Advocacy | Public Funds Public Schools
Across the country, educators, parents, students, advocates, and other stakeholders are fighting to keep public funds in public schools. Opposition to private school vouchers involves many strategies, including litigation, policy and grassroots advocacy, and research. PFPS strives to assist local, state and national partners and networks in their efforts to monitor legislative developments, analyze voucher proposals, and take action to defeat those proposals. Below are PFPS advocacy tools and references available on this website and elsewhere.
For assistance with advocacy to keep public funds in public schools, contact PFPS.
Legislative Tracking and Analysis
Voucher Bill Tracker:
This interactive tool tracks bills that create, expand, scale back, or otherwise modify private school voucher programs, including traditional, Education Savings Account (ESA) and tax credit vouchers. Users can search for all bills in a specific state legislature or in the U.S. Congress, as well as searching by bill number, key word, or PFPS-assigned categories. PFPS writes summaries for bills that advance furthest in the legislative process. View a short demonstration of the bill tracker here.
The Accelerated Push to Privatize: An Analysis of Trends in Private School Voucher Legislation Across the U.S.:
PFPS presented at Rutgers University’s 7th annual Education Reform, Communities, & Social Justice research conference in June 2022. The presentation focused on the dramatic increase in private school voucher legislation introduced and passed in state legislatures in 2021, analyzing the forces animating this trend and factors that contribute to voucher bills passing or failing. The presentation also provides a preliminary analysis of 2022 legislative sessions. The PFPS presentation is at the beginning of the recording.
The Push to Privatize: An Analysis of Private School Voucher Legislation Across the U.S. 2019-2021:
PFPS presented at the 6th annual Education Reform, Communities, & Social Justice research conference hosted by Rutgers University. The presentation examined nationwide trends in state and federal voucher legislation and the relevant political and contextual factors associated with these trends, including election results, the influence of pro-privatization actors and funding, and the complex politics and policies surrounding American schools during the pandemic. The PFPS presentation begins at minute 38 of the recording.
Private School Vouchers - Analysis of 2020 State Legislative Sessions:
This five-part series provides an overview of proposed voucher legislation introduced in states across the country and in Congress during the 2020 legislative session. Part one offers an overview of legislative highlights and lowlights and brief state-by-state summaries. Parts two through five dive deeper into key issues and states, including ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has been used to renew pro-voucher activities, and the diversion of public funds through expanded uses of 529 savings accounts.
Private School Vouchers - Analysis of 2019 State Legislative Sessions:
This five-part series provides an overview of private school voucher legislation introduced during 2019 legislative sessions in states across the country. The first part in the series includes a general overview as well as brief state-by-state summaries. Parts two through five offer more in-depth analyses of the legislative landscape for private school vouchers in select states across the country.
The True Cost of Private School Voucher Programs:
This two-page fact sheet details the staggering monetary costs of private school voucher programs. It provides evidence that voucher programs are expensive, with costs further increased by fraud and waste; that spending on voucher programs increases over time; and that voucher program costs frequently outpace initial estimates.
The Myth of Cost Savings from Private School Vouchers:
This two-page fact sheet debunks the notion that it costs less to educate students with publicly funded private school vouchers than it does to educate them in traditional public schools. It provides evidence-backed explanations of important realities that make voucher programs expensive, impractical and unsound.
Why Vouchers for Private Virtual Education are Misspent Public Money:
This two-page fact sheet explains that voucher-supported, private virtual schools are a misuse of scarce public resources. The fact sheet highlights research finding virtual schools do not provide equitable opportunities for all students, harm students’ educational outcomes, and are highly susceptible to accountability failures due to lack of oversight. These issues are compounded when coupled with the documented negative effects of private school vouchers.
Research about Negative Impacts of Vouchers:
This two-page fact sheet summarizes research about the negative effects of private school vouchers on public schools and their students. It highlights research examining the impact of vouchers on public school funding and student outcomes as well as the discriminatory and segregative effects of voucher programs.
Keep Public Funds in Texas Public Schools (May 2023):
This policy brief urges Texas lawmakers during the 2023 legislative session to reject proposals for private school voucher programs and instead focus on the state’s underfunded public schools. The brief details the ever-increasing body of research showing that vouchers negatively affect student outcomes; harm rural students, schools, and communities; deprive students of their civil rights; lack standards, accountability, and transparency; exacerbate school segregation; drain taxpayer dollars; and undermine public school systems that welcome and serve all students.
