Interpreting the policy past: the relationship between education and antipoverty policy during the Carter Administration
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Given the present demand for greater accountability in public education and the call to close the achievement gap between the haves and have-nots, scholars have renewed advocacy for policy frameworks that combine education and antipoverty policies. This study historicizes the possibilities for such connections at the federal level by focusing on how people during the Carter Administration explained the relationship between the policies. Toward this end, this study examined how the coconstructions of context and meaning of the late 1970s made certain explanations of the relationship between education and anti-poverty policy more possible than others. This study is a critical policy analysis employing historical methods. A historical narrative was constructed through the collection of oral history and archival data. Through this history, explanations of the relationships between the policies by the Carter Administration are situated within the social regularities of the day. Specifically, in the late 1970s, as people became dismayed by the persistence of equality issues, despite equal protection under the law, they looked for other ways to work toward equality. The elevation of education as a national priority became a visible strategy to the power structure at the time because it did not require a necessary redistribution of privilege and would allow a concomitant strategy to invest in other identities. At the same time, as people searched for greater personal freedom through education. A growing neo-liberal sentiment asserted that education policies had to be disconnected from the antipoverty policies that were supported by groups, whose demands for conformity were seen as standing in the way of social well-being predicated on the pursuit of self-interest. Thus, in the late 1970s education and antipoverty policy were separated at the federal level, not only bureaucratically, but also in the rhetoric of national priorities. As a result, education policy became more greatly aligned with human capital development and further detached from more redistributive policy frameworks. The rearticulation in the social regularities regarding race, property, individualism, and domestic stability remade the possible in domestic social policy.