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We want to make it as easy as possible for you to find the right voice for your next event. Click below to browse our nationwide bureau of EdChoice Experts by their states of residence or topics of expertise. Whatever school choice know-how you’re seeking, our EdChoice Experts can help. The best news: We provide this service at no cost to you. Filter by state and topic, or browse all of our experts to learn about their work and connect with them on social media.
Chief Executive Officer, Brightbeam
Chris Stewart is CEO of Brightbeam, a public education advocacy nonprofit. In 2018, he founded Wayfinder Foundation, a nonprofit that invests in grassroots anti-poverty and education activism. Prior to that he built relationships in urban communities as director of external affairs at Education Post. In 2013, Chris became the founding executive director of the African American Leadership Forum (AALF), a cross-sector network of Black leaders working to develop and implement an urban policy agenda across five northwest states. In 2007, Chris was elected to the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education. In that role, he helped establish the Office of New Schools, a department of the Minneapolis Public Schools that implemented school reform strategies. Chris blogs and tweets under the name Citizen Stewart and publishes at Citizen.Education. He lives in rural Minnesota.
Partner, The Drexel Fund
Courtney Collins-Shapiro is a partner at The Drexel Fund. Drexel is a non-profit, venture philanthropy fund that invests and partners in the growth of high-quality, networks and new models of private schools that create transformational outcomes for low-income students. In this role, she supports both investors and investments for the Fund. Prior to joining Drexel in 2018, she served as the chief innovation officer for the Mastery Public Charter Schools, a network of 24 schools in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Camden, New Jersey. In this role, she spearheaded growth from 2,000 to 14,500 students over eight years and raised more than $75 million in private and competitive public funds to support expansion and innovative programs. From 2003-2010, she served as the founding director of Multiple Pathways to Graduation at the School District of Philadelphia, where she built and managed a portfolio of school options and developed a cross-sector coalition strategy for successfully serving overage, under-credited youth in the 5th largest school district in the U.S.
Collins-Shapiro has successfully led multiple staff teams and programs during her tenure in K–12 education including new initiatives (R&D), charter expansion, external relations, development (fundraising, grant seeking & compliance), board governance, college and career readiness, student recruitment, and family/community organizing. She has also led strategic planning initiatives from both the school network and funder perspectives. Prior to focusing on the K–12 sector, Collins-Shapiro spent six years in higher education, working and teaching at the University of Maryland, College Park. She has a bachelor’s degree from Villanova University and a master’s degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania. She is also an Aspen Institute-Pahara Fellow. She, her husband and two children live and work in Philadelphia—where they are avid Philly sports fans in times of feast or famine.
Senior Fellow, StudentsFirst Institute
George is an education consultant and former senior fellow at StudentsFirst Institute. He grew up in a rural farm community near Kinston, North Carolina where he learned at an early age the value of a great education. He received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from North Carolina Central University and earned a master’s in school administration from Trinity Washington University. George is a certified mathematics teacher with 30 years of experience teaching high school and middle school math in the Washington D.C. public school system. Today, he considers the poor quality of education provided in our public schools to be the number one civil rights issue affecting our children.
George is the former president of the Washington, D.C. teachers’ union, elected to that post in 2005. During his tenure as president, George worked with Michelle Rhee to negotiate a groundbreaking collective bargaining agreement that featured innovations in teacher compensation, professional development and equity in classroom resources. The agreement was rooted in the shared belief that D.C. political and education leaders must significantly raise student achievement and increase teacher accountability, while respecting teachers as true professionals and providing them the technology and classroom resources needed to successfully teach all children.
George frequently serves as an expert witness in support of legislation aimed to improve teacher quality, elevate the teaching profession and promote school choice. He also engages community organizations and serves on panels across the country to discuss policies such as school choice, teacher and principal evaluations, seniority-based layoffs, community engagement and union reform.
When asked why he is so committed to improving educational options for poor and minority kids, George responded:
“A quality education was my only exit out of poverty. It remains the same for the overwhelming majority of poor and low-income children still today. I truly believe the low quality of K–12 education provided to poor children today, especially poor children of color, is the civil rights issue of our time. Without a quality education many of these children will remain doomed to a life of poverty, hopelessness and despair that limit their dreams and aspirations and eradicate their chances for a better future and exit out of poverty. We cannot afford to limit any opportunities or options for these underserved youth to receive a quality K–12 education. Poor parents and children need more options by which they can achieve a quality education and escape a future of poverty, not less options. Our communities must come together as a village, free of self-serving political interests, and save our children.”
