On Tuesday, May 7, 2019, after putting my all into my doctorate program (almost 8 years to be exact), I successfully defended my dissertation – Beyond the Boundaries: A Sharing of Power in Processes of Public Education Decision-Making and Planning.
It was a very long journey, but I made it – by the grace of God and the love and encouragement of my family, friends, and countless others.
When I think of the journey two words come to mind – perseverance and faith. May those words always guide my path with love, light, grace, and wisdom to stay the course, even when things get tough…
Beyond the Boundaries: A Sharing of Power in Processes of Public Education Decision-Making and Planning
Faith Gibson Hubbard
Dissertation submitted to the faculty of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Public Administration and Public Affairs
Keywords: public participation, coproduction, inclusion, public managers, public education Copyright 2019, Faith Gibson Hubbard
GENERAL AUDIENCE ABSTRACT
This researched is focused on how public managers, bureaucrats, can show responsiveness to the needs and wants of the citizens they serve through authentically including citizens in the process of decision-making. To examine this topic, this research reviews a process of public decision-making regarding how revisions were made to public school boundaries in Washington, DC. The findings from this research showed that the inclusion, and authentic partnership, of citizens throughout the process lead to greater outcomes, which the citizens felt were reflective of their participants and feedback.
In the absence of court-ordered desegregation processes, districts have resorted to other methods of comprehensive public education 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 over 50 DCPS schools have closed. Over many years, there was a steady decrease in the city’s population and the rise of a separately governed system of public charter schools. In the last few years, the population has increased. The goal of the most recent review 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 dissertation study examines how a sharing of power, between administrators and the public, in decision making can work to ease the inherent tensions between bureaucracy and democracy. Using a unique dataset, the researcher examines a single case study, of Washington, DC, to explore a process representative of ‘shared decision-making’ between citizens and government and discusses how processes designed to be deliberative and inclusive not only encourage participation but ultimately have a vital role in creating a sense of legitimacy and ownership of a process. From these findings through the theoretical frameworks of coproduction and inclusion, the researcher hopes to glean insights that can contribute to how shared decision-making processes, through the actions of the public manager, play a role in addressing public education issues.