Policy at Work: An Insider's Critical Discourse Analysis of Texts Surrounding A School Bill in Pennsylvania

Open Access
Hobbs, Alisa Rhoades
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 16, 2016
Committee Members:
  • Patrick Williard Shannon, Dissertation Advisor
  • Patrick Willard Shannon, Committee Chair
  • Jacqueline Edmondson, Committee Member
  • Jamie Myers, Committee Member
  • Susan G Strauss, Outside Member
  • school vouchers
  • critical discourse analysis
  • social practices
  • discursive events
  • education policy
I conducted a study to examine the public texts produced and disseminated to influence and to lobby the outcome of a Senate Bill 1 of 2011, a bill focused on implementing school vouchers in Pennsylvania. By analyzing texts systematically over time I sought to uncover how various groups lobbied and mobilized to be represented in education policy. Chapters were organized to answer the question: How do the texts that cross my desk as a legislative aide work on lobbying legislators about education policies? To answer that question chapters were organized to explain the punitive problem and hypothesized solutions offered around SB 1 and school vouchers. Chapter 3 shared studies of voucher programs and groups that utilized data findings to further their lobbying. Chapter 4 and 5 shared how I conducted my analysis and then revealed four themes that emerged during analyses. In Chapters 5 and 6, I address what those themes mean for the micro politics of Senate Bill 1 and education policy along with addressing what can be learned from my study and what might those implications tell us about the micro politics of education policy work. The data for my study consisted of textual materials distributed and shared publicly to influence legislators’ stances on Senate Bill 1. Critical Discourse Analysis revealed insights of the politics of educational policy at a micro-level. The data sample included ten texts from the approximately 100 that crossed my desk as a part of my job as a legislative aide and represented the stances of the producers as being In Support of SB 1, In Opposition of SB 1, or Official Work Texts. The results represented ideological imaginings and social practices that attempt discursive work. Since no participant had empirical certainty behind his or her position, the study uncovered competing values embedded within the social practices influenced by ideological positions. My analyses revealed four themes that emerged in the texts: A crisis exists, It is personal, Framing a stance as truth, and Forming alliances and partnerships. This work hoped to show teachers and others how groups lobby to influence education policy.