Founder and CEO, Center for Black Educator Development
Sharif El-Mekki is the Founder and CEO of the Center for Black Educator Development. The center exists to ensure there will be equity in the recruiting, training, hiring and retention of quality educators that reflect the cultural backgrounds and share common socio-political interests of the students they serve. The center is developing a nationally relevant model to measurably increase teacher diversity and support Black educators through four pillars: Professional Learning, Pipeline, Policies and Pedagogy. So far, the center has developed ongoing and direct professional learning, mentoring and coaching opportunities for Black teachers and other educators serving students of color.
The center also carries forth the freedom or liberation school legacy by hosting Freedom School sites that incorporates research-based curricula and exposes high school and college students to the teaching profession to help fuel a pipeline of Black educators.
Prior to founding the center, El-Mekki served as a nationally recognized principal and U.S. Department of Education Principal Ambassador Fellow. His school, Mastery Charter Shoemaker, was recognized by President Obama and Oprah Winfrey, and was awarded the prestigious EPIC award for three consecutive years as being amongst the top three schools in the country for accelerating students’ achievement levels. The Shoemaker Campus was also recognized as one of the top ten middle schools and top ten high schools in the state of Pennsylvania for accelerating the achievement levels of African-American students.
In 2014, El-Mekki founded The Fellowship – Black Male Educators for Social Justice, an organization dedicated to recruiting, retaining, and developing Black male teachers. El-Mekki blogs on Phillys7thWard, is a member of the 8 Black Hands podcast and serves on several boards and committees focused on educational and racial justice.
Doctoral Candidate, Howard University
Kendra DeLaine is a doctoral candidate in the Educational Psychology Ph.D. program at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Kendra’s research focuses on achievement motivation, identity and teacher-student interactions within STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) learning environments, with a particular focus on students of color.
Kendra recently co-authored an academic paper published in the Review of Research in Education (RRE) that reviews literature on the intersectional experiences of Black women and girls in STEM education. Kendra has also co-presented research at the International School Choice and Reform Conference that examines charter school trends of NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) mathematics achievement data for select jurisdictions with high charter school enrollment. Kendra is currently working on dissertation research that examines the interrelationships among perceived teacher expectations and behaviors, competence perceptions and achievement motivation in mathematics among middle school students in public charter and independent private schools.
Kendra is a native of North Carolina and a former professional school counselor in two North Carolina public school districts. She earned an M.Ed. in school counseling from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2010) and a B.S. in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (2008).
A native and lifelong resident of Nashville, Tennessee, Vesia Wilson-Hawkins is a proud product of the public school system, where she would spend the next twenty-plus years within the same system as a parent, employee and advocate.
Vesia’s interest in education began while serving as the education program coordinator for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, having gained intimate insight into Nashville’s education system. This interest led to a position with the Nashville school district as the community relations coordinator. However, during a period of distressed board-director relations, the director of schools created the position of school board liaison, tapping Vesia to serve. This role served the communication link between elected school board members and the director of schools, constituents, stakeholders and other local and state elected officials. She was also responsible for research for the development of policy, facilitating constituent concerns and maintaining healthy lines of communication between the director of schools and board members.
In recent years, Vesia has shifted to offering consultative services in local political and issues campaigns, as well as digital and writing support. Because this work expanded her perspective on education and choices for families, she launched a weekly blog in partnership with Education Post dedicated to amplifying the plight of low-income families of color in the public school system. Also, a co-founder of One Voice Blog Magazine, she is also committed to supporting Black women in education lift their voices through blogging.
Vesia, a wife and mother of two adult children, earned her undergraduate degree in political science from Austin Peay State University and master’s in education from Tennessee Tech University.
President, Rodriguez Corp, LLC
Zeus Rodriguez is president of Rodriguez Corp, LLC, specializing in education reform, school administration, non-profit management, institutional-advancement, Latino community development and political advocacy.
Zeus previously served as the president of St. Anthony School in Milwaukee, the largest K–12 Catholic school in the nation. Under his leadership, St. Anthony School expanded to include a full high school, a five-star early childhood education program, onsite pediatric health care services, as well as other additional programs and improvements.
Zeus is passionate about serving the Latino community, especially by expanding educational options for underprivileged children. Zeus founded Hispanics for School Choice in 2009 to inform and represent Latino families on the issues of educational choice. He is currently the editor of Education Matters – Latino.
In addition to his work in education, he also served as the Milwaukee chapter president of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders, as well as other community boards on behalf of the mayor and county executive of Milwaukee. Zeus is a political contributor for The Hill newspaper and has been featured in local, national and international publications and television. He is a Catholic convert, a U.S. Navy veteran and former certified cardio-thoracic surgical first assistant.
Zeus currently serves on multiple Arizona boards including: Arizona Chamber Foundation, First Things First-East Maricopa Regional Council and the Community Advisory Board for the Valley Metro Gilbert Road extension.
