Beyond the Boundaries: Public Education Decision Making and the Disconnect Between the Reflections of Public Sentiment and Government Action
Friday, November 13, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
In the absence of court ordered desegregation processes, districts have resorted to other methods of comprehensive public education (kindergarten through 12 grade) planning. The student assignment and school boundaries review process for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), conducted in Washington, DC in the fall of 2013, is a prime example of such an activity. The last review of this process was undertaken in 1968, and since that time more than 50 DCPS schools have closed. Over the course of many years there was a steady decrease in the city’s population with only a recent increase in the last few years, and the rise of a separately governed system of public charter schools. The goal of the most recent process was to engage communities in conversations about not only particular boundary proposals but also deeper policy conversations focused on equal education opportunities and issues regarding a need for responsiveness to the changing demographics of the city. This paper examines how the feedback from the first round of public engagement for this process, the participants of 22 focus groups, was used as a roadmap to guide the overall process and to track how their comments were reflected in the final recommendations of the advisory committee to the Mayor in August 2014. Using a unique dataset, this paper uses this case as a representation of ‘shared decision-making’ between citizens and government and discusses how processes that are designed to be deliberative and inclusive not only encourage participation but ultimately have a vital role in addressing urban public education reform policy issues in a broader social context.