Institutions and Education Reform
in Multiethnic Cities
IT SEEMS COMMONPLACE NOW to say that “institutions matter” in the policymaking process. It is almost akin to arguing that “politics matter.” Indeed, at the federal level, scholars of American government have explored how formal and informal institutions such as committee organization, rules, and norms structure the outcomes of the policymaking process. Despite being well studied at the federal levels, institutions and the role that they play often are less understood at other levels of government. This holds particularly true for education policymaking processes as well as the implementation of education reform at the local level. As we argue below, the lack of emphasis on institutions is partly due to the fact that a tremendous variety of institutions exist at the local level and their strength in the policymaking arena often waxes and wanes depending upon the issues at hand. Thus, unlike the formation of national policy, the role of institutions in education policy is not necessarily straightforward or consistent.
In Chapters 4 and 5, we made the case that interests and ideas are important factors in understanding the formation of education policy. Chapter 4 concludes that in our four study cities racial and ethnic group interests continue to be ambiguous, fragmented, and difficult to articulate in the educational arena. Thus, despite a numerical superiority within school populations, minority groups have been unable to translate numbers into proportional policy outcomes or to leverage collaboration across minority groups. The analysis of ideas in Chapter 5 shows how various groups interpret problems and appraise solutions. This analysis also points to a fundamental disconnect between the problems emphasized by racial and ethnic minorities and the solutions that