The National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education was founded by Henry M. Levin in 2000 as a hub for nonpartisan information and analysis. At the time, privatization of education was on the rise and at the heart of policy debate. Privatization came in the form of vouchers, tuition tax credits, charter schools, and for-profit management of both charter schools and conventional district schools. To provide solid grounding for policy debate, NCSPE began conducting research, holding conferences, and posting working papers.
While the terms of debate have since changed, the need for objective information and dispassionate analysis continues. As of 2021, NCSPE has posted 243 working papers, many of which went on to publication in academic journals. The center also publishes news commentaries and book excerpts. In addition, NCSPE has generated five books: Privatizing Education (Westview Press, 2001), edited by Henry M. Levin; School Choice and Diversity (Teachers College Press, 2005), edited by Janelle T. Scott; Privatizing Educational Choice (Routledge, 2005), by Clive R. Belfield and Henry M. Levin; Between Public and Private (Harvard Education Press, 2010), edited by Katrina E. Bulkley, Jeffrey R. Henig, and Henry M. Levin; and Education and the Commercial Mindset (Harvard University Press, 2016), by Samuel E. Abrams.