Title: Neoliberal Policy: Understanding the Relationship Between Standardization, School Choice, and Special Education
Program: Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction
Advisor: Dr. Youngkyun Baek, Educational Technology
Committee Members: Dr. Arturo Rodriguez (Co-Chair), Literacy, Language, and Culture; Dr. Lisa Beymer, Early and Special Education; and Dr. Phil Kelly, Educational Policy
Although neoliberal ideas and ideology dominated education policy for the last 40 years with the promise that public education will thrive under competition and accountability, the idea of “our failing schools” dominates the narrative today. Families empowered by neoliberal discourse are expected to choose their way out of impoverished neighborhoods and failing traditional public schools. This drives the education market by promoting competition, accountability, and innovation so that all public schools might prosper. However, when we consider neoliberalist ideas of cultural power partnered with one’s desire to ensure academic success, decisions become overwhelming and burdensome, especially for special education teachers and families. The decisions imposed upon educators and families often conflict with individual perspectives. This phenomenological collective case study explored the tensions between teachers’ and families’ perspectives and ideas about education and their lived experiences when positioned to make decisions that are in the best interest of students with disabilities.