Local Progress Policy Institute



Washington, DC

Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:



Left-of-Center Advocacy Group



Executive Director:

Sarah Johnson

Budget (2021):

Revenue: $2,765,101
Expenses: $10,088
Assets: $2,755,013 1


  1. Local Progress Policy Institute. Return of an Organization Exempt From Income Tax (Form 990). 2021.

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Local Progress Policy Institute trains and encourages local elected officials to advance left-of-center policies in their official roles. It is funded by labor unions and major left-of-center foundations such as the Ford Foundation, Arnold Ventures, and William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and includes mayors, district attorneys, county commissioners, city councilmembers, and school board officials among its members. 1

History, Leadership and Organization

Local Progress Policy Institute was founded in 2012 as a project of the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), a left-of-center organization focused on voter mobilization and policy development. In 2021, Local Progress began to be spun off from CPD as two organizations: an advocacy organization, Local Progress Policy Action; and a charitable-educational arm, Local Progress Policy Institute. 2

Former executive director Sarah Johnson was formerly the managing director of the Working Families Organization, which is the lobbying arm of the far-left, union-funded Working Families Party political party. Executive director Ivan Luevanos-Elms is the former director of the Community Engagement Division of the New York City Council. Like his predecessor, he also worked previously for the Working Families Party. 3

Local Progress currently has state chapters in Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, and Texas, and as of 2023 it was developing a chapter in Florida. 4 Its board includes municipal elected officials from North Carolina, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Colorado, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Michigan. 5 The board also includes representatives of the Communications Workers of America and Service Employees International Union, as well as the former director of the Ford Foundation’s Cities and States Program.

Local Progress intentionally organizes “identity caucuses” within itself, and as of 2023 offers participants a Black Caucus and Women’s Caucus. The Women’s Caucus “is open to both current and former LP members who identity as a woman, who identify as a combination of genders, or who do not subscribe a gender binary and feel that this space could serve them.” 6

Programs and Policies

Progressive Governance Academy

Local Progress Policy Institute, State Innovation Exchange, and Re:Power (formerly Wellstone Action) operate the Progressive Governance Academy, which is a training program that encourages and prepares local elected officials to advance left-wing political and social causes in their official roles. 7 These policies include rent control and a “right to lease renewal” for tenants, as well as more traditional union-backed priorities such as regulation and unionization of “gig economy” jobs. 8 9

School Board Activism

The Progressive Governance Academy includes training designed for school board members that was developed in partnership with the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers teachers’ unions. The academy is strongly influenced by teacher unions’ preferred policies, such as advocating for local school boards to be given oversight of public charter schools. 10

Promotion of Critical Race Theory in Public Schools

In a 2021 case study, Local Progress applauded the Culver City (California) Unified School District’s efforts to “embed equity into the student experience” through imposition of an ethnic studies graduation requirement that was expressly grounded in critical race theory (CRT). The case study makes the connection to CRT expressly clear: “One of the most important goals outlined in the Equity Plan is to make ethnic studies a central focus of their curriculum. Ethnic Studies as a course comes directly from the rich history of activism that emphasized the importance of intersectionality and Critical Race Theory throughout the state of California.” 11

The case study noted that at the time, the school district had no funding to implement its Equity Plan. “However, Culver City’s BIPOC students are advocating to reallocate funding from the municipal police department budget to fund both a coordinator and plan implementation.” 12

The case study also dismissed some parents’ opposition to the Equity Plan as “reactionary voices that seek to maintain the status quo by demanding a ‘neutral’ approach to history,” adding, “Our education system was originally designed to uphold white supremacy, and the district is committed to addressing that reality and to reversing the historical role of schools in upholding systems of oppression.” 13


As a project of Center for Popular Democracy, Local Progress Policy Institute received notable amounts of funding from unions and left-of-center foundations. Since 2019, its most notable supporter has been the Ford Foundation, which announced $5,479,546 in grants to Local Progress between 2019 and 2023. 14

Other funders include the AFL-CIO, 15 Communications Workers of America, 16 William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, 17 Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, 18 Arnold Ventures, 19 and McKnight Foundation. 20


  1. “About Us.” Local Progress. Accessed August 8, 2023.
  2. “Strategic Framework 2022.” Local Progress. 2022.
  3. “About Us.” Local Progress. Accessed August 8, 2023.
  4. “State Organizing.” Local Progress. Accessed August 8, 2023.
  5. “About Us.” Local Progress. Accessed August 8, 2023.
  6. “Caucuses.” Local Progress. Accessed August 8, 2023.
  7. [1] “Progressive Governance Academy.” Local Progress. Accessed August 8, 2023.
  8. “Local Elected Leaders Urge Federal Government to Protect Tenants.” Local Progress, July 31, 2023.
  9. Zhou, Naaman. “‘Suit up for the Backlash!’: The Battle to Regulate New York’s Gig Economy.” The Guardian, July 13, 2023.
  10. “Strengthening Our Public Schools.” Local Progress. January 2019.
  11. “Embedding Equity into the Student Experience in Culver City Public Schools, CA.” Local Progress. January 19, 2021,
  12.  “Embedding Equity into the Student Experience in Culver City Public Schools, CA.” Local Progress. January 19, 2021,
  13. “Embedding Equity into the Student Experience in Culver City Public Schools, CA.” Local Progress. January 19, 2021,
  14. Author’s calculation from search of publicly available Ford Foundation grant reports at
  15. “FORM LM-2 LABOR ORGANIZATION ANNUAL REPORT.” U.S. Department of Labor. September 28, 2022.
  16. “RECEIPTS FOR: LOCAL PROGRESS POLICY INSTITUTE.” Union Facts. Accessed August 8, 2023.
  17. “Local Progress Policy Institute – for General Operating Support.” Hewlett Foundation. January 27, 2022.
  18. [1] “Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation Grants Awarded Fall 2021 State-Level Systemic Change Strategy.” Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. 2021.
  19. “Local Progress Policy Institute.” Arnold Ventures. Accessed August 8, 2023.
  20. Westbrock, Gretchen. “McKnight Strengthens Democratic Participation in First-Quarter Grantmaking.” McKnight Foundation. November 21, 2022.
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: November 1, 2021

  • Available Filings

    No filings available.

    Local Progress Policy Institute

    1730 M ST NW STE 1115
    Washington, DC 20036-4579