In the last decade we are facing a significant change in the way in which public policies are being built and developed. The process is characterized by a growing participation of citizenship in policy making. It does affect very diverse fields, education among them. One of the main novelties consists in using public debate as a policy tool for identifying problems and defining possible solutions. If some relevant examples are well known in the international scene, Spain has also seen in the last fifty years several experiences of launching a public debate as a previous step to starting educational reform processes. The paper deals with such practices, reflecting about their characteristics and the conditions to be met by this kind of initiatives. Taking the 1969 White Paper as the starting point, debates launched around the reform processes associated with the 1990 and 2006 Education Acts are analyzed.