size. This work can guide the development of formal educational opportunities and experiences to better prepare superintendents to engage in policy spaces. Colleges of education, researchers, and policymakers can also draw on this work as they consider solutions to reduce inequalities in superintendents’ access to shape state education policy.
This paper presents new evidence on the benefits of decentralization in public education, focusing on a Chicago policy that granted school principals more control over budgeting and operations. Meta-analysis of similar policies shows a small average effect with significant variation across settings. To explain this heterogeneity, I adopt theories from public finance, contract theory and psychology that suggest that the impact of autonomy depends on motivation effects, principal objectives, and the alignment between district and school choices. In event-study models, on average, increased school-level control improved math and English passing rates by about four percentage points (0.1σ), comparable to interventions costing over $1,000 per pupil but achieved at nearly zero cost. Affected schools also see reduced principal turnover and improved school climate, indicating increased stability and effort. Deconvolution-based analysis of the distribution of true effects reveals a range from zero at the 20th percentile to a ten percentage-point increase at the 80th percentile (approximately 0.2σ). I provide design-based evidence supporting the theoretical literature: (a) High-quality principals with a track record of strong test score growth experience more positive autonomy effects – underscoring the role of local capacity and well-aligned incentives. (b) Schools with atypical student populations benefit more from autonomy and allocate resources to services tailored to their student’s specific needs – indicating that heterogeneity plays a key role.
With an urgency to leverage existing and emerging policy reforms to improve student outcomes by centering educational equity, this manuscript explores the critical role of policy implementation in higher education–specifically in community colleges. In doing so, we explore historical and contemporary approaches to higher education, highlighting how policy implementation often serves as an opportunity and barrier to educational equity. In the first half, we summarize the literature on policy implementation in higher education and weave together a conversation that centers on the importance of equity. Then, we highlight our Equity-Centered Policy Implementation Framework and its six tenets to consider in centering the role of the individual within the implementation process and how they influence what implementers can achieve with policy reform. These tenets are Identity Conscious, Implementation Imaginations, Institutional Complexity, Sociopolitical Context, Layered Reforms, and Leveraged for Educational Equity. Next, we share implementation stories that draw from our body of research conducted across two higher education contexts (i.e., the California Community Colleges and City University of New York [CUNY] community colleges) to showcase research-informed strategies and approaches to policy implementation that led to more robust and transformative equity-oriented implementation processes in community college.
There is growing concern that some nonprofit public service providers may be nonprofit in name but not in fact. We consider this concern in the context of nonprofit charter schools, which sometimes subcontract their daily operations to for-profit management organizations. We use unique data from Ohio to study how nonprofit charter schools’ reliance on for-profit operators affects student achievement and attendance. The results indicate that nonprofit charters that subcontract with for-profit operators tend to be more effective and equitable in promoting student achievement (but not attendance, a less salient outcome) than nearby traditional public schools serving similar students. However, nonprofit charters that subcontract with for-profit operators tend to be less effective (with regard to both achievement and attendance) and less equitable (with regard to attendance) than other nonprofit charters nearby. Further analysis comparing the administration and outcomes of for-profit and nonprofit operators suggests that the profit motive may help explain the inferior performance of nonprofit charters with for-profit operators. Our study offers theoretical insights for literatures on charter schools, contracting, performance monitoring, and sector boundaries, and it has immediate implications for education policy and management.
Temporary college closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic created an exodus of students from college towns just as the decennial census count was getting underway. We use aggregate cellular mobility data to evaluate if this population movement affected the distributional accuracy of the 2020 Census. Based on the outflow of devices in late March 2020, we estimate that counties with a college were undercounted by two percent, likely affecting Congressional apportionment. For college towns, student populations can impact government funding allocations, policy program decisions, and planning for infrastructure, public health, and more. The Census Bureau is allowing governmental entities to request count reviews through June 2023. Colleges should cooperate with state and local government efforts to ensure an accurate count.