Zeus and his wife Dana Rodriguez, CPNP, Ph.D. founded Padre Pio Clinic, Wisconsin’s first independent faith/school-based health care center, to provide care for the community’s most underserved. Dr. Rodriguez served as the director of the clinic which was located at St. Anthony School. They have two children, Benjamin and Eva. The Rodriguez family reside is Zeus’s hometown of Phoenix/Chandler, Arizona.
Director of Fiscal Policy and Analysis, EdChoice
Marty studied in the Department of Education Reform and received his doctorate in Education Policy from the University of Arkansas. He also earned a master’s degree in Economics from the University of Missouri. In addition to school choice, his passions include researching teacher pensions.
Prior to joining EdChoice, Marty was the education research director at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty. His work there primarily focused on school choice policy in Wisconsin.
Marty received his bachelor’s degree in Physical Education, with an emphasis in sports medicine, from Eastern Illinois University. After graduating, he moved to Yashio City in Japan, where he taught English in public junior high schools for five years. That experience shifted his interests to education policy in the United States. Upon his return, he set out to pursue graduate work that would best equip him for effectuating meaningful change in the education policy arena. His experiences in Japan ultimately led him to the education reform movement.
Director of State Research and Policy Analysis, EdChoice
Director of State Research and Policy Analyst Drew Catt conducts analyses on private educational choice programs, conducts surveys of private school leaders and supports quality control as EdChoice’s research and data verifier.
Prior to joining EdChoice—formerly the Friedman Foundation—in May 2013, Drew served as the program associate for The Clowes Fund, a private family foundation located in Indianapolis that awards grants to nonprofits in Seattle, Greater Indianapolis and Northern New England.
Drew graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in Human and Organizational Development, specializing in Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness. While at Vanderbilt, Drew served as research assistant for North Star Destination Strategies, a community branding organization. During that time, Drew also researched the effects of homeschooling on socialization.
Drew received his Master of Public Affairs in Nonprofit Management at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Indianapolis. He also received his Master of Arts in Philanthropic Studies through the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. While in graduate school, Drew’s research focused on teacher performance incentives and cross-sector collaboration. Drew is currently pursuing a graduate certificate in Geographic Information Science (GIS) at IUPUI.
Drew is a native of central Indiana and currently resides in downtown Indianapolis with his wife Elizabeth.
Founder and President, Strategic Coalitions & Initiatives, LLC
A seasoned veteran of strategic political warfare, Maureen Blum is founder & president of Strategic Coalitions & Initiatives, LLC, a private firm specializing in strategic impact campaigns to promote, defend and create public policy initiatives. She started her school choice career “litigating in the court of public opinion” for the Institute for Justice, where she successfully developed & managed grassroots tactical strategy and built on-the-ground infrastructure to support school choice litigation.
Building grassroots coalitions and parent armies to fight for vouchers, scholarships, tax credits, charter schools and ESAs is her speciality. She speaks and trains activists, parents and school & community leaders on a variety of topics including: How to Build a Coalition; How to Create a Parent Army; How to Build a Stealth Coalition; How to Grow & Sustain a Coalition; On the Ground Strategic Tactics; Start-up and Pop-Up Community Organizing; and The Mechanics of Rallying for School Choice.
Professor of Education Reform, University of Arkansas
Patrick J. Wolf, Ph.D., is one of the nation’s foremost experts on school choice. He is Professor of Education Reform and 21st Century Endowed Chair in School Choice in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas.
Wolf has authored, co-authored, or co-edited three books and more than 75 journal articles, policy reports, and book chapters on school choice, civic values, special education, public management, and campaign finance.
In 2011, he received the Significant Research Award of the University of Arkansas College of Education and Health Professions for leading the federal government impact evaluation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. He received his B.A. in political science and philosophy at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, graduating summa cum laude and his A.M. and Ph.D. in government from Harvard University.
Education Activist and EdChoice Board Member
A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, Virginia Walden-Ford was raised by William Harry Fowler and Marion Virginia Fowler Armstrong, both public school educators. Her father was a principal and the first black assistant superintendent of the Little Rock school district. Her mother was one of the first black teachers to work at an all-white elementary school there. Walden-Ford and her twin sister were among a group of about 130 black students who were handpicked to desegregate the Little Rock’s high schools in the mid-1960s.
Walden-Ford has served as Community Outreach Director/Media Specialist for Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS), as a volunteer with the Center for Education Reform in their 1997 parent outreach campaign, and as a Parent Outreach Coordinator with the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise in their 1998 effort to organize parents to support school choice and the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Act.
