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Universal PreK: How Do Policymakers Make Meaning of Their Decision Making in Public Education Policy? Open Access

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Universal PreK: How Do Policymakers Make Meaning of Their Decision Making in Public Education Reform Policy? The purpose of this study was to seek a connection between policymakers' epistemologies and their decision-making process as they relate to education reform, specifically universal prekindergarten for all 4-year olds. This dissertation attempted to show a connection between specific experiences of policymakers and the relative selection of the policies they accepted as valid or necessary. Another purpose was to define what drives policymakers toward one policy decision over another. Although not the specific research questions, the following information was sought: What compels policymakers to choose one policy over another? If policymakers are presented with a school-reform policy that challenges their beliefs, yet are shown it can have a positive impact, can they still choose it? The researcher attempted to investigate a possible connection between human capital theory, public choice theory, and triadic theory of power. The qualitative approach known as case study methodology, more specifically a holistic multiple case study design, was employed (Yin, 2003). Using this method, I determined that there is validity in the three theories as they relate to this research. Most marked was the connection to public choice theory. Of the six participants interviewed, four matriculated from traditional public schools and two from nontraditional private schools. The four public school attendees were heads of state departments of education that did not offer free, full-access universal prekindergarten. The two who had attended private school were heads of state departments of education who did offer free, full-access prekindergarten to all 4-year olds regardless of need.

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