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Private Schools

By Elizabeth Cryan Photography with permission from Donnell-Kay Foundation at Rocky Mountain Prep school

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In many communities — particularly urban areas — private and religious schools have historically played an important role in delivering quality education to poor and working-class children. Changes in enrollment, demographics, human capital, and other education policies have created new opportunities and challenges for private schools, however.

Bellwether has substantial experience with the private school sector, particularly inner-city schools serving low-income students. Our work seeks to build the knowledge base on private schools, support the sector in responding to an evolving landscape, and develop policy and practice solutions to help underserved children access high-quality private schools. We conduct research and analysis to understand the types of private school choice policies that exist; the policy, governance, and other conditions that foster the preservation and growth of high-quality private schools; and the impact of these programs on students and schools. Our work in this area includes research and support related to financial sustainability, public scholarship and tax credit programs, school networks, human capital, and school performance. We also advise school leaders transitioning from private schools to public charter schools and help philanthropists chart a course in giving to the private school sector.

The content below reflects our work on this issue:


May 22, 2019
Kelly Robson, Jennifer O’Neal Schiess, Justin Trinidad
Any movement serious about improving outcomes for underserved young people must include the South. It is the fastest-growing region in the country...
December 22, 2015
Juliet Squire, Andy Smarick, Kelly Robson
Download the full report, foreword and executive summary. Recently, private school leaders have taken notice of some of the propelling forces behind...
October 1, 2015
Andy Smarick, Kelly Robson
  Over the last generation, Catholic schools have been buffeted by a confluence of winds: changing demographics in the urban...
February 4, 2014
By Andy Smarick
The nation’s first private school voucher program and first charter school law came into being at virtually the same time. But chartering took off...


December 27, 2017
Why the new tax break for private schools is such bad policy.
March 29, 2016
Over the last 50 years, thousands of Catholic schools have closed, most in low-income urban neighborhoods. Many of the remaining schools struggle...
September 24, 2015
For 50 years, American K-12 Catholic education had been in a quiet retreat. Thousands of schools were shuttered. Enrollment plummeted by millions....

Blog Posts

October 22, 2020
Juliet Squire
This is our latest post in “The Looming Financial Crisis?” series. Read the rest here. In August, I wrote for Education Next about how the...
July 2, 2020
Alex Spurrier
The majority opinion in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue from Chief Justice Roberts could not be more clear: “A State need not...
October 8, 2019
Juliet Squire
Universal vouchers, which provide government funding to families to offset the cost of private school tuition, are generally favored by...