Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Environmental and Public Affairs

First Committee Member

Sonya Douglass Horsford

Second Committee Member

Emil Bernick

Third Committee Member

Anna Lukemeyer

Fourth Committee Member

Robert McCord

Fifth Committee Member

Tracy Spies

Number of Pages



Locally-elected school boards in the United States may be the public’s closest democratic link to public education. Yet, little is known about how school boards balance their representational obligations with their responsibilities to address educational inequities. The purpose of this study is to examine how school boards address policies and practices for one of education’s most vulnerable populations, English learners (EL). Applying the conceptual framework of social construction theory for policy design, which assumes that policy is heavily influenced by the social construction of target groups, this multiple-case study includes data from 30 interviews, four years of school board meeting minutes, and other archival documents from three sites located in the understudied region of the U.S. Mountain West— Clark County School District, Salt Lake City School District, and Tucson Unified School District. Results found that although EL policies/practices are largely shaped by the social constructions of ELs which are mostly deficit-based, school boards often react to triggering mechanisms in addressing the needs of their growing EL populations in the context of federal and state policies, competing interests, and limited resources. These findings suggest that while school boards are a significant democratic link, they are often unwilling, and in some cases unable, to adequately address inequities faced by ELs until school boards are triggered.


Educational Policy; Goverance; Multiple Case Study; School District; Social Construction Theory; Triggering Mechanisms


Education | Educational Leadership | Education Policy | Political Science

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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