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National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education

In the 1998-99 academic year, Henry M. Levin, a nationally known expert on economics and education, joined the Teachers College faculty. Levin has spent much of his career studying the impact, equity, and efficacy of vouchers and other movements towards privatizing education. Through his research and his consulting with education, government, and business leaders, what became obvious to Levin was the lack of reliable sources of information for informing the rising public debate on vouchers, contracting of services, for-profit institutions in higher education, and a variety of forms of educational privatization. He was also concerned that evidence supporting claims of both advocates and detractors of privatization is fragmentary or non-existent, and there is no disinterested authority available to test and verify their claims. The result is that policy-makers, school leaders, the press, and society as a whole do not have reliable information on which to draw accurate inferences.

In response to this concern, Levin established the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at the College in 1999. The goal of the Center is to provide a neutral and respected voice that can sort out the issues and evidence on the many issues surrounding privatization in education. The Center will undertake research to determine the impact of different forms of privatization on education. It will seek to answer the question, what works best for schools and children. The Center will also work directly with schools and districts to evaluate reform efforts. Results of the Center's research and evaluation will be disseminated to education practitioners and to the general public through an extensive Web site, active involvement with the media, publications, and conferences.

In April 1999, the Center held its inaugural event-a national conference focusing on issues surrounding the movement towards privatization in education. Over 150 advocates and opponents of privatization and a mix of educational representatives from both public and private schools, teachers organizations, investment firms, foundations, civil rights groups, and educational associations attended the conference. Arthur Levine says "giving everyone-from education researchers to teachers to the public-a place to convene to think about the issue of privatization and school choice will help us all make informed decisions that will lead to improving education."

The Center has received grants from the Achelis and Bodman Foundations, the Ford Foundation, and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

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