Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Educational Leadership

Major Professor

Vonzell Agosto, Ph.D.

Committee Member

William Black, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Danielle Dennis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brenda Walker, Ph.D.


education leadership, school choice, markets, case study, critical theory


This qualitative case study focused on how school leaders’ understandings of (dis)ability were implicated in decision-making and affected student (dis)enrollment in Florida’s Voluntary Prekindergarten Program (VPK). More specifically it explored how leaders in private VPK programs invoked conceptions of normality, and subsequently abnormality, during decision-making processes for student (dis)enrollment. Combining a critical poststructuralist approach (critical disability studies, critical policy analysis), decision-making on (dis)enrollment was contextualized within the current policy ecology. This policy ecology was framed as an historical development of policies regarding preschool for children with and without disabilities in a marketplace shaped by the convergence of federal, state, and local policy, which tended to be based on deficit-oriented perspectives of disability that functioned to (re)constructed what was understood as (dis)ability.

Further, findings focused on how policy, market, and VPK leaders’ understanding of (dis)ability influenced decision-making rationales and outcomes affecting (dis)enrolled students. Findings indicated their sense of identity impacted their interpretation of and reaction to program polices, local market pressures and their construction of the “good consumer”—a parent/child dyad prepared for rigor and the exhibition of self-control. Reciprocity emerged as a theme and suggested good consumers reinforced VPK leaders’ desired identity. In addition, VPK leaders’ justified enrollment and disenrollment decisions within a continuum of exchanges that occurred between consumers and themselves. Leaders who embraced service or spiritual based leadership practices tended to be more inclusive of children with diverse needs.

Implications for future research should address 1) how VPK leaders include children with a range of abilities in their (pre)schools, 2) examine parents’ decision-making practices about their child’s (dis)enrollment in VPK centers, 3) policy clarification at the intersection of IDEA, ADA, and VPK, and 4) explore how local education agencies and private preschools can build infrastructure to support the inclusion of children with diverse learning needs in VPK centers. Such research can shed light on the complexity of decision-making with respect to enrollment for publicly-funded voucher programs on the private VPK market and how those decisions function to (re)shape discourses of normality in early childhood.