Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

America's Voucher Politics
How Elites Learned to Hide the State


Award Winner
  • Date Published: May 2020
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108491419

£ 75.00

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Paperback, eBook

Looking for an inspection copy?

This title is not currently available on inspection

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • What explains the explosive growth of school vouchers in the last two decades? In America's Voucher Politics, Ursula Hackett shows that the voucher movement is rooted in America's foundational struggles over religion, race, and the role of government versus the private sector. Drawing upon original datasets, archival materials, and more than one hundred interviews, Hackett shows that policymakers and political advocates use strategic policy design and rhetoric to hide the role of the state when their policy goals become legally controversial. For over sixty years of voucher litigation, white supremacists, accommodationists, and individualists have deployed this strategy of attenuated governance in court. By learning from previous mistakes and anticipating downstream effects, policymakers can avoid painful defeats, gain a secure legal footing, and entrench their policy commitments despite the surging power of rivals. An ideal case study, education policy reflects multiple axes of conflict in American politics and demonstrates how policy learning unfolds over time.

    • Articulates a new theoretical framework, deepening our understanding of the 'submerged state' by showing how deep-seated religious, racial, and civic controversies structure American politics
    • Provides the most extensive analysis of voucher politics to date, including 101 interviews with policymakers across the United States
    • Integrates analyses of public law and public policy
    Read more


    • Winner, 2021 Education Politics & Policy Best Book Award, American Political Science Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    'This theoretically rich, empirically compelling analysis shows how conservatives have used devilishly clever, evolving policy designs and obfuscating rhetorical strategies to achieve their goal of limiting the role of government and breaking unions. A seminal contribution to American political development, public policy, public law, and education policy which I read with awe.' Andrea Louise Campbell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    'America's Voucher Politics answers one of the most interesting policy puzzles of our time: how did school vouchers go from the fringes to the mainstream? As important as that question is, however, this book is about more than education policy. In telling the tale of school vouchers, Hackett illuminates policy-making more broadly, by shining a light on the many ways that policymakers make it hard for voters to see what government is doing. And, she does it effectively, as the book is a case study in how to write about public policy. The argument is compelling, the evidence convincing, and the prose engaging.' David Campbell, University of Notre Dame

    'Hackett's brilliant and timely analysis transforms the way we understand state policy and politics. Weaving together racial, religious, and civic foundational orders in US history, policy design, legal cases, and political rhetoric, the book reveals the complex, long-term strategies that political elites use to obfuscate public policy goals when they face public opposition or potential legal challenge. The result is a set of state policies that are not merely hidden, but constitute a form of doubly distanced attenuated governance. It is hard to imagine that state politics and policy research will ever be the same.' Lisa L. Miller, Rutgers University

    '… Hackett's book provides a roadmap for how to structure and carry out this type of work and encourages those of us who study the hidden welfare state to think more deeply about what it means that the state is hidden and why.' Chloe N. Thurston, American Politics

    'For readers well informed about the history of voucher politics in US education, this volume will add additional layers of analysis and understanding. Those new to the debate will find this book offers a meaningful, in-depth overview along with well-reasoned arguments about how and why the present situation has come to be and ways to adjust the system … Highly recommended.' W. Miller, Choice

    '… America's Voucher Politics: How Elites Learned to Hide the State is an extraordinary study offering research based and insightful analysis of the history and contemporary employment of school vouchers and their selective education purposes, as well as their political implications. While highly recommended as a unique and critically important contribution to our on-going national discussion of school vouchers, [this book] is a highly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Educational Issues & Political Science collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of governmental policy makers, academia, and education activists.' The Midwest Book Review

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2020
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108491419
    • length: 304 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 158 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.55kg
    • contains: 30 b/w illus. 17 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction. Subtle forms of circumvention
    1. America's foundational identity struggles
    2. Two dimensions of attenuated governance
    3. The racial struggle: segregation grants in the Brown era
    4. The religious struggle: vouchers and the church-state question
    5. The public-private struggle: union opposition and the educational establishment
    6. Tax credit scholarships in an era of Republican dominance
    7. Education savings accounts and controversies beyond
    Conclusion. Attenuated governance and the state.

  • Author

    Ursula Hackett, Royal Holloway, University of London
    Ursula Hackett is Senior Lecturer in Politics at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her Oxford doctorate won the Political Studies Association's Sir Walter Bagehot Prize in Government and Public Administration. She researches religion, race, public policy, and American Political Development, and speaks on American politics regularly at Chatham House and the UK Foreign Office.


    • Winner, 2021 Education Politics & Policy Best Book Award, American Political Science Association

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×
warning icon

Turn stock notifications on?

You must be signed in to your Cambridge account to turn product stock notifications on or off.

Sign in Create a Cambridge account arrow icon

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.