Discipline for the "educationally deprived": ESEA and the Punitive function of Federal Education Policy 1965-1998
Mahasan Offutt-Chaney

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of California, Berkeley

Primary Discipline

Throughout their history, schools in the United States have served as both a primary mechanism for treating poverty and its problems (in lieu of more structural and redistributive programs), and also a key mechanism for regulating and governing over poor populations. By exploring the evolution of federal education policy and especially the progression of the nation's largest anti-poverty education program, Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965), my project tracks how federal policy makers framed ideas about education, race, and urban poverty as they pursued federal education reform. Drawing on theories of poverty governance and social control, this study to traces school criminalization to the actions and beliefs of federal policy makers driving federal anti-poverty education reforms. I employ archival methods across federal and presidential archives to examine how federal policymakers' ideas about educational opportunity and tougher school discipline practices changed across three eras: 1965-1969; 1980-1989; 1993-1998. These three eras are significant to both the punitive turn in US federal policy and are also critical moments in the expansion of the federal role in education reform. More than a history of US federal education policy, this study offers a historical perspective on how federal policy makers concomitantly framed ESEA and other education reforms as ``opportunity`` programs for the ``culturally deprived`` and those that could ``discipline`` poor Black students away from various forms of delinquency.
About Mahasan Offutt-Chaney
Mahasan Offutt-Chaney is a Ph.D. candidate in Education Policy at the University of California Berkeley. Her research agenda looks broadly at the historic nexus between Education, race and social policy. Her dissertation work uses archival methods to explore how educational elite, including federal policy makers use education and social policies to reproduce inequality by structuring practices that discipline and regulate over racialized poverty. Her previous works have looked at the ways contemporary education policy and urban school reform can be informed by historical perspectives on Black education. Prior to her doctoral studies she worked as a restorative justice coordinator at her alma mater, Berkeley High School. Mahasan received a M.S. in Education Policy from the University of Pennsylvania, and a B.A. in Ethnic Studies and Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley.

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