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Mamás as Policymaking Partners? A Case Study of Latina Immigrant Mothers of Emergent Bilinguals Engaged in Districtwide Decision Making

  • Author(s): Porras, Diana Alicia
  • Advisor(s): Gándara, Patricia C
  • Rogers, John S
  • et al.

Participatory policymaking has been promoted as an approach that can help address inequities within public education systems. In theory, it disrupts traditional hierarchies of power by distributing decision-making authority among a broader group of stakeholders (Anderson, 1998; Fung, 2004). Through meaningful dialogue and deliberation, participatory policymaking can lead to better informed, responsive policies (Fung, 2004; Olivos, 2006; Trujillo, 2012). This theoretical perspective is reflected in California's education law, the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). The LCAP requires districts to include historically marginalized families when developing, evaluating, and updating districtwide plans that describe the goals, programs, and investments made to support student learning and outcomes (Cal. Educ Code § 52060). Moreover, the law mandates that superintendents include District English Learner Advisory Committees (DELACs), parent-led committees focused on the needs of EL students, in their district LCAP processes (California Department of Education, 2018a). Yet, scholars have found long-standing trouble schools have had communicating with, connecting to, and involving parents of EL students (Gándara & Contreras, 2009; Gándara, Maxwell-Jolly, & Driscoll, 2005) and the habitual devaluing of Latin@ immigrant families (Olivos, 2006; Yosso, 2006). It is within this context that the LCAP is being implemented.

This dissertation centers 14 Latina immigrant mamás (mothers) active in their district's DELAC. Drawing on meeting observations, interviews, pláticas, and document analyses, this yearlong case study examines the involvement of las mamás during 2016-2017. What emerges are accounts of struggles to preserver in the face of suppression and control. Findings highlight factors that prompted these particular mamáss to become involved in district committees: their aspirations for their children's success in school, their desires to understand how to navigate the U.S. education system, invitations from staff and colleagues, and the initial experiences many of them had with Head Start and/or the Migrant Education Program. Mamás recognized their role and purpose as parent representatives who were at these meetings to advocate for the needs of EL students districtwide. Las mamás were also cultural brokers (Ishimaru, 2006), who through a variety of ways were building capacity and capital among Latin@ parents in the district. While district officials expressed an interest in wanting to involve parents in LCAP processes, their actions created tremendous barriers that ultimately overtook the efforts of mamás who wanted to be heard and included. Findings from this study can inform future research and practice on ways to create meaningful processes that bring in Latin@ immigrant parents as policymaking partners.

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