Author ORCID Identifier

0000-0003-0737-5836

Date of Award

Fall 1-7-2022

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Janice B. Fournillier

Second Advisor

Deron Boyles

Third Advisor

Joyce E. King

Fourth Advisor

Teresa R. Fisher-Ari

Abstract

This qualitative case study considered discourse used to frame and advance neoliberal policies affecting education. The unit of analysis was the renegotiations for The Atlanta Beltline Tax Allocation District (TAD) during the years 2013-2016. In this arrangement, Atlanta Public Schools agreed to forgo their portion of increases in property taxes for 25 years to fund the BeltLine redevelopment in exchange for annual payments. The Beltline is a 22-mile loop around Atlanta to increase transportation, green-space, and neighborhood revitalization. A quasi-private corporation (Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.) manages this publicly funded project. When Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. failed to make the annual payments to Atlanta Public Schools in 2013, negotiations played out publicly, resulting in a new deal between the City of Atlanta, Invest Atlanta, and Atlanta Public Schools in 2016.

Guided by critical discourse studies and critical policy analysis, I examined media articles and interviews with five policymakers to identify discursive frames used during the Beltline renegotiation. To situate discourse with actual policy outcomes, I used the State of Georgia’s Education Database to identify school demographic changes between 2012 and 2020. I considered what discourse revealed about (1) social practices around policy negotiation, (2) convergences, divergences, and tensions with accounts of policymakers involved, and (3) the extent that discursive representations aligned with policy outcomes. Findings included discursive frames representing feuding policymakers, highlighting the economic potential of the BeltLine as paramount, using education as a negotiation tactic, championing the power of partnership, and minimizing democratic participation in favor of behind-the-scenes negotiations. Policymaker discourse amplified the issues of unmet promises, displacement, and affordability within BeltLine neighborhoods, which was supported by evidence of increased gentrification in 3 schools along the BeltLine. However, discourse ultimately represented unwavering support for TADs. In all, findings indicated that increases in property tax revenue diverted from a generation of Atlanta Public Schools students will likely result in pricing low-income, primarily Black families out of several BeltLine neighborhoods. In considering whose odds the BeltLine TAD favored, I offer implications for policymakers, community members, and educational leaders, along with a proposed research agenda for critically examining TADs through an educational lens.

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