Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Forrest Toms, Ph.D.


The purpose of this study was to explore the role that equity and ethics played in decision making by examining the perspectives of elected leaders in a case where members of the North Carolina legislature decided to lift the cap on charter schools by enacting the 2011 North Carolina Charter School Bill. The analysis was based on triangulated qualitative data from historical documents, written documents from the state’s legislative library, and interviews from consenting legislative leaders of North Carolina. The researcher used Colaizzi’s (1978) phenomenological data analysis protocol to explore and understand the participants’ lived experiences. Finally, a pattern matching analytic technique called explanation building was used to establish an understanding of a single five point predicted theoretical pattern to build an explanation about the case. The triangulated data points provided empirically based patterns that were paralleled to identify causal links between the predicted and empirical patterns. Causal links provided an explanation of the phenomenon of decision making and how equity and ethics impact decision making. There were four major findings in this study. Participant interpretations of the law provided challenges to understanding how charter commissions would evaluate measures of accountability. Perceptions of decision making presented disconnects between the law and delivery of ethics and equity when decisions were rendered. Participants identified principles which highlighted fairness and care as essential when making ethical decisions. The results of this study showed that participants’ interpretations of the law provided challenges to understanding how the charter commission would evaluate internal and external measures of accountability.