Sarah Reckhow

Associate Professor of Political Science, Michigan State University
Chapter Leader: Michigan SSN

About Sarah

Reckhow’s research examines education policy and social welfare policy, particularly in urban areas. Her work on urban schools has focused on policy reforms in New York City, Los Angeles, and Oakland. She is an expert on the rising influence of major foundations, such as the Gates Foundation, on education policy and politics. She has also analyzed philanthropic support for metropolitan social safety nets in Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, and Denver. This research was published in a report from the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. Reckhow is affiliated with the Global Urban Studies Program at Michigan State, the Education Policy Center at Michigan State, and the MacArthur Foundation’s Building Resilient Regions research network.


Can Philanthropists Engineer Effective School Reforms?

No Jargon Podcast

In the News

Research discussed by Casey Parks, in "The Rise of Black Homeschooling," The New Yorker, June 14, 2021.
Opinion: "Why are Teachers Protesting in ‘Blue’ Cities?," Sarah Reckhow (with Rebecca Jacobsen and Jeffrey R. Henig), The Washington Post, March 8, 2019.
Research discussed by Zoe Sullivan, in "The Battle for New Orleans Public Schools," Next City, January 24, 2019.
Opinion: "Detroit and Flint Keep Relying on Private Money to Solve Public Problems. Why?," Sarah Reckhow (with Davia Cox Downey), The Washington Post, November 27, 2018.
Research discussed by Isabel Fattal, in "A Heavy Blow to One of America's Most Controversial School Boards," The Atlantic, November 17, 2017.
Guest on Public News Service, February 8, 2017.
Quoted by Noam Scheiber in "Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Education Pick, Plays Hardball with Her Wealth," New York Times, January 9, 2017.
Research discussed by Andy Henion, in "Big Donors Fund Some School Board Elections," Futurity, September 8, 2016.
Research discussed by "National Education Reformers Target Local School Boards," Michigan State University Today, September 7, 2016.
Opinion: "Learn from the Costly Mistakes of Failed EAA," Sarah Reckhow, Detroit Free Press, March 19, 2016.
Quoted by Lauren FitzPatrick in "Arne Duncan’s New Job: Creating Jobs, Stopping Violence," Chicago Sun Times, March 17, 2016.
Quoted by Nicole Geary and Andy Henion in "MSU Education Scholars Named Top Influencers," MSU Today, January 6, 2016.
Quoted by Sherman Dorn and Amanda U. Potterton in "Arne Duncan’s Legacy: Growing Influence of a Network of Private Actors on Public Education," The Conversation, October 8, 2015.
Guest on Michigan Radio, February 10, 2015.
Quoted by Rebecca Klein in "Study Finds Pro-Charter School Arguments are More Convincing," Huffington Post, January 27, 2015.
Guest on American Radio Works, January 5, 2015.
Guest on MPR News, June 14, 2011.


"Brief of Amici Curiae Michigan Education Law and Policy Professors in Opposition to Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, Gary B. v. Snyder, 2:16-cv-13292," (with Kristi Bowman and David Arsen), United States District Court Eastern District of Michigan Southern Division, January 13, 2017.

Supports law case demanding that State of Michigan ensure that Detroit students receive evidence-based literacy instruction at the elementary and secondary level.

"Building a Stronger Regional Safety Net: Philanthropy’s Role," (with Margaret Weir), The Brookings Institution, Metropolitan Opportunity Series, 2011.
Shows how philanthropy affects the scope of social safety net services in four metropolitan areas—Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, and Detroit.
"Policy Cues and Ideology in Attitudes toward Charter Schools" (with Matt Grossmann and Benjamin C. Evans). Policy Studies Journal 46, no. 2 (2015).
Investigates whether and how public attitudes reflect interest group polarization or politician consensus surrounding the charter school debate. Argues that charter school opinions diverge along ideological lines among high-information respondents and assesses whether the role of private companies and nonunion teachers changes support for charter schools.
"Follow the Money: How Foundation Dollars Change Public School Politics" (Oxford University Press, 2013).
Shows where and how foundation investment in education is occurring and analyzes of the political effects of these investments in the two largest urban districts in the United States: New York City and Los Angeles.
"Disseminating and Legitimating a New Approach: The Role of Foundations" in Between Public and Private: Politics, Governance, and the New Portfolio Models for Urban School Reform, edited by Katrina E. Bulkley, Jeffrey R. Henig, and Henry M. Levin (Harvard Education Press, 2011), 277-304.
Shows the expansion of education reform nonprofits supported by major national foundations, and demonstrates how this national network of nonprofits links organizations engaged in market-oriented reform across different cities.
"How to Reform a Reform Coalition: Outreach, Agenda Expansion, and Brokerage in Urban School Reform" (with Chris Ansell and Andrew Kelly). Policy Studies Journal 37, no. 4 (2009): 717-743.
Maps the education reform coalition in Oakland and examines the political impact of foundation-funded small schools reform.
"The Distinct Patterns of Organized and Elected Representation of Racial and Ethnic Groups" Urban Affairs Review 45, no. 2 (2009): 188-217.
Uses an original data set of organizations in 30 U.S. cities to evaluate the extent of racial and ethnic organizational representation, as well as the effect of organized representation on elected representation of racial and ethnic groups.