She is a National Board Member and a founding member of the Black Alliance for Educational Options and is President of the organization’s Washington, D.C. chapter. Walden-Ford also serves as a Board Member of the Booker T. Washington Public Charter School and as Executive Director of D.C. Parents for School Choice, Inc, a clearinghouse designed to organize and educate parents to empower them to make appropriate educational decisions for their children.
Walden-Ford was the recipient of the Heritage Foundation’s prestigious 2004 Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship, the Black Alliance for Educational Options’ 2004 Vision Award, and the 2005 Leonard F. DeFiore Parental Choice Advocate Award from the National Catholic Education Association. She is the author of “Voices, Choices, and Second Chances: How to Win the Battle to Bring Opportunity Scholarships to Your State.”
former Oklahoma Senator, consultant
Jabar Shumate is a life-long Oklahoman who grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma graduating from Booker T. Washington High School. Jabar completed his bachelor’s and master’s degree at the University of Oklahoma. During his undergraduate years, he served as student body president. After completing his undergraduate degree, he went on to serve as the University’s press secretary.
Jabar spent 10 years in the Oklahoma Legislature serving in both the State House and State Senate where he focused on expanding quality educational options for all kids. During his time in the Legislature, he served as chair of the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus and was selected for the prestigious Toll Legislative Fellowship Program.
In 2015, Jabar was selected to serve as the University of Oklahoma’s first vice president for the University Community overseeing the University’s diversity programs and initiatives.
Under his leadership, the University has been named a Diversity Champion by Insight to Diversity Magazine in 2017; received the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award (H.E.E.D.) back to back, 2016 and 2017; and was recently named a top 50 University for Latino students by Latino Leaders Magazine.
Currently, former Sen. Shumate works as a consultant with community-based organizations focusing on increasing educational choice in low-income communities. Sen. Shumate specializes in mobilizing communities to build awareness of educational options, drafting public policy to improve access to high-quality schools, and implementing and sustaining school choice.
Jabar is active in his community serving on the Board of Directors of the Oklahoma City Urban League, as Trustee for the National Urban League, a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and on the Board of Directors for the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence in Education.
Director of the Education Economics Center at Kennesaw State University
Ben Scafidi is a professor of economics and director of the Education Economics Center at Kennesaw State University. He is also a Friedman fellow with EdChoice and the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. His research has focused on education and urban policy.
Previously, he served as chair of the state of Georgia’s Charter Schools Commission, the education policy advisor to Gov. Sonny Perdue, on the staff of both of Gov. Roy Barnes’ Education Reform Study Commissions, and as an expert witness for the state of Georgia in school funding litigation. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Virginia and his B.A. in economics from the University of Notre Dame.
Ben and Lori Scafidi and their four children reside in Kennesaw, Georgia.
Executive Director of the Center for Advancing Opportunity (CAO)
Gerard Robinson is the executive director of the Center for Advancing Opportunity (CAO), a research and education initiative created by a partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the Charles Koch Foundation, and Koch Industries. CAO supports faculty and students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other postsecondary institutions to develop research-based solutions to the most pressing education, criminal justice and entrepreneurship issues in fragile communities throughout the United States.
Prior to CAO, Robinson worked as a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a Washington, D.C.-based public policy think tank committed to expanding liberty, increasing individual opportunity and strengthening free enterprise. Robinson’s research areas included school choice in the public and private sectors; prison education and reentry programs; regulatory development and implementation of K–12 policy; the role of for-profit institutions in education; and, the role of community colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities in adult advancement. Robinson co-edited a book titled Education Savings Accounts: The New Frontier in School Choice (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017) and authored a law review article titled “The Federal Role in Education: Encouragement as a Guiding Philosophy for the Advancement of Learning in America” (2016). He is currently co-editing a book titled Education for Liberation: The Politics of Promise and Reform Inside and Beyond America’s Prison. Before joining AEI, Robinson was Vice President of Partnerships at UniversityNow, Inc., a social venture based in San Francisco that expands access to higher education options through campus and online programs at Patten University, where he serves as trustee.
Before his work with UniversityNow, Inc., Robinson served as Commissioner of Education for the State of Florida from 2011 to 2012 where he managed several divisions with 3,000 employees. In addition to supporting the education initiatives of Gov. Rick Scott, Robinson assisted in the development of a $16 billion education budget, and instituted for the first time in 10 years new achievement level scores for grades 3–10 in reading and grades 3–8 in mathematics. He also chaired a task force to improve opportunities for English learners and students with special needs, adopted new competency and skill standards for STEM teacher certification, developed new pre- and post-assessment measures for the voluntary pre-kindergarten program, and approved several new degree programs for Florida’s colleges. Robinson also managed several federal programs, and partnered with the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Council of 100 to strengthen career and college readiness.