Let the Illinois “Invest in Kids” Private School Voucher Law Sunset (April 2023):
This policy brief explains why Illinois lawmakers must reject any attempts to extend or make permanent the “Invest in Kids” tax credit voucher program, set to sunset following the 2023-24 school year. The brief highlights that the program lacks accountability, with no publicly available data on student outcomes as of spring 2023, that vouchers fund private schools that often discriminate against students and families, and that Illinois’ private schools disproportionately serve white students. The brief concludes that Illinois lawmakers must focus on fully resourcing the state’s underfunded public schools.
New York Can't Afford It (February 2020):
New York Can’t Afford It examines the persistent underfunding of New York public schools and the State’s diversion of over $250 million in taxpayer dollars to private school aid in the 2019-20 New York State Budget. The report concludes that the New York State Legislature should phase out private school funding and reallocate those dollars to the public schools.
Policy Brief on Mississippi’s Education Savings Account Program (January 2020):
This policy brief examines the effectiveness of Mississippi’s Education Savings Account (ESA) private school voucher program. Established in 2015 as a five-year pilot, the program places taxpayers dollars in private accounts that can be used by families of students with disabilities to pay for private school tuition or other private education expenses. The brief concludes that the voucher program is an ineffective use of taxpayer dollars, and Mississippi should devote state resources to its underfunded public schools.
PFPS Webinar Series
A Conversation with the Editors of The School Voucher Illusion (October 2023):
This PFPS webinar features Professors Kevin Welner, Gary Orfield, and Luis A. Huerta, editors of The School Voucher Illusion: Exposing the Pretense of Equity, which examines the false promise that private school vouchers would provide more equitable educational opportunities to underserved or marginalized students. The webinar is moderated by Professor Janel George.
The Fiscal Consequences of Private School Vouchers (April 2023):
This PFPS webinar features Dr. Samuel E. Abrams and Steven J. Koutsavlis of Teachers College, Columbia University, authors of the PFPS report, The Fiscal Consequences of Private School Vouchers, and Dr. Mary McKillip of Education Law Center and Dr. Norín Dollard of Florida Policy Institute, who have written about the massive expansion of Florida’s voucher program. The discussion is moderated by Dr. Danielle Farrie of Education Law Center.
Post Carson v. Makin: How Can We Protect Public Education? (October 2022):
This webinar, presented by PFPS and Education Law Center, focuses on the national implications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision allowing religious schools to participate in Maine’s system of public education and what advocates can do to prevent further intrusion of religion into the nation’s public schools. The webinar features Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey and Assistant Attorney General Sarah Forster, Dr. John Jackson, and Dr. Preston Green.
Dark Money and the Politics of School Privatization (June 2022):
This PFPS webinar features Maurice Cunningham in conversation about his new book, Dark Money and the Politics of School Privatization , with Chisun Lee, Director of the Elections and Government Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. The book explores the complex networks of funding that sustain school privatization campaigns but are often hidden from public view.
Public Education in Chains: The Road to Privatization of Our Nation's Schools (February 2022):
This PFPS webinar, co-hosted by the Network for Public Education (NPE), features Dr. Nancy MacLean, the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University, in conversation with Dr. Diane Ravitch, President of NPE. These two award-winning historians and authors discuss topics including the racist history of private school voucher programs, connections between various attacks on public education and threats to American democracy, and the importance of teaching truth in our nation’s schools.
Is Anti-Masking Anti Public Education? Exploiting the Pandemic to Privatize (October 2021):
This PFPS webinar looks at how resistance to COVID-19 safety measures for public schools has been leveraged to undermine public education. The discussion is moderated by pro-public education consultant Charles Siler and features advocates from states that have grappled with policies banning mask mandates in public schools: Adora Obi Nweze, President of the NAACP Florida State Conference; Beth Lewis, Executive Director of Save Our Schools Arizona; and Bacardi Jackson, Interim Deputy Legal Director for Children’s Rights at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Vouchers, Voter Suppression, and Other Vices: The Effort to Undermine Democracy and the Public Good (July 2021):
This PFPS webinar features three advocates who discuss the connections between private school vouchers, other forms of privatization of public goods, and broad efforts to undermine democratic institutions, including the central institution of voting. The advocates also offer insights into how to effectively oppose these efforts and how to strengthen and support public institutions.
