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Charter School Authorizations as Disputes: How School Board Members Justify Their Votes in a Neoliberal Context1

Sociological Forum

Published online on


["\nFor charter schools to open they must gain the approval of an authorizing body, most commonly a local school board. When deciding whether or not to authorize a particular charter, school board members often engage in public disputes that entail clashes between multiple and conflicting conceptualizations of the goals of education. Drawing on insights from pragmatic sociology and institutional theory, this paper examines videos of 119 public meetings to document how members of a large, urban school board drew on competing ways of conceptualizing the common good to justify their votes on charter school authorizations. Moreover, it also shows how the neoliberal context of contemporary education limited the range of justifications used. Even school board members who argued against charter school authorizations did with justifications draped in neoliberal language. Neoliberalism thus impacted decisions not by becoming cognitively taken‐for‐granted but rather by shaping the range of arguments made for or against the choice to authorize particular schools.\n", "Sociological Forum, EarlyView. "]