HOW AUSTERITY POLITICS LED TO THE IMPOSITION OF TUITION AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AND CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK
The size and cost of US public higher education, funded largely by government, grew continuously for nearly twenty-five years after World War II. In the late 1960s, as the nation's economic growth slowed, the question of who should pay for higher education came under fresh political scrutiny. Decades-old no-tuition policies at the University of California and The City University of New York (CUNY) became targets of neoconservative critiques of the proper role of government support for public services. In California, this was done as Governor Ronald Reagan promoted a partisan austerity to win favor with business and other conservative elites. He justified cuts to higher education financing as a rebuke of protesting students and inept administrators and, later, as financially necessary given voters’ reluctance to pay more taxes. In contrast, federal and New York State politicians forced austerity on city leaders to satisfy bond holders during New York City's severe fiscal crisis. Reformers argued that CUNY's no-tuition policy was emblematic of the city's overindulgence of its residents. No-tuition policies became impossible to defend in the context of the stalled economy and growing conservative movement, whose members embraced government austerity.
RACIAL CONTEXT AND POLITICAL SUPPORT FOR CALIFORNIA SCHOOL TAXES
with Isaac W. Martin
In this paper, we determine how racial context influences school districts’ ability to raise taxes and whether it is mitigated by racial context. We employ panel regression models are fit to a data set of 293 parcel tax measures and 967 California school districts from 1997 to 2010, including data on the racial composition of enrolled students, the district population, and the school board, with controls for features of the policy and the social, political, and economic context. School boards were least likely to propose new parcel taxes where there was a high percentage of Latinx students or a large gap between the percentage of white students and the percentage of white residents 65 and older. Once a tax was proposed, these and other measures of racial context had no measurable influence on the propensity of voters to approve it. Policy design influenced outcomes, but not by mitigating racial context.
We conclude that racial context affects whether school districts propose new taxes but does not have a discernible effect on voter decisions to approve them.
RESISTING THE MARKET UNIVERSITY: POLITICAL CHALLENGES TO THE LOCUS OF AUTHORITY IN PUBLIC UNIVERSITY TUITION POLICY
The devolution of tuition authority, or abdication of tuition-setting control from elected representatives to unelected university governing boards, is an instance of marketization in higher education. Except for New York and Florida, all states have moved closer to a market-priced ideal by "deregulating" tuition. In this article, I describe my analysis of these two negative cases and argue that preexisting higher education policies have lasting effects on the institutional logics to which policy makers and other stakeholders have access, leading to divergent outcomes. What policy makers deem appropriate policy in their local context is shaped by a history of education policy making that likely preceded their position in office. However, the structure of institutions and the founding ideas of those institutions—as preserved in planning documents and remembered by select institutional actors—perpetuate a commitment to a certain institutional logic. Specifically, Florida and New York policy makers were constrained in their decision making about tuition devolution at multiple points in time by a family of institutions logic that reinforced the importance of their state university systems' lack of formal tiers and their commitment to price similarity. The state policies governing these state systems became politically consequential because policy makers invoked the system cohesiveness mandated by such policies as a principal reason for rejecting devolution proposals. This powerful narrative appears to have precluded the ideational change toward a market university despite a move in this direction in other states.
TAXATION AND CITIZEN VOICE IN SCHOOL DISTRICT PARCEL TAX ELECTIONS
Local taxation produces consequential resource inequalities among public school districts,
but little is known about how policy design affects taxpayers’ willingness to pay for schooling. We
show that voters are more likely to approve local school taxes if the policy is written to require
citizen–state consultation on how the funds are spent. In a sample of 236 California school district
elections, the promise of indirect consultation with a citizen advisory board was associated with a
3.7 percentage-point greater share of voters and a probability of passage that was 31 percentage
points greater, whereas direct consultation with voters was associated with a 5.7 percentage-point
greater share of voters and a probability of passage that was 32 percentage points greater, relative
to a proposed tax increase with no consultation. These results provide evidence that citizens may
trade increased taxation for increased voice even within an established democracy.