State Advocacy to Fight Vouchers and Protect Public Schools (March 2021):
This PFPS webinar features advocates from Arkansas, Georgia, Arizona, and Florida working to fight private school vouchers and support public schools in their states. In a discussion led by Sujith Cherukumilli of the Southern Education Foundation, panelists discuss the work their organizations are doing to oppose voucher legislation introduced during their states’ 2021 legislative sessions, and more broadly, strategies for mobilizing and organizing against school privatization efforts at the state level.
Fighting Voucher Legislation in 2021: An Update on State Voucher Bills and Tools to Oppose Them (January 2021):
This PFPS webinar, co-hosted with the Network for Public Education, discusses significant private school voucher bills introduced early in 2021 in State Legislatures around the country, additional legislative action to watch for during 2021 legislative sessions, and tools and resources for advocates prepared by PFPS and other organizations.
A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School (December 2020):
This PFPS webinar features Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider, authors of A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School, in conversation with Carol Burris of the Network for Public Education. The book provides a penetrating analysis of the powerful forces promoting policies that threaten the foundation of American public education.
Beyond Espinoza: Challenging Vouchers in the Courts (December 2020):
This PFPS webinar focuses on next steps for public education advocates in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2020 decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which upheld Montana’s tax credit voucher program and ruled that religious schools must be allowed to participate. Panelists draw from their extensive experience participating in, analyzing, and advising on litigation efforts to halt and roll back private school voucher programs.
Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy (October 2020):
This PFPS webinar features Professor Derek Black in conversation with Education Law Center Executive Director David Sciarra about Professor Black’s latest book, Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy . Their discussion explores the history of the right to education, the role education plays in promoting democratic values, the expanding gaps in educational opportunity, and how vouchers and other school privatization measures pose a threat to public education.
Overturning Brown: The Segregationist Legacy of the Modern School Choice Movement (August 2020):
This PFPS webinar features Steve Suitts in a discussion about his must-read new book, Overturning Brown: The Segregationist Legacy of the Modern School Choice Movement , with Dr. Sybil Jordan Hampton, to whom Suitts dedicates the book in honor of her lifelong efforts to advance equality for school children.
Something to Lose: How School Voucher Programs Fail to Provide Civil Rights and Constitutional Protections (July 2020):
This PFPS webinar, featuring Professor Preston Green, focuses on the ways private school voucher programs fail to provide civil rights and constitutional protections to students. Professor Green also discusses protections for students participating in voucher programs.
Education Savings Account Vouchers Explained (June 2020):
This PFPS webinar, co-sponsored by the National Education Policy Center, features Professor Kevin Welner and Professor Luis Huerta. The webinar engages these experts in a discussion about how conventional vouchers evolved into education savings account (ESA) vouchers, their likely impacts on students and public schools, and proposals for ESA programs – such as “microgrant” vouchers funded with federal stimulus dollars – during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Public Education: The Cornerstone of Democracy (May 2020):
This PFPS webinar, featuring Professor Julie Mead, focuses on the role of public education in the U.S. as the cornerstone of democracy, and the ways that private school vouchers pose a growing threat to this institution. The webinar also explores the differences in legal protections in public schools and private school voucher programs, and how privatization opens the door to discrimination.
PFPS Interview Series
Michigan’s 482 Forward: Molly Sweeney, Owen Goslin, and Arlyssa Heard:
This interview highlights the efforts of dedicated public school advocates in Betsy DeVos’s home state of Michigan, which remains voucher-free despite powerful pro-privatization forces once again focusing their energies on establishing a voucher program in the Great Lakes State in 2022. The interviewees discuss strategies for organizers, how public education supporters can get involved in fighting privatization, and the importance of remaining optimistic and celebrating wins big and small.
South Carolina’s Richland County Public Education Partners: Robert Lominack and Debbie Billings:
This interview discusses the historical context and impact of voucher programs in South Carolina, and legislative proposals introduced during the 2022 legislative session. It also highlights the importance of building capacity and partnerships with other organizations, as well as opportunities for public education supporters and parents to get involved in the fight against vouchers.
Pastors for Texas Children: Reverend Charles Foster Johnson:
This interview discusses the legislative push for vouchers in Texas in 2021, and the role of Pastors for Texas Children and other public education supporters in keeping the state voucher-free. Reverend Johnson makes the case for forming strong coalitions and provides advice for advocates working in other states.
