Keeping Track of Advocacy Groups in Education

Published February 1, 2003

Since K-12 education is not only one of the most important sectors in the U.S. economy, but also the second largest after health care–and growing at twice the rate of inflation–it’s not surprising the industry attracts a large number of political advocacy groups with educational interests ranging from pedagogy and curriculum to vouchers and class size. In fact, according to the Capital Research Center (CRC), there are more than 200 such groups active in the reform debate.

To keep track of those advocacy groups, CRC has established an online information resource called, which identifies the nonprofit policy and advocacy groups involved in the debate over public education reform, describes their activities, and locates their sources of funding. At the heart of this resource is a searchable online database where users can identify the people, ideas, and money being deployed to affect education policy.

EducationWatch also provides reports and analysis of education groups in the news. For example, in October 2002, CRC published a report on People for the American Way (PFAW), a well-financed group at the forefront of efforts to thwart education reforms that would give children and parents more choice in schooling. Promoting a policy agenda “that almost always coincides with Democratic Party interests,” PFAW is “one of the most radical political organizations of the Left,” according to report author Patrick J. Reilly.

“PFAW’s tax-exempt and ‘non-partisan’ educational foundation also supports Democratic candidates by registering and motivating voters drawn from traditional Democratic constituencies,” noted Reilly. For example, PFAW’s African American Ministers Leadership Council targets black churches to “get all the souls to the polls.”

In apparent contrast, another anti-voucher advocacy group vigorously attacks church involvement in political activities, according to a December 2002 CRC report by Morgan Bergman on Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. However, these attacks have not been on the political activities of churches in traditional Democratic constituencies, but instead have focused on constituencies with conservative views, including the so-called “Religious Right.”

EducationWatch is one of several “watchdog” projects of the Capital Research Center. Founded in 1984, CRC is a Washington, DC-based think tank that conducts research on charity, philanthropy, and the nonprofit sector. In particular, CRC focuses on nonprofit political advocacy organizations that seek influence over public policy. CRC publications alert donors, policymakers, and the news media about the leadership, activities, and funding of these organizations.

George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News.

For more information …

Visit EducationWatch at

Patrick J. Reilly’s October 2002 report for the Capital Research Center, “People for the American Way: The Campaign to Control America’s Vote,” is available from CRC’s Web site at

Morgan Bergman’s December 2002 report, “Americans United for Separation of Church and State: Barry Lynn Spearheads Campaign to Defeat School Choice,” is available from CRC’s Web site at