About CEP

What We Do and Who We Are

Center on Education Policy Newsletter

Manage subscription

About CEP

Mission and Role

The Center on Education Policy is a national, independent source for research and information about public education. The Center helps Americans better understand the role of public education in a democracy and the need to improve the academic quality of public schools. We do not represent any special interests. Instead, we try to help citizens make sense of the conflicting opinions and perceptions about public education and create the conditions that will lead to better public schools.

In working to promote public education, the Center acts as a unique communicator with educators and the general public on the most serious issues in education; as a catalyst to improve the academic quality of public education through working with states, school districts, and others; and as a convener of people with differing points of view about public education to foster a reasoned debate on the schools.

Based in Washington, D.C., and founded in January 1995, the Center has received nearly all of its funding from charitable foundations such as The George Gund Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, The Carnegie Corporation, The Hewlett Foundation, The Gates Foundation, The Ford Foundation, The Spencer Foundation, The William T. Grant Foundation, The MacArthur Foundation, The Ellis Foundation, and Phi Delta Kappa International. In February 2012, CEP became a center within the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development.


CEP’s vision is that (1) every child has access to high-quality public education in a safe supportive environment, (2) and public school systems are empowered and supported by the public they serve and the policymakers that govern their actions.


A single core belief is at the heart of all of CEP’s work: a strong system of public education is an essential ingredient for the health and vitality of our democracy. In fact, CEP’s research has found that the rationale for public schools today is every bit as relevant as it was 200 years ago when public education was first debated. That public education is still fundamental to…

  • Prepare people to become responsible citizens – better educated people have higher voting rates;
  • Improve social conditions – better education is correlated with the reduction in crime;
  • Promote cultural unity – education remains a strong factor in the acculturation of children;
  • Help people become economically self-sufficient – better education is correlated with higher earnings;
  • Enhance individual happiness and enrich individual lives – better education leads to better life circumstances;
  • Dispel inequities in education – while disparities and inequities still exist, universal access to education is still a fact; and
  • Ensure a basic level of quality among schools – standards remain a fact and the subject of much attention and debate.

CEP's Theory of Change

Everything CEP does rests on the bedrock principle that equitable access to high-quality public education is a right and a necessity for a well-functioning democracy. Our public schools play a vital role in educating youth on how to be good citizens. And our public-school systems provide an essential forum for civic engagement from parents, civic groups, community leaders and others. In short, our system of public schools is essential infrastructure for our system of democracy.

Since public funding, supportive public policies, and other resources are essential ingredients to ensure the health of our public schools; policymakers play a critical role in all aspects of public education. Their decisions can spell success or failure. So, it’s essential that policymakers understand the role and value of public education in a civil society. Local control is the hallmark of public education systems in the U.S. so parents and community leaders have an important role to play. Local stakeholders can demonstrate their commitment to public education by demanding that policymakers give school systems the support and funding required to deliver high-quality education.

In addition to being worthy recipients of support, public schools must be challenged to excel and to use their resources well. Thus, at the center of CEP’s theory of change is a public policy environment that both supports public education as a key force for producing educated, engaged citizens, while simultaneously challenging school systems to sustain high levels of academic quality and performance. And a policy environment that sustains universal access to public education.

Theory of Change

History of CEP

The Evolution of the Center on Education Policy: From An Idea To A Major Influence by free lance writer Anne Lewis describes the beginning and the development of the Center on Education Policy from 1995 to 2012.

Awards Given To and Articles About CEP

The Center on Education Policy was named one of the 10 most influential education organizations in the country in 2010 and was the subject of an article in an AARP publication. In addition, CEP's former president, Jack Jennings, received one of the top awards of the American Education Research Association.