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Author ORCID Identifier

0000-0001-5031-978X

Document Type

Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Sociology

Year Degree Awarded

2019

Month Degree Awarded

May

First Advisor

Dan Clawson

Second Advisor

Enobong Branch

Third Advisor

Gordon Lafer

Fourth Advisor

Joya Misra

Subject Categories

Politics and Social Change | Race and Ethnicity | Sociology

Abstract

The 2016 Massachusetts ballot included a referendum – Question 2 – proposing to eliminate the state’s current “cap” on the number of charter schools permitted. Question 2 was the first ballot referendum in the country about charter school expansion.

Backers of the ballot measure saw this as an important “test case” to champion school choice. Ten months before the election, the pro-expansion side boasted many advantages, including $18 million, endorsements from the governor and the two largest newspapers in the state, and a 25-point lead in the polls. Yet, despite getting outspent by nearly $11 million in what became the most expensive ballot referendum in Massachusetts history, the opposition secured a decisive victory. My study asks what shaped this unexpected outcome.

I argue two factors were decisive. First, the No on 2 side engaged teachers’ union members – namely classroom educators – to become what I call everyday spokespeople, while the Yes on 2 campaign relied on advertising and paid canvassers. Second, although the mostly White teachers and their unions were vulnerable to criticisms framing their stance as racist and self-interested, they were able to build an interracial coalition, what I call a racial resource, that neutralized the “civil rights issue of our time” argument that pro-charter expansion advocates wanted to feature. I argue that No on 2 was able to develop and deploy more authentic and trusted racial resources in a more ideologically coherent way than the Yes on 2 campaign, which opted for an interracial advertising strategy funded by White elites.

Available for download on Sunday, May 10, 2020

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