Policy Sciences

, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 395–413 | Cite as

Policy logics, framing strategies, and policy change: lessons from universal pre-k policy debates in California and Florida

  • Linda A. White
  • Adrienne Davidson
  • Heather Millar
  • Milena Pandy
  • Juliana Yi
Research Article


This article examines the dynamics underpinning universal pre-kindergarten policy debates in California and Florida in light of theories of policy investment, policy change, and sustainability of policy reforms. Because the expansion of prekindergarten raises key considerations about the appropriate role of the state in education and educational socialization experiences for young children, and because these investments involve significant budgetary outlays, they trigger two logics: a policy investment logic that leverages the power of evidence-based arguments and instrumentally rational calculations about costs and benefits of early years investments; and a cultural logic that rests on societal and policymakers’ views about and trust in the state vis-à-vis the family and market. Media analysis of public debates in California reveals that instrumentally rational arguments about the benefits of universal pre-k were trumped by arguments based on appeals to principled beliefs about appropriate levels of state involvement. It also finds that this policy area is particularly susceptible to challenges to the legitimacy of political leaders. These cases thus provide important insights into the kinds of complex political factors that go into getting and sustaining social policy investments over the long term.


Policy investment theory Policy framing Policy change Universal pre-kindergarten California Florida 



This article was originally presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, Illinois, 29 August – 1 September 2013. The authors wish to thank Steven Bernstein and Grace Skogstad for their very helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article. Financial support for this research was provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada grant # 410-2008-0630.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda A. White
    • 1
  • Adrienne Davidson
    • 1
  • Heather Millar
    • 1
  • Milena Pandy
    • 1
  • Juliana Yi
    • 1
  1. 1.University of TorontoTorontoCanada

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