Advancing Public Education

Goal: Build a constituency for high-quality public schools in the South.                                                                                                                           

The Challenge:

Public education for all children has long been a cornerstone of democracy in the United States, and the American South has been at the center of the battle to achieve this goal.  Today, we see disinvestment in our public schools and increasing efforts to divert funds to private schools and charter schools as a hindrance from achieving equity in education for all.  We work to push back on these efforts and advance well-funded, safe, supportive, and diverse public schools that are held to meaningful and fair standards.

SEF has for decades conducted research, policy analysis and brought leadership together to determine more equitable policies and practices that ensure a more accessible, higher quality public education system that serves all students.

Our Strategy:

  • Informing and supporting public education campaigns across the South, to help engage, connect, and align diverse coalitions within and across states to employ multi-strategy approaches to advance public education;
  • Regionalizing efforts through policy research and communications efforts, to help marshal evidence about what works in the region and strengthen the public education narrative; and
  • Advancing new designs for teaching and learning, so as to create environments where defensive battles can become offensive ones that shift from simply protecting public education to re-envisioning public education systems that support all children.

Areas of Focus:

Advancing Public Education Regional Network  Through this regional network, SEF provides research, strategies, and other resources to advocates for public education.  With limited resources in the advocacy and social justice communities of the South, SEF works to better align and leverage the existing capacities of the field, through messaging and communications support, place-based initiatives, networking and information sharing, and more.

School Climate and Juvenile Justice  High rates of suspensions and push-out—a significant challenge for Southern schools—negatively impact academic performance for at-risk students.  SEF is building awareness of this challenge regionally, and supporting state-level coalitions and education leaders to identify solutions to create change.  

Privatization of Education  SEF has closely monitored this growing trend across the nation, but particularly in Southern states, to divert public dollars to private schools.  SEF has reviewed privatization policies enacted across the region, including vouchers and tax credit scholarships, for their impact on equity, education, and access for low income students and students of color.  SEF believes that economic and social progress in the region are inextricably linked to halting the disinvestment in public education and improving the quality of learning opportunities for this new diverse majority of students.  

Resources and Tools:


Racial Equity Report Cards. | Youth Justice Project. (2016). 
Community Schools: Transforming Struggling Schools into Thriving Schools. | Center for Popular Democracy, Southern Education Foundation and the Coalition for Community Schools. (2016).
Investing in What Works: Community-driven Strategies for Strong Public Schools. | The Annenberg Institute for School Reform and the Southern Education Foundation. (2015).
Foundations Respond to the Insufficient Funding of Mississippi's Schools. | Southern Education Foundation and the Schott Foundation for Public Education. (2015).
Vouchers and Tax Credit Scholarships in the US video. | Southern Education Foundation. (2015).
A New Majority Research Bulletin: Low Income Students Now a Majority in the Nation's Public Schools. | Southern Education Foundation. (2015).
Black Lives Matter: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males. Schott Foundation for Public Education. (2015).
Public Accountability for Charter Schools: Standards and Policy Recommendations for Effective Oversight. | Annenberg Institute for School Reform. (2014).        
Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card. Education Law Center. (2014).              
For Each and Every Child. | Equity and Excellence Commission. (2013).
A New Majority Update. | Southern Education Foundation. (2013).
Advancing Public Education in the South video. | Southern Education Foundation. (2013).
How to Calculate the Costs or Savings of Tax Credit Voucher Policies. | National Education Policy Center. (2011).
A Failed Experiment: Georgia's Tax Credit Scholarships for Private Schools. | Southern Education Foundation. (2011).




Learn More from the Field:

Advancement Project: End the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Project
Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools                          
Annenberg Institute for School Reform                                                                   
Center for Popular Democracy                                                                                                          
Council of State Governments Justice Center                                                                                       
Dignity in Schools Campaign                                                                                                             
National Juvenile Justice Network                                                                                                         
Schott Foundation for Public Education                                                                                                 
UCLA Civil Rights Project

Join Our Mailing List
Sign Up Now