Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Nora Faires

Second Advisor

Dr. Gunther Hega

Third Advisor

Dr. Edwin Martini

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Kristin Szylvian


Five decades of English-only orthodoxy in American public schools came to an end with the passage of the Bilingual Education Act of 1968 (BEA). This research investigates how the convergence of community activism, ethnic pride, and union clout shaped and reshaped bilingual education programming at thelocal level within the broader context of post-WWII American society. By comparing and contrasting the experiences of communities in Texas and Michigan with the newly enacted BEA, this study illuminates the changing political culture of school governance from the high-water mark of Johnson-era liberalism tothe surging tide of Reaganite conservatism. It asserts that the tradition of local control of community schools looms much larger in the actual implementation of bilingual programming in America's classrooms than existing studies acknowledge. Furthermore, this research demonstrates how issues ofrace and ethnicity intersect with the longtime quest by classroom teachers to have a meaningful voice in the operation of their schools. The advancement ofworkplace democracy by NEA and AFT affiliates at the local level coincided with federal initiatives involving bilingualism which challenged sensibilities ofmembers and non-members alike.

Beginning with an analysis of the teacher's historic role in Americanizing immigrants, the study introduces the concept of "policy echo" to explain thedynamics of federalism in the context of K-12 public education policies. The discussion of policy communities emphasizes the evolution of teachers' unions as stakeholders in the political culture, not only in local school districts, but in Washington, D.C., as well. With this foundation, case studies of school districts in Waco, Texas and in Kalamazoo, Michigan, illuminate responses by communities to the changing expectations of the federal government, as well as those of the Mexican American community.

These case studies demonstrate the importance of the local political culture in shaping community response to new federal education policies, thereby serving as an example of how the hopes and aspirations of people with differing agendas take form through legislative, judicial or executive action, and howthe results are embraced, adopted, and adapted in some communities; yet ridiculed or ignored in others.


5th Advisor: Dr. Wilson Warren

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access