Charter and public school perceptions and the influence on educational public policy
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The purpose of this study was to examine legislators’ perceptions of the quality of education in public and charter schools, and the level of influence or impact their perceptions and experiences have on educational public policies in the Texas legislature. The research questions were: 1) To what extent do life experiences, meanings, background, participation, relationships, activities, and political ideology of state legislators formulate perceptions leading to educational public policy? 2) How do a legislator’s perceptions and district demographics influence support or opposition to legislation on public and charter schools? A qualitative methodology and Stone’s urban regime theory (2015) were applied in this study. The data collection consisted of structured interviews with ten Texas state legislators from both urban and rural districts, and included members from both major political parties. The interview questions queried about perceptions and life experiences regarding public and charter schools. The data were coded and analyzed utilizing codes presented by Bogdan and Biklen (1992) and Lofland (1971), and ranked based on frequency in the participating legislator’s responses. The findings for Research Question 1 analyzed the major themes of life experiences, meanings, background, participation, relationships, activities, and political ideology of state legislators and their influence on state legislators’ perceptions of public and charter schools. The theme with the highest influence was life experiences, while the second strongest theme influencing their perceptions was background. Political Ideology was the theme least influencing a legislator’s perceptions of public and charter school educational public policies. The findings for Research Question 2 identified the level of influence of two themes, settings and perceptions, on a legislator’s support of public and charter school legislative bills. The theme of settings had the highest influence for support or opposition to the legislative bills HB 21, SB 1882, and the HB 21 Amendment. The second strongest theme influencing a legislator’s support or opposition to public and charter school bills was perceptions. This study provided an insight into what impacts or influences a legislator’s decisions on educational public policy. This study was unique in that it provided insight into the thought process of public officials, with questions focusing on personal background and life experiences.