The Point of No Return? Interest Groups, School Board Elections, and the Sustainment of the Portfolio Management Model in Post-Katrina New Orleans
by Richard Welsh & Michelle Hall - 2018
Context: Given the growing popularity of the portfolio management model (PMM) as a method of improving education, it is important to examine how these market-based reforms are sustained over time and how the politics of sustaining this model have substantial policy implications.
Purpose of Study: The purpose of this article is to examine important patterns and trends in the relationship between campaign contributions to local and state school board elections and the sustainability of the PMM in urban districts. We provide a descriptive analysis of the role of interest groups in education reform in post-Katrina New Orleans and document how the PMM changed the landscape of education politics, with a focus on the actors, both local and national, that sustain the PMM.
Research Design: We describe the creation of Act 35 and the evolution of educational governance changes in New Orleans to determine whether the same interest groups that played a role in the origin of the PMM also contributed to its sustainment. We analyze how these educational governance changes influenced the politics of education reform using data from the Louisiana Ethics Commission on campaign contributions to both state and local school board elections. We apply several non-board and board governance theories to examine interest group behavior. We also conduct interviews with stakeholders throughout the educational system to inform our discussion of the evolution of educational governance and the politics of education reform in post-Katrina New Orleans, as well as the categorization of candidates in school board elections.
Results: We find that in the post-Katrina era, there was a diversification of actors in the interest group landscape. These groups influenced educational governance through unprecedented levels of campaign contributions to the state and local school board elections. The influence of interest groups, especially out- of- state actors, contributed to an emerging shift in political control from “traditional” school board candidates to an increase in “pro-reform” board members.
Conclusions: The PMM is accompanied by heightened interest as well as an influx of out-of-state actors in educational policy making and the provision of public education. Unprecedented levels of campaign contributions suggest that state and local school board elections may be one of the primary mechanisms through which interest groups influenced post-Katrina educational governance. Out-of-state campaign contributions were mostly in support of pro-portfolio candidates. There appears to be tangible national support for the PMM that may play a crucial role in sustaining these reforms.
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