Parents changing the Bavarian education Law

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The role of local actors in the decision making process is mainly confined to the implementation phase of the public action. But the role of local actors must not be underestimated in other stages of the public action as they are a source of knowledge themselves when it comes to implementation problems as well as structural and economic needs on the “ground.” Local actors have proven that they can transmit scientific and expert knowledge to decision makers and can play a needed role as motivators and accountants of policy changes.

In the case study, where we analysed the role of local actors in the Amendment of the Bavarian Education Law of 2003, local actors played in all of these functions an important role.

Local actors, such as parent’s associations, as well as individual parents, were mainly the initiators and later the motivators of the public action. They motivated politicians, first from the opposition and later from the governing CSU, as well as other experts to take part in important discussions. Ultimately they did not allow the government rest until the changes were initiated.

Additionally, local actors have played the role of transmitters of scientific knowledge to the policy field. Parents have searched for scientific findings which attested to the positive effects of integration and have transmitted these findings to not only the media, but also to policymakers, and as a result they have encouraged scientists at the university to take an active part in these discussions.

Additional local actors, such as teachers and school directors have also performed an important role long before the amendment, as a few of them allowed integration despite the prohibiting laws (and this triggered an avalanche when the school administration prohibited integration). During the preparation phase countless local actors, experts, teachers’ unions, regular and special school teachers, shaped the public action.

Moreover, local actors, including administration members, school principals and teachers, proceeded with the public action long after the amendment by fulfilling it via everyday praxis.

Public actions depend on the vital cooperation of local actors in the implementation, and as such a political “imagination” about those local actors must exist, and to this end a policy programme must be adapted. This more indirect influence of local actors is shaped by the direct influence of a selected few local actors who come into immediate contact with policy makers in hearings. Here reputed experts, or representatives of associations, are invited to confer on the motivations, demands and problems existing at the local level. Not only is the hereby produced “imagination” about the whole population of local actors obviously an element of knowledge that is important to the decision making process, but also the fact of being advised by local actors is itself an act of knowledge production. Thus, in these ways the conceptualization about all local actors, or the “best practice,” can claim a certain amount of legitimacy.

Local actors play an important role in building a conceptualization about the respective public within the policy field. In this case, local actors, in particular parent organisations, played an important role in influencing decision makers. As the following quotation shows, parent representatives met even with international policy actors, such as the UN commissioner Vernon Munoz, and tried to influence the UN report on Germany, in order to also influence Bavarian policymakers. This episode is very interesting precisely because it demonstrates through which international avenues the national policymaking is being influenced:

Here, it´s broken, this system. It disadvantages children of low social status, it disadvantages the children of foreigners, it is basically violating our Constitution. It is not only violating the Constitution of Germany, but that of Bavaria, too. We actually met with Mr. Vernon Munoz, the special correspondent of the UN-Human Rights Commission, here in Munich for two days, and we immediately snatched him [laughs]. We had mailed him beforehand and said we urgently had to speak to him because he was to meet with representatives of the government here soon, and we thought he should hear about the perspective of the parents association. And we went there to meet with him with two girls from the Bavarian Student Board. I arranged this, and with a mother from the Bavarian Parents Association, and from us, there were two persons, I believe, with a friend of mine, who was also on the executive board, also a jurist, and me. And that was so nice because I grew up bilingually and I can speak Spanish. So we had a nice evening, we ate at a Spanish restaurant, or what was more of a bar, and the translators could enjoy the evening too, and we complained about the Bavarian school system, that was really great. And he said then that he would like to have the materials from us and asked us for a statement because he was writing this report back then, you know, and he got it from us, the statement from us. And, I was very glad because he, it was March I think when he presented this report, he said a lot about disabled children, too, that they are disadvantaged. And I don´t know if he would have done that originally” (I6: 441-466).

NASSEHI A., VON DER HAGEN-DEMSZKY A. & MAYR K. (2009), The Amendment of the Bavarian Education Law in 2003: A Long Way towards Inclusion, Report, 50.

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