Reitman (1981) stated that it is in the schooling processes that school politics starts to develop. It is through these processes that different people want to benefit from in the forms of higher salaries, greater financial assistance for curricular and extracurricular programs, or larger funds for capital outlays for new buildings or updated textbooks, that developed the notion of school politics. With all these interests of different people consolidated according to their similarities, there form interest groups, considering that individual efforts will be likely ignored by higher school officials or decision-makers unless that person is the representative of the group or that individual possesses political influence due to financial and social resources. Participation of these groups to implement their particular educational concerns is made realized through political process (Reitman, 1981). Raywid (n.d.), as quoted by Reitman (1981), separated interest groups into two groups: the “legitimate” groups and the “illegitimate” ones. The difference lies in the three rules to which these groups abide in making and pressing their claims. The rules are (1) rules of evidence (is the truth being sincerely sought after and exposed when found?); (2) rules of democracy (is the group open and above board about its motives and methods?); (3) rules of common decency (does the group avoid smear campaigns and slanderous literature?) (Reitman, 1981, p. 329). Under the “legitimate” interest group category cited by most political scientists are the local teacher’s organizations, Parent-Teacher Association, civic organizations, civil rights organizations, local chambers of commerce and branches, and ad-hoc groups of budget-minded taxpayers. Whether these groups support or attack schools in favor of their interests, Raywid considered them legitimate for they adhere to the three sets of broad criteria mentioned above (Reitman, 1981).
Meanwhile, Bailey (n.d.) also classified interest groups into two basic types: those pro-school and those in opposition to schools. The former includes (1) educational academics (teachers of teachers) who are very important in initiating debate on many political issues; (2) state educational and political officials who bargain with lobbyist, pass laws, and issue directives; (3) professional educators; and (4) “surprise” actors, that is, coalitions of citizens who align with schools for various reasons. On the other hand, the latter consists of (1) the Roman Catholic Church; (2) tax-minded business groups or owners of commercial real estate; (3) rural groups such as farmer’s associations which tend to oppose increasing state involvement in education; (4) conservative politicians and state officials, whose pressures and exposure in the mass media often prevent additional spending for education; and ironically, (5) schoolpersons themselves for their “failure to understand, develop, and use political machinery available within their own ranks” to pursue educational improvements (Reitman, 1981, pp. 329-330).
Aside from the enumerated characteristics of interest groups that make each one different from another, Reitman (1981) concluded that ideological biases strongly influence varying perceptions of the informal nature of power and influence over educational reforms of interest groups.
Having discussed the informal aspects of control wielded by interest groups, the shift to the formal one is directed to the role of the state government and the personnel in position with respect on their influence in education. There are four essential authority personalities who correspond, though not entirely, to the formal structure of authority in formal education. The first one is the state governor or the chief executive. Recognizing the essence of state educational politics which according to Reitman (1981) is the bargaining between interest group and elected or appointed officials, the governor stands as the “key to the extensive bargaining that goes on between spokepersons lobbying for organized educational interests, such as the state teacher’s association or union or the state chamber commerce” (Reitman, 1981, p.343). The next two officials are under the local government: the school board and the school superintendent. The school boards, according to sociologist Norman Kerr (n.d.), have the responsibility to legitimize policies of the school system to the community, in contrast to the common notion that their task is to represent the community to the school administration in line with educational program. On the one hand, they hire school superintendents who are professional experts in the field of formal education. Hence, superintendents became agents of the boards such that they work with them to accomplish objectives at hand which were identified by the school boards and the community to be relevant given certain conditions (Reitman, 1981). The last wielder of influence would be the personnel closest and most accessible to those who need to be educated, the teachers or professors. Although they are large in number, most of them are passive recipients of pedagogical instructions set by those people higher than them in terms of authority. Often times, they are also not fully aware of the political aspects of education particularly those teachers of elementary and secondary schooling. In this regard, Reitman (1981) raised a challenge for the teachers to contemplate and deliberate on, saying that:
“Once teachers have seen through the defeating myth of nonpoliticalization of schooling and have begun to comprehend how the myth desensitizes teachers to objective diagnosis of some of their student’s genuine learning needs, they have reasonable chance to proceed realistically on behalf of their own and their student’s interests. Armed with the realization that no single one, but rather a variety of sophisticated interest groups possess political clout in this society, a teacher can, if so inclined, participate with other like-minded professionals in organizational efforts to develop political power in educational affairs.” (Reitman, 1981, p. 351)
Such strong and straightforward statement implies how great the capacity of teachers is in initiating actions calling for improvements in education. However, the implication of this idea also goes with the critical analysis of how formal influence and power to set the manner and content of teaching trickles down from the highest authoritative body to the lowest group of teachers, as educational perspective becomes modified through each level of authority.
In this respect enters the political dynamics occurring in the realm of education that entails departure from the confined conception of schooling. Here, it assumes that there exists a larger framework in which conflicting interests of those interest groups and the complex struggle over influence and power of those key actors discussed above are part of and are in the state of continuous interaction. Yet, this larger context also contains competing paradigms of ideological and/or cultural viewpoints which serve as the instrument that shape contrasting interpretations and perceptions of schooling and education.