Policy field and policy discourse: The American Federation for Children Network


  • B. Scott Ellison University of Northern Iowa
  • Ariel M. Aloe University of Iowa
  • Shehreen Iqtadar University of Northern Iowa




Policy Sociology, Network Analysis, Policy Networks, Policy Discourse


This article presents findings from an analysis of the AFC policy network using tools from network ethnography and qualitative content analysis. Specifically, we examined tax forms and carried out extensive web searches to spatialize and map the AFC network, mined text from policy-actors in the AFC network, and analyzed the policy discourse promoted by these network actors to achieve their political goals. The task for this study was to use AFC as a heuristic device to explore the complexity of the education policy field and to understand how network policy-actors work to achieve their policy goals through advocacy and marketing. Findings from the study indicate that the AFC network demonstrates a hierarchical ordering, this hierarchical ordering is reflective of the elite planning and social engineering associated with neoliberal reforms, and that the policy-actors in the AFC network employ discursive strategies to frame an elite political project to advance school choice policies as an anti-elite movement oriented toward political empowerment and educational justice.


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Author Biographies

B. Scott Ellison, University of Northern Iowa

Assistant Professor of Social Foundations of Education.

Ariel M. Aloe, University of Iowa

Associate Professor of Psychological and Quantitative Foundations.

Shehreen Iqtadar, University of Northern Iowa

Research and Teaching Assistant - Special Education




How to Cite

Ellison, B. S., Aloe, A. M., & Iqtadar, S. (2019). Policy field and policy discourse: The American Federation for Children Network. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 27, 48. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.27.4242