Prior to Florida, Robinson served as Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia. In addition to supporting the education initiatives of Gov. Bob McDonnell, he provided guidance to 16 public universities, the community college system, five higher education and research centers, the department of education and state-supported museums. Robinson managed the governor’s Opportunity to Learn agenda in 2010, which produced new laws for traditional public schools, virtual education, charter schools and college laboratory schools. He directed the Top Jobs for the 21st Century agenda in 2011, which produced the Virginia Higher Education Opportunity Act that invested an additional $100 million into postsecondary education to support the conferral of 100,000 additional degrees by 2025. Robinson also partnered with the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation to support the U.S. Department of Defense’s nationwide pilot to provide military families in active service with access to high-quality education programs.
Before working in Virginia, Robinson was president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase access to high-quality educational options for black children by actively supporting transformational education reform initiatives and parental choice policies that empower low-income and working-class black families. A former legislative aide in the California and Virginia legislatures, he also served as a senior research associate for the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas, a senior fellow at the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University and a senior fellow at the Institute for Education Policy at The City University of New York. Robinson has spoken before audiences in the United States as well as at Oxford University in England and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Robinson’s international education tours include travel to China, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Gambia, Germany, Haiti, Israel and Senegal.
Robinson earned an Ed.M. from Harvard, a B.A. from Howard and an A.A. from El Camino Community College. In 2011, Bluefield College awarded him an honorary doctorate for his work to improve learning opportunities for students at all levels. He is married and has three daughters.
Director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University
Paul Peterson is the Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government and Director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and Editor-In-Chief of Education Next, a journal of opinion and research on education policy. He is a former director of the Governmental Studies program at the Brookings Institution.
Peterson is the author or editor of more than 100 articles and 30-plus books, including “School Money Trials: The Legal Pursuit of Educational Adequacy”; “Reforming Education in Florida: A Study Prepared by the Koret Task Force on K-12 Education”; “The Education Gap: Vouchers and Urban Schools”; “Generational Change: Closing the Test Score Gap”; “No Child Left Behind? The Politics and Practice of School Accountability”; and “The Future of School Choice.” Three of his books have received major awards from the American Political Science Association.
Peterson received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, where he was a professor for many years in the departments of political science and education. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Education, and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the German Marshall Foundation, and the Center for Study in the Behavioral Sciences. He is also a member of the independent review panel advising the Department of Education’s evaluation of the No Child Left Behind law. The Editorial Projects in Education Research Center reported that Peterson’s studies on school choice and vouchers were among the country’s most influential studies of education policy.
Foundation for Oklahoma
Jason Nelson is a former Representative of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Over the course of his four terms in the Legislature, he was recognized as a knowledgeable and effective leader on a wide range of children’s issues, including education and human services. In 2010, Nelson led the bipartisan effort to pass the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Act, which allows students with special needs to use a portion of their state education money at a qualified private school of their choice. This law was the first of its kind passed in Oklahoma. In 2011, he led a bipartisan working group in an unprecedented review of the Department of Human Services child welfare system. The group’s work resulted in sweeping reforms during the 2012 session. A constitutional amendment proposed by the group was also approved by voters that year abolishing the DHS Commission. In 2016, Nelson led the successful bipartisan effort to require insurance coverage for the diagnosis and medically necessary treatment of children on the autism spectrum. Nelson most recently served as House Majority Floor Leader and on several committees including the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, the Rules Committee and the Common Education Committee. Nelson has had a varied career in the public and private sector, including time on the staff of former Governor Frank Keating. Nelson and his wife, Lori, have two children: Benjamin, 13, and Grace, 10.
National Director of State Relations, Agudath Israel of America
Since joining Agudath Israel in 2005, Rabbi A. D. Motzen has played a key role in bill design, advocacy, and implementation of school choice efforts in Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Texas, and Tennessee. Rabbi Motzen represents Jewish schools on the State Superintendent’s Nonpublic School Advisory Committee in Ohio, serves on the board of two nonpublic school associations, and is an active member of school choice coalitions in several states.
Rabbi Motzen holds master’s degrees from Ner Israel Rabbinical College and Johns Hopkins University. He lives in Cincinnati with his wife and six children.
Agudath Israel of America is a national, grassroots, advocacy and social service organization representing Orthodox Jews, including 250,000 children in nonpublic schools. In addition to representing the educational interests of its constituents, Agudath Israel protects and advances religious and civil rights, takes a stand on social and moral issues, and promotes the security and well-being of Jews in Israel and around the globe.
Director of National Research, EdChoice
Dr. Michael Q. McShane serves as EdChoice’s director of National Research.
