School/community-based management: discursive politics in practice

Erbes, Kristen M.
Milner, Neal
Political Science
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
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This dissertation examines an educational reform movement, School/Community-Based Management (SCBM) in Hawaii's public schools. Advocates insisted that changing the bureaucratic structure of governance, moving from top-down decision-making to a shared decision-making at the local level, would revolutionize schools resulting in higher student achievement. Through in-depth case studies at two schools I examine three foci of contemporary theory: democratic structures, the educative value of participation, and consensus-based decision-making. First, while the SCBM literature asserts open participation, most schools developed formal representative structures to reflect constituent groups mandated by the Hawaiʻi Department of Education (DOE). This tension between representative and nonrepresentative structures is found in democratic theory, especially in comparing liberal and republican principles. Proponents conceived of SCBM not only as an administrative decision-making structure but also as a forum for communities to identify shared values and agree on a common good. Second, pragmatists as well as proponents of participatory democracy agree that individuals are educated about democratic values through participation in democratic processes. Similarly, SCBM supporters claimed that individuals would be educated in civic virtues through participation in the SCBM process. The case studies demonstrate that participants engaged in deliberation, negotiation, and decision-making. However, in one example the SCBM participants felt that stakeholders in the bureaucracy blocked their ability to make the most important decision at the school, selecting the principal. Third, deliberative democrats contend that bureaucracy breaks down communicative possibilities. By instituting deliberative forums and opportunities, citizens are able to reach understanding and make binding agreements. The relationship of deliberation and consensus-based decision-making processes is also explored. Striving for unified agreement, SCBM councils typically deliberate in face-to-face forums and use consensus rather than majority vote decision-making procedures. A case study when consensus could not be reached is used to highlight the frustration and feelings of failure by participants. SCBM is not only an example of educational reform but it is political reform as well. It is by looking at how communities participated in SCBM that we can see democracy practiced at the local school level.
x, 173 leaves
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Theses for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Political Science; no. 4388
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