Private actors and public goods: A comparative case study of public governance in K-12 education in three cities

Year: 2018

Author: Winton, Sue, Hedges, Samantha, Lubienski, Christopher, Rowe, Emma

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Abstract:
New models of public governance across nations demonstrate that the idea of broadening the range of actors involved in public services delivery beyond government has taken hold globally.  While there are common features of this trend, variations reflect the significance of national, state/provincial, and local factors, including the strength of governments’ and other domestic actors’ support of privatizing traditionally-held government services.We compare current configurations of public governance of K-12 education in Toronto, Melbourne, and New Orleans to illuminate the relative influence of actors from government, civil society, and business on their public compulsory systems. We asked:

Who are the actors involved in public governance of K-12 education in Toronto, Melbourne, and New Orleans?
How do forms of public governance of K-12 education in the three cities vary?
What factors explain the variation of public governance of K-12 education across the three cities?

We utilized a comparative case study design.  Data included documents produced by governments, school districts, think tanks, charter management organizations, foundations, media outlets, and researchers. 
We first identified the actors involved in education governance in each city, how they are involved, and whether they are part of the government, private sector or civil society. Next, we mapped the actors utilizing Lynn and Malinowska’s (2018) typology of public governance and compared our cases.  Then, following Rios (2018), we identified the strength of governments’ and other actors’ support of the idea of broadening the range of actors involved in education governance and local factors to explain the cities’ governance models and similarities and differences between them.
We found that in Toronto, state actors remain leaders in the governance of education, although some parents have assumed new roles as consumers and funders within schools and districts.  This model arises from the provincial government’s commitment to public education, four publicly-funded school systems, and strong teacher unions. New Orleans, however, has experienced public governance shifting from state to private actors in civil society. Some government officials encouraged this shift to “fix” a so-called broken system.  In Melbourne, the state has similarly retreated and enabled both parents and other private actors to pursue their self-interests. A key difference between Melbourne and the other cities is the absence of a local education authority. The  models of public governance in the three cities, to various degrees, have substantial implications for the democratic control of education, education policymaking, and equity. 

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