Webinars, Podcasts and Radio Interviews
National Disability Rights Network Webinar: Children with Disabilities in School Voucher Programs (August 2019):
This webinar, hosted by the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), offers an in-depth look at “special education vouchers” and the negative effects these private school vouchers have on the civil rights and educational opportunities of students with disabilities. The webinar also explores strategies for defending the rights of students with disabilities in the voucher context and for fighting the diversion of public resources to private schools.
Schott Webinar: Keeping Public Schools Public (October 2019):
This webinar, hosted by the Schott Foundation for Public Education, spotlights the PFPS campaign and its work. Speakers from PFPS provide detailed information on the history of private school vouchers, the evolving privatization landscape, and the strategies PFPS is using to halt and scale back voucher programs.
Talk Out of School Podcast (October 2019):
PFPS joins Carol Burris, NPE Executive Director, on her “Talk Out of School” radio program to discuss the various forms of private school vouchers, research examining the negative effects of vouchers, and recent proposals for new or expanded voucher programs on the state and federal levels. PFPS also provides an overview of the campaign’s work to combat vouchers and other diversions of public funds from public schools, examples of where these strategies have been successful, and ways program listeners can get involved.
Radio Interview, The New Orleans Imperative (May and July 2020):
PFPS attorneys from SPLC and ELC joined host Ray Sanders in May 2020 for a conversation about PFPS’s mission and current work. The interview also includes a discussion of public education in New Orleans and the impacts of expanded school privatization after Hurricane Katrina. PFPS attorneys from SPLC and Munger, Tolles & Olson joined the program again in July 2020 to discuss the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, regarding the inclusion of religious schools in publicly funded voucher programs.
Save Our Schools Arizona “Speaking of Schools” Series (June 2020):
PFPS joined Save Our Schools Arizona on Facebook Live for a discussion about voucher programs and proposals across the nation, and PFPS’s efforts to keep public funds in public schools. The conversation covered topics including voucher trends at the state and federal levels, voucher litigation in the U.S. Supreme Court, and successful strategies to defeat voucher legislation.
AASA Webinar: Post-Espinoza: How School Leaders Can Continue to Oppose Private School Vouchers (February 2021):
PFPS joined speakers from the School Superintendents Association (AASA) and Americans United for Separation of Church and State for a webinar on ways to effectively oppose private school voucher programs. The webinar reviews a toolkit recently released by the National Coalition for Public Education about the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 Espinoza decision, which held that Montana could not exclude religious schools from its private school voucher program, and ways to oppose the establishment or expansion of voucher programs going forward. The webinar also breaks down and refutes common arguments in favor of vouchers, and reviews the current landscape of voucher legislation and litigation as well as additional advocacy tools and resources.
Horace Mann League Podcast: Implications of Recent Supreme Court Decisions on Public Education (August 2022):
PFPS Director Jessica Levin joins University of South Carolina School of Law Professor Derek Black on a Horace Mann League podcast to discuss the implications of the U.S Supreme Court’s recent decisions on religion and schools. The speakers discuss the dangers of diverting scarce public resources to private and religious schools, which lack accountability and often discriminate against students and families. They also explain that public school advocates must help shape the narrative surrounding Court decisions, and states must reaffirm their commitment to supporting public schools that welcome and serve all students.
Past Successful Advocacy Campaigns
In Arizona, a grassroots group of public school supporters, Save Our Schools Arizona, challenged the state's universal private school voucher scheme by collecting well over 100,000 signatures to put the new expanded voucher on the ballot. Proposition 305, as the ballot measure was known, was defeated handily in November 2018, successfully blocking a massive expansion of the state's voucher program. PFPS supported Save Our Schools Arizona's efforts.
In New Jersey, between 2010 and 2017, former Governor Chris Christie proposed the establishment of a publicly funded "scholarship" voucher program through legislation and, when that failed, through the State Budget. Education Law Center led a broad coalition of education, children's rights and civil rights advocates and organizations to defeat these proposals.
In Nevada, Educate Nevada Now (ENN), a nonpartisan education policy organization, with the support of Education Law Center and Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, fought that state's unlimited Education Savings Account voucher program. ENN supported successful litigation against the program, through outreach to the public and press, town meetings and rallies.
In New York, the Alliance for Quality Education, a statewide advocacy organization, working with Education Law Center and others, defeated a tax credit voucher proposal in the state legislature, which would have reimbursed millionaires and billionaires for their donations to private schools.
Between 1966 and 2018, voters have defeated 30 state referenda that would have diverted public funds to private schools. In fact, these referenda, on average, were defeated by a 2 to 1 margin. Grassroots advocacy works!