Mike is the editor of New and Better Schools, the author of Education and Opportunity and coeditor of Educational Entrepreneurship Today, Teacher Quality 2.0 and Common Core Meets Education Reform. His analyses and commentary have been published widely in the media, including in the Huffington Post, National Affairs, USA Today and The Washington Post. He has also been featured in education-specific outlets such as Teachers College Commentary, Education Week, Phi Delta Kappan and Education Next. In addition to authoring numerous white papers, Mike has had academic work published in Education Finance and Policy and the Journal of School Choice. A former high school teacher, he earned a Ph.D. in education policy from the University of Arkansas, an M.Ed. from the University of Notre Dame and a B.A. in English from St. Louis University. Mike previously served as Director of Education Policy for the Show Me Institute, a state-based nonprofit in Kansas City, Mo., and as a Research Fellow in Education Policy at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.
Senior Research Strategist, Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Dr. Matthew Ladner is a senior research strategist at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Editor of redefinED, a blog published by Step Up for Students. Previously, Ladner served as a senior research fellow at the Charles Koch Institute, senior advisor for research and policy at ExcelinEd, and vice president of research and Goldwater Institute. He has provided invited testimony to Congress, state legislatures and the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Ladner has written numerous studies on school choice, charter schools and special education reform. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and received both a masters and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Houston. Ladner lives in Phoenix with his wife, Anne, and their three children Benjamin, Jacob and Abigail.
Executive Director, Institute for Justice – Arizona Chapter
Tim Keller leads IJ’s Educational Choice Team. In this role, he oversees a talented group of IJ attorneys who help policymakers design constitutionally defensible educational choice programs and who defend educational choice programs in courtrooms nationwide.
Tim served as IJ’s lead counsel in Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn, a U.S. Supreme Court victory that protected Arizona’s pioneering tax-credit-funded private school scholarship program. Tim also successfully defended Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account Program, a publicly funded education savings account program he helped design.
In his prior role as the managing attorney of IJ’s Arizona Office, Tim helped protect small businesses from eminent domain abuse and knocked down barriers to entrepreneurship on behalf of eyebrow threaders, African hair braiders, and makeup artists.
Tim received his law degree from Arizona State University. Prior to starting law school, Tim worked as a research assistant at the Goldwater Institute, a state-based, free market, public policy organization. Upon graduation from law school, Tim clerked for the then-Presiding Judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court, Robert D. Myers. After leaving the Superior Court, Tim accepted a clerkship with the Honorable Ann A. Scott Timmer on the Arizona Court of Appeals. Tim and his wife, Lisa, have four sons, Daniel, Benjamin, Ethan, and Noah. He spends his free time taking care of his family and reading a book a week.
Vice President of Legal Affairs, EdChoice
Leslie Hiner is vice president of programs at EdChoice, formerly the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. In her work for the legacy foundation of Nobel Laureate Economist Milton Friedman and his equally gifted wife, economist Rose Friedman, she strives to advance the Friedman’s vision of universal school choice to improve educational outcomes and preserve individual liberty.
Leslie has been published and quoted in several national and state publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, The Hill, Atlanta Journal Constitution, National Review, Zman Magazine, World, Los Angeles Times, Federalist Society’s DocketWatch, School Reform News, Real Clear Policy, and Watchdog, and has appeared on television and radio shows and podcasts from coast to coast including ChoiceMediaTV, The Heartland Institute, The Morning Blaze, The MiddleGround, and Issues in Education. She is a frequent speaker on the topic of school choice at national, state and local events, and testifies often before state legislatures.
Leslie serves on the Schools That Can National Advisory Board. She is an appointee to the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights Indiana State Advisory Committee, and also serves as an appointee to the Indianapolis City-County Ethics Commission.
Prior to joining The Friedman Foundation, Leslie served as Chief of Staff to the Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives. Leslie also served as majority attorney to the Indiana State Senate President Pro Tempore, general counsel and elections deputy to the Indiana Secretary of State, and counsel to the State Recount Commission. As an attorney in private practice, she represented clients in court and handled contract and EEOC cases. Leslie also represented unionized city sanitation workers in a successful bid to provide services when Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith established a public-private partnership to provide trash and leaf pickup in Indianapolis.
A licensed attorney for over 30 years, Leslie previously served as president of the Federalist Society Indianapolis Lawyers Chapter, and continues to be an active member of the Society. When she and her husband owned a small business, Leslie served on the Howard County Chamber of Commerce board of directors and legislative affairs committee (chair), Howard County United Way board of directors and allocations council (chair), and Howard County Bar Association board of directors (secretary/treasurer). During this time, Leslie also served on Governor Bayh’s state task force to reform regulatory burdens inhibiting the growth of small business in Indiana.
