Policy communities and policy networks : educational policy making in Saskatchewan
Hall, Ian William
The purpose of the study was to describe the policy community within which educational policies are currently developed in Saskatchewan. The study used the policy-community/ policy-network conceptual framework of Atkinson and Coleman (1985) and Coleman and Skogstad (199Gb). The assumption was made that within a broad policy community, policy networks will form around specific policy issues. Further, the study used the work of Pross (1992) which depicts a policy community as divided into two components, a sub-government and an attentive public. It was assumed that a policy network will bring together actors drawn from both the sub-government and the attentive public. A case study was used to investigate the interaction which occurred around one recent educational policy issue, a review of school finance and governance commissioned by the Saskatchewan government. Data were obtained from an analysis of primary and secondary source documents, 25 in-depth interviews with key actors, and numerous informal conversations. It was found that the policy issue of school finance and governance did activate a policy network which brought together the sub-government and motivated groups and organizations from the attentive public. The study supported earlier research that there is an identifiable and generally stable educational policy community in Saskatchewan. The sub-government consists of the lead government agency (the provincial department of education) and the organizations representing the province's school trustees, teachers, and administrators. The attentive public comprises groups which are interested in policy issues, but which are not involved as consistently, nor to the same extent, as the sub-government. The stages heuristic model of policy making was used to analyze the interaction within the policy network. It was found that the network was dynamic. The level of involvement of actors in the network varied, as did the amount of influence which was exerted. The conceptual framework was found to be useful in organizing and presenting data. It was found that the framework needed to be situated within an historical context. In Saskatchewan, historical and cultural factors continue to be influential in the development of contemporary public policy. Suggestions for further research were made. Further analyses of other policy issues were recommended.