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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:


September 24, 2015
Hechinger Report: For 50 years, American K-12 Catholic education had been in a quiet retreat. Thousands of schools were shuttered. Enrollment...
September 22, 2015
National Review: For 50 years, inner-city Catholic schools have been shuttering, victims of shifting city demographics, changes in the workforce, the...
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...
October 25, 2013
Bellwether’s Andy Smarick was recently interviewed for the Teach for America weekly podcast “Blank Show Radio” about his book “The Urban School...

Blog Posts

December 3, 2015
Kelly Robson
Private school management organizations (PSMOs) can learn a lot from the challenges and successes of charter school management...
December 2, 2015
Kelly Robson
Charter management organizations (CMOs) have driven much of the growth in quality charter school options in the public sector. An emerging...
September 25, 2015
Kelly Robson
This afternoon Pope Francis will be visiting a Catholic elementary school in Harlem. As I wrote on Tuesday, the particular choice of school...