A new breed of education advocacy organization has emerged in the U.S. in recent years, and these groups have become “an increasingly important force in state politics,” according to this Wallace-commissioned report. Two features distinguish these new education advocacy organizations from their older counterparts, the report finds: They do not have large membership rolls drawn from the ranks of people who work for or are elected to serve in school districts, and they tend to be supported in large part by foundation grants and donations from individuals rather than membership dues.
Based in part on an examination of 62 such advocacy organizations throughout the U.S., the report looks at the approaches they use, analyzes their results and lays out elements foundations should consider as they decide whether to fund them. It also offers an illustrative case study of Advance Illinois, an education advocacy organization that began work with Wallace Foundation support in 2008. It outlines the Advance Illinois strategies that have made the biggest contributions to policy and public discourse and the ones that have attracted the greatest criticism.
The authors offer a number of suggestions for the new education advocacy organizations and the foundations that support them. Among them are that advocacy organizations attend to both policy development and policy implementation, and that foundations carefully consider how they measure the performance of the advocacy groups.
A commentary from the executive director of Advance Illinois reflects on the findings.