School Choice Policies in the Political Spectacle


  • Linda Miller-Kahn Boulder, Colorado
  • Mary Lee Smith Arizona State University



Educational Policy, Elementary Secondary Education, Political Influences, School Choice


This article presents research on school choice. It takes the case of a school district in Boulder, Colorado, through the decade of the 1990s and shows how interest groups took advantage of federal, state, and district policies meant to promote school choice and molded them into a system of schools that met individualistic interests rather than the common good. Extensive interviewing and analysis of documents and media reports served as sources of evidence. The authors argue that district officials accommodated the demands of elite groups of parents to transform the district. The study is framed by revisionist theories of policy, particularly Murray Edelman's theory of political spectacle wherein real values are allocated to a few groups, the allocation occurring largely out of public scrutiny. For most of the public, however, policies are largely symbolic.


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Author Biographies

Linda Miller-Kahn, Boulder, Colorado

Linda Miller-Kahn graduated from Western State College of Colorado with a BA in education. After teaching elementary education for 17 years, she received an MA in Educational Foundations, Policy and Practice from the University of Colorado in 2000.

Mary Lee Smith, Arizona State University

Mary Lee Smith is Professor of Educational Policy Studies in the College of Education, Arizona State University and also Professor of Methodological Studies. In her early research career she worked on methodology of meta-analysis, particularly the meta-analysis of research on psychotherapy effectiveness. She has spent a number of years working on alternative methodologies in evaluation and policy research and has applied them to study assessment policies and policies to end social promotion.




How to Cite

Miller-Kahn, L., & Smith, M. L. (2001). School Choice Policies in the Political Spectacle. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 9, 50.