Her education experience includes being a founding board member of the Irvington Community School, one of Indiana’s first charter schools now serving 1000 children, where she served as chairman of the board for several years. Leslie was an adjunct professor at the University Of Indianapolis School Of Business, PFO board secretary at the Forest Glen International public magnet school, and board member of the Kokomo Montessori Children’s House. She attended Rostad Teachers College in Sweden, student teaching in grades 2 and 3 in Kalmar, Sweden.
Leslie is an alumna of the Lugar Series for Excellence in Public Service, and she is listed in several Who’s Who publications. Leslie graduated from the College of Wooster and the University Of Akron School Of Law, both in Ohio. She and her husband have two children; a daughter who is an executive chef, and a son who is completing his undergraduate studies.
Director of Education Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute
Frederick M. Hess is resident scholar and director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
He has authored influential books on education including “The Same Thing Over and Over,” “Education Unbound,” “Common Sense School Reform,” “Revolution at the Margins,” and “Spinning Wheels,” and pens the Education Week blog “Rick Hess Straight Up.” His work has appeared in scholarly and popular outlets such as Teachers College Record, Harvard Education Review, Social Science Quarterly, Urban Affairs Review, American Politics Quarterly, Chronicle of Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappan, Educational Leadership, U.S. News & World Report, The Washington Post, and National Review.
He has edited widely-cited volumes on education philanthropy, stretching the education dollar, the impact of education research, education entrepreneurship, and No Child Left Behind. He serves as executive editor of Education Next; as lead faculty member for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program; on the Review Board for the Broad Prize in Urban Education; and on the Boards of Directors of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, 4.0 SCHOOLS, and the American Board for the Certification of Teaching Excellence.
A former high school social studies teacher, he has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rice University, and Harvard University. He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Government, as well as an M.Ed. in Teaching and Curriculum, from Harvard University.
21st Century Chair in Education Reform, University of Arkansas
Jay P. Greene is department head and 21st Century Chair in Education Reform at the University of Arkansas. Greene conducts research and writes about education policy, including such topics as school choice, high school graduation rates, accountability, and special education.
His research was cited four times in the Supreme Court’s opinions in the landmark Zelman v. Simmons-Harris case on school vouchers. His articles have appeared in policy journals, such as The Public Interest, City Journal, and Education Next, in academic journals, such as Education Finance and Policy, Economics of Education Review, and the British Journal of Political Science, as well as in major newspapers, such as the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. Jay also is the author of “Education Myths.”
Greene has been a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston. He received his B.A. in history from Tufts University in 1988 and his Ph.D. from the Government Department at Harvard University in 1995. He lives with his wife and three children in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
President and CEO, Urban League of Greater Miami
In 2010, T. Willard Fair was appointed by President Barack Obama to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships-Miami Regional Selection Panel; he was reappointed in 2011.
Fair attended local elementary and high schools in his native home of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He received a B.A. in sociology, graduating Cum Laude, in the top 10 percent of his class, from Johnson C. Smith University in 1961. He received an M.S.W. degree from Atlanta School of Social Work in 1963.
Fair has served as an adjunct professor at the Atlanta University School of Social Work, Bethune Cookman College, Florida International University, and the National Urban League’s Whitney M. Young, Jr. Center for Urban Leadership.
Fair’s published works include articles in the Miami Herald. He has been a host of both radio and television programs. As an analyst on some of the pressing issues of the day, he has been interviewed by 60 Minutes, Tom Brokaw Show, Ebony Magazine, and National Geographic. Fair was selected “Icon of the Month” by Florida Trend Magazine, the magazine of Florida business, September 2006.
Fair has met with four different presidents of the United States, relative to issues concerning black Americans.
He was appointed by former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, to the United State’s Advisory Committee on Cultural Affairs, where his responsibilities included visiting American embassies in Egypt, Oman and the United Kingdom to promote cultural diplomacy. He served on the United States People to People Ambassadors Program and traveled to Cuba to discuss issues related to child welfare and education.
President and CEO, EdChoice
Robert C. Enlow is the President and CEO of EdChoice, formerly the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the school choice legacy foundation of Milton and Rose D. Friedman.
Robert has been an integral part of the Foundation since its founding in 1996, previously serving as fundraiser, projects coordinator, vice president, and executive director prior to being named president and CEO in 2009.
Under his leadership, EdChoice has become one of the nation’s most respected and successful advocates for school choice, working in dozens of states to advance its founders’ vision by disseminating research, sponsoring seminars, undertaking advertising campaigns, organizing community leaders, and providing grants.
