Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Policy & Administration

First Advisor

Saltanat Liebert, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Susan Gooden, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Myung Jin, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Jason Arnold, Ph.D.

Fifth Advisor

Laura Kuti, Ph.D.


As recent immigrants seek a productive and dignified life in “new immigrant destinations” that have little historical experience with immigration, public education systems serve a key function in immigrant integration efforts. In a federal system increasingly focused on accountability, a crucial sub-set of education policy and local responsiveness to immigration is English language instruction and services for Limited English Proficient (LEP) students and parents.

In such contexts, the role that local bureaucrats play, and whether they actively represent the interests of the newfound diversity of community members, are crucial questions if strongly held American ideals of social equity and equal opportunity are to be upheld. This research asks broad questions at the intersection of bureaucratic power, representative bureaucracy and educational policy toward English language learners at the local level. Variations in how school systems in the political bellwether of Virginia responded to a recent policy shock - federal guidance released in January 2015 that reiterated local school system responsibility for providing equal educational access to LEP students and parents – form a unique window into local policy-making. Using a concurrent triangulation mixed methodology that consists of a state-wide survey and interviews with a sub-set of the Title III coordinators who supervise programs for English Language Learners, this research shows Title III coordinators to be unrepresentative in passive terms of the foreign born population but nevertheless to have a strong sense of advocating for English Language Learners. Findings suggest that public service motivation is the key explanatory factor in driving a sense of role advocacy and this in turn drives a greater range of action taking by the coordinator to benefit ELLs. Despite this link between role advocacy and coordinator action, role advocacy is not found to be significant in driving the likelihood or range of system level responsiveness to the letter. Instead, political and demographic factors increase the likelihood of system action but, counter to existing literature, more conservative localities are found to be more likely to have responded to the Dear Colleague Letter. This suggests that a previous reluctance to act in these places may have been dislodged by the letter and points to the importance of change over time in conceptualizing local responsiveness to immigrants.


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