The Death of Public School

How Conservatives Won the War Over Education in America


By Cara Fitzpatrick

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around September 12, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist shows how conservatives have pushed for a revolution in public education—one that threatens the existence of the traditional public school 

America has relied on public schools for 150 years, but the system is increasingly under attack. With declining enrollment and diminished trust in public education, policies that steer tax dollars into private schools have grown rapidly. To understand how we got here, The Death of Public School argues, we must look back at the turbulent history of school choice.     
Cara Fitzpatrick uncovers the long journey of school choice, a story full of fascinating people and strange political alliances. She shows how school choice evolved from a segregationist tool in the South in the 1950s, to a policy embraced by advocates for educational equity in the North, to a conservative strategy for securing government funds for private schools in the twenty-first century. As a result, education is poised to become a private commodity rather than a universal good.   

The Death of Public School presents the compelling history of the fiercest battle in the history of American education—one that already has changed the future of public schooling.  

  • "Opens with a superb survey of the political, cultural, legal and natural forces undermining public trust in our nation’s schools... The book is a timely history of a movement that could reshape American education and set off explosive policy debates for many years."
    New York Times
  • Best Summer Book of 2023
    Financial Times
  • "An extraordinary achievement...thoroughly researched."
  • "The Death of Public School manages to provide grounding context to the labyrinthine journey of the school-choice movement, profiling both the well-known figures and the less familiar activists, lawyers, educators, and parents on both sides who have shaped this war. In Fitzpatrick’s capable hands, a sequel would certainly be much appreciated."
  • "Meticulously drawn from years of archival research, this is a lucid and thorough study of a hot-button issue."
    Publishers Weekly
  • "A cohesive study of America’s path to increasingly politicized—and privatized—education."
  • "A great addition to education and behavioral sciences collections." 
    Library Journal
  • "Cara Fitzpatrick has written a remarkable book on the decades long battle over school choice. Deeply researched and beautifully written, this is a story of the calculating lawmakers and surprising political alliances who have redefined public education with profound implications for families, communities, and the nation.  This is a must-read book for anyone who cares about the future of education in America."
    Matthew F. Delmont, Dartmouth College and author of Half American: The Epic Story of African Americans Fighting World War II at Home and Abroad
  • "The Death of Public School is history at its best, unfurling a remarkable, troubling tale. In chilling detail, Cara Fitzpatrick lays out how in plain sight the conservatives have worked to dismantle public education. In this recounting, Fitzpatrick has issued a clarion call, to renew our public commitment to providing an equitable and rigorous schooling for all."
    Alex Kotlowitz, author of An American Summer
  • "Cara Fitzpatrick has produced a crucial political history of the movement that, often quietly, has threatened the public nature of America's education system. The Death of Public School is timely, carefully researched, and critically important."
    Dana Goldstein, author of The Teacher Wars: A History of America's Most Embattled Profession

On Sale
Sep 12, 2023
Page Count
384 pages
Basic Books

Cara Fitzpatrick

About the Author

Cara Fitzpatrick is an editor at Chalkbeat. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting in 2016 for a series about school segregation. She was a New Arizona fellow in 2019 at New America and a Spencer fellow at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 2018. Fitzpatrick lives in New York City with her husband and children.

Learn more about this author