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Title: Zero-Sum Rights: Student Needs, Parental Intervention, and Hidden Rationing in K-12 Education
Authors: Johnson, Rebecca Ann
Advisors: Conley, Dalton C
Contributors: Sociology Department
Keywords: Fiscal federalism
K-12 education
Special education
Subjects: Sociology
Public policy
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: While rationing brings to mind ICU beds and transplant waiting lists, K-12 school districts face a similar dynamic where students' need for help outstrips supply. This dissertation investigates how two forces intersect to shape rationing in U.S. school districts. First are policy categories that identify groups of students---students with disabilities; students struggling to learn English; students in poverty---to prioritize for extra help. Second are parents, who may have unequal tools to monitor schools' rationing decisions and unequal power to intervene. Chapter One provides a framework for how these forces intersect to shape the rationing of resources. Chapter Two investigates how school districts that face cost pressure but that are (1) prohibited from changing which categories they prioritize and (2) prohibited from changing how they decide who falls into a category, nevertheless ration resources by using discretion to decide that fewer students fall within the disability category. Chapter Three focuses on New Jersey, the state with the largest drop in disability categorization, and finds that districts where parents monitored disability-related decisions were less likely to ration access to the disability category. Chapter Four expands the lens on monitoring. First, focusing on monitoring attempts, it shows how the inequality we see in New Jersey extends to three other states. Second, the Chapter uses computational text analysis to investigate inequality in what parents use monitoring for---most notably, either to protest rationing or to protest school disciplinary decisions. Finally, while Chapters Three and Four suggest that one way to curb hidden rationing is to increase parent monitoring of school decisions, Chapter Five shows that raising the level of monitoring within one category might have spillover effects on students in other categories. Using a regression discontinuity design (RDD) applied to a policy change in California, the Chapter finds that resources meant to prioritize other student categories in districts are partially diverted to cover the costs associated with the disability category. Overall, the dissertation explores what happens when policies that direct social service bureaucracies to prioritize certain categories are coupled with insufficient funding. This combination leads to hidden rationing that puts those without vigorous advocates at risk of losing out.
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Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Sociology

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