Legislating education policy and equity at the ballot box: A descriptive analysis of the prevalence and content of education ballot initiatives over time

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Abstract

Political scientists have long studied the use of direct democratic ballot initiatives—proposed directly by citizens and put before a statewide vote—as currently allowed in 24 U.S. states. Despite the application of ballot initiatives to legislate education policy, however, education scholars have not yet adequately investigated this phenomenon within American public education. In a comprehensive analysis of state-level direct democracy in education, this article examines the content and prevalence of education ballot initiatives used to shaped U.S. education policy over time. Analyses suggest voters have considered 282 ballot initiatives regarding a variety of education issues, including those related to both K-12 and higher education and addressing policy issues related to finance, governance, and civil rights and equal opportunity. Further, the prevalence of education initiatives has increased and their content has evolved over time, particularly with the advent of, and increase in, initiatives seeking to limit the rights and opportunities of traditionally underrepresented students. These findings contribute to scholarship regarding state-level education policymaking in general, and call on researchers to consider further the benefits and potentially negative consequences of direct democracy as an education policymaking tool, particularly for minoritized students.

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How to Cite
Farley, A. N. (2019). Legislating education policy and equity at the ballot box: A descriptive analysis of the prevalence and content of education ballot initiatives over time. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 27, 9. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.27.4102
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Author Biography

Amy N. Farley, University of Cincinnati

Amy N. Farley is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies at the University of Cincinnati. She relies on quantitative and qualitative methods, program evaluation, and policy analysis to explore the impact of policy on students, educators, and educational equity and opportunity. Her substantive research focuses broadly on equity in P-20 education systems and the impact of policies on access and opportunity, including school and university reform, high-stakes data use and measurement, and the disparate impact of policies on certain student and educator populations.