All Academic, Inc. Research Logo

Info/CitationFAQResearchAll Academic Inc.
Document

Breaking Open the Iron Triangle: Interest Groups, Public Opinion, and Federal Education Policy
Unformatted Document Text:  3 are more likely to be responsive to mobilized interest groups or party activists than to the public at large. 5 For these reasons, policymaking tends to become a closed and static process characterized by iron triangles, sub-governments, issue networks, or policy monopolies. Government policies often become path dependent and major change in federal programs is difficult to bring about and tends to come only slowly and incrementally, if at all. 6 If interest groups have been influential in American politics generally, they have been particularly powerful in the area of education policy. The most powerful interest groups in education are the two major teacher unions—the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)—and the groups which represent state and local education authorities (such as the National Council of State School Officers). The unions have fashioned themselves into a major political force by marshalling large quantities of the three most important political resources—money, votes, and volunteers. In 2000 the NEA claimed some 2.5 million members, while the AFT had approximately 1 million. Both unions are very active politically through their state affiliates and their large, well-funded national headquarters operations in Washington DC. As Moe has noted, “The teacher unions have more influence on the public schools than any other group in American society…[They] shape the schools from the top down through political activities that give them unrivaled influence over the laws and regulations imposed on public education by government.” 7 The NEA has allied itself firmly with the Democratic Party since 1976 as a result of Jimmy Carter’s pledge to create a federal Department of Education and Congressional Democrats’ steadfast support of increased federal funding for schools. Both the NEA and the AFT consistently give over 95% of their campaign and soft money contributions to Democrats. The teacher unions have been by far the Democratic Party’s biggest national donor bloc and the NEA, AFT, and other teacher unions contributed $6.7 million between 1991 and 1999 alone. 8 The teachers unions’ large membership base has also long provided an important source of volunteers and votes for Democratic candidates. The tremendous influence of the teacher unions within the Democratic Party has also been reflected during the party’s presidential nominating process, where NEA and AFT members have comprised the largest block of delegates at the national convention and have played an influential role on the platform committees. The unions use their power within the Democratic Party—and in the political process more generally—to fight for their education policy agenda of increased federal spending for education and opposition to reforms that threatens the unions’ existence or influence in schools. 9 The unions have long opposed school vouchers, choice, charters, 5 See for example: Lawrence Jacobs and Robert Shapiro, Politicians Don’t Pander: Political Manipulation and the Loss of Democratic Responsiveness (Chicago: University of Chicago Press: 2000). 6 See Charles Lindblom, “The Science of Muddling Through” Public Administration Review, Vol. 19, 1960, p.79-88; Aaron Wildavsky, The Politics of the Budgetary Process (Boston: Brown, Little and Co., 1984); and Michael Hayes, The Limits of Policy Change (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 2001). 7 Terry Moe, “A Union by Any Other Name,” Education Next (Fall 2001) 1. 8 Jill Zuckerman, “Teachers Back Gore with Money, Muscle,” The Boston Globe, June 3, 2000, p.A1. 9 For more on the unions’ positions on school reform see: Tom Loveless, ed. Conflicting Missions? Teachers Unions and Educational Reform (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2000). For conservative criticism of the role of unions in obstructing school reform, see: Myron Lieberman, The

Authors: McGuinn, Patrick.
first   previous   Page 3 of 15   next   last



background image
3
are more likely to be responsive to mobilized interest groups or party activists than to the
public at large.
5
For these reasons, policymaking tends to become a closed and static
process characterized by iron triangles, sub-governments, issue networks, or policy
monopolies. Government policies often become path dependent and major change in
federal programs is difficult to bring about and tends to come only slowly and
incrementally, if at all.
6
If interest groups have been influential in American politics generally, they have
been particularly powerful in the area of education policy. The most powerful interest
groups in education are the two major teacher unions—the National Education
Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)—and the groups
which represent state and local education authorities (such as the National Council of
State School Officers). The unions have fashioned themselves into a major political force
by marshalling large quantities of the three most important political resources—money,
votes, and volunteers. In 2000 the NEA claimed some 2.5 million members, while the
AFT had approximately 1 million. Both unions are very active politically through their
state affiliates and their large, well-funded national headquarters operations in
Washington DC. As Moe has noted, “The teacher unions have more influence on the
public schools than any other group in American society…[They] shape the schools from
the top down through political activities that give them unrivaled influence over the laws
and regulations imposed on public education by government.”
7
The NEA has allied itself firmly with the Democratic Party since 1976 as a result
of Jimmy Carter’s pledge to create a federal Department of Education and Congressional
Democrats’ steadfast support of increased federal funding for schools. Both the NEA and
the AFT consistently give over 95% of their campaign and soft money contributions to
Democrats. The teacher unions have been by far the Democratic Party’s biggest national
donor bloc and the NEA, AFT, and other teacher unions contributed $6.7 million between
1991 and 1999 alone.
8
The teachers unions’ large membership base has also long
provided an important source of volunteers and votes for Democratic candidates. The
tremendous influence of the teacher unions within the Democratic Party has also been
reflected during the party’s presidential nominating process, where NEA and AFT
members have comprised the largest block of delegates at the national convention and
have played an influential role on the platform committees.
The unions use their power within the Democratic Party—and in the political
process more generally—to fight for their education policy agenda of increased federal
spending for education and opposition to reforms that threatens the unions’ existence or
influence in schools.
9
The unions have long opposed school vouchers, choice, charters,
5
See for example: Lawrence Jacobs and Robert Shapiro, Politicians Don’t Pander: Political Manipulation
and the Loss of Democratic Responsiveness (Chicago: University of Chicago Press: 2000).
6
See Charles Lindblom, “The Science of Muddling Through” Public Administration Review, Vol. 19,
1960, p.79-88; Aaron Wildavsky, The Politics of the Budgetary Process (Boston: Brown, Little and Co.,
1984); and Michael Hayes, The Limits of Policy Change (Washington: Georgetown University Press,
2001).
7
Terry Moe, “A Union by Any Other Name,” Education Next (Fall 2001) 1.
8
Jill Zuckerman, “Teachers Back Gore with Money, Muscle,” The Boston Globe, June 3, 2000, p.A1.
9
For more on the unions’ positions on school reform see: Tom Loveless, ed. Conflicting Missions?
Teachers Unions and Educational Reform (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2000). For
conservative criticism of the role of unions in obstructing school reform, see: Myron Lieberman, The


Convention
Convention is an application service for managing large or small academic conferences, annual meetings, and other types of events!
Submission - Custom fields, multiple submission types, tracks, audio visual, multiple upload formats, automatic conversion to pdf.
Review - Peer Review, Bulk reviewer assignment, bulk emails, ranking, z-score statistics, and multiple worksheets!
Reports - Many standard and custom reports generated while you wait. Print programs with participant indexes, event grids, and more!
Scheduling - Flexible and convenient grid scheduling within rooms and buildings. Conflict checking and advanced filtering.
Communication - Bulk email tools to help your administrators send reminders and responses. Use form letters, a message center, and much more!
Management - Search tools, duplicate people management, editing tools, submission transfers, many tools to manage a variety of conference management headaches!
Click here for more information.

first   previous   Page 3 of 15   next   last

©2012 All Academic, Inc.