Robert is the co-editor of “Liberty and Learning: Milton Friedman’s Voucher Idea at Fifty,” author of “Grading Vouchers: Ranking America’s School Choice Programs,” and co-author of “School Choice: A Reform that Works” and a chapter in “An Education Agenda: Let Parents Choose Their Children’s School.” His opinions have appeared in numerous publications, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Arizona Republic, National Review, and USA Today.
Prior to joining EdChoice, Robert lived and worked in England where he served as a deputy day center manager and social worker for St. Botolph’s Project, an organization providing rehabilitative care and services to homeless men, women, and families. While in England, he also served on the school board of two inner-city schools in London—Hillmead Infants and Juniors School—where he chaired the finance committee and served on the building and curriculum committees. During his tenure, the success of the schools was nationally recognized in an inspection by Her Majesty’s Office of Standards in Education Department (OFSTED).
From 1990-1992, Robert attended Oxford University through the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies where he worked on a post-graduate degree in theology. He received his B.A. from Seattle Pacific University.
Robert has served as Private Sector Chairman of the Education Task Force for the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that also recognized him as the Private Sector Member of the Year. He is also a board member of School Choice Ohio, Hoosiers for Quality Education, Carpe Diem Indiana, and the Economic Club of Indiana, and serves on the Indiana State Advisory Committee for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Robert lives in Indianapolis and has two children, Jefferson and Charles.
Executive Director, Indiana Non-Public Education Association
John Elcesser has served as the Executive Director of the Indiana Non-Public Education Association (INPEA) since 2008. Prior to coming to INPEA he served as Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia. Before that position, he served for 16 years in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia, as assistant superintendent, superintendent of schools, and Vicar of Education and Formation. In addition, John has also served schools as an elementary school principal, junior/senior high school principal, and special education consultant.
As a school choice advocate, John brings the unique lens of having served both as a private school leader and a public policy advocate. His practical applied approach to school choice legislation is aimed at making legislation “implementable” at the school level. His focus on crafting “student and school friendly” legislation as well as his commitment to coalition building and grassroots advocacy brings an important voice to the school choice movement.
While in Virginia, John played an instrumental role in the passing of enabling transportation legislation for private school students. In Indiana he was part of the coalition that successfully passed tax-credit scholarship and voucher legislation.
As a product of both public and Catholic schools, John did his undergraduate studies at West Virginia University where he was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate. He later earned a master’s degree in education administration from the Marshall College of Graduate Studies. In 2006, John was a founding member of the Board of Directors for the Mid-Atlantic Catholic School Consortium, an innovative collaborative initiative among the six Catholic Dioceses in the Mid-Atlantic region. He also currently serves on the national advisory board for Catapult Learning. In 2007, he was honored by Mount St. Mary University (Emmitsburg, Maryland) with their bicentennial medal for his work in Catholic education.
John and his wife, Jill, have two school-age children and reside Indianapolis, Indiana.
Vice President of Research and Innovation, EdChoice
Paul DiPerna is vice president of research and innovation for EdChoice, formerly the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. He joined the Foundation in September 2006. Paul’s research interests include surveys and polling on K-12 education and school choice policies. He has developed and issued more than 25 state polls and other survey projects over the last six years. His other responsibilities include directing and managing all research projects commissioned by the foundation.
Paul has traveled to 28 states and nearly as many state capitals for his work. He presents survey research findings and discusses school choice policies for audiences including public officials, policy professionals, academics, and advocates. He regularly participates in the annual International Conference on School Choice & Reform.
Previously, Paul served as the assistant director for the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution. His six years at Brookings included projects evaluating the federal Blue Ribbon Schools Program and analyzing student achievement in charter schools. Paul was a research analyst for the first five issues of the Brown Center Report on American Education (2000-2004). He also managed and coordinated the activities of the National Working Commission on Choice in K-12 Education (2001-2005).
Paul’s professional memberships and activities include participation in the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research (MAPOR), and the State Politics and Policy Section of the American Political Science Association (APSA).
A native of Pittsburgh, Paul earned an M.A. in political science from the University of Illinois (2000) and B.A. from the University of Dayton (1996).
Paul currently lives in Zionsville with his wife and two daughters.
President, Environmentalists for Effective Education; Assoc. Professor of Finance and Real Estate, NC State University
Bartley R. Danielsen is an associate professor of business management at North Carolina State University. He coauthors the internationally best-selling textbook, Foundations of Financial Management (16thed.).
His current research focuses on how school choice initiatives impact real estate development, property values, neighborhood economic development, and the environment. His research appears in the Real Estate Economics, the Journal of Housing Research, the Journal of Real Estate Research, the Journal of Real Estate Literature, the Review of Financial Studies, the Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, and numerous other high-quality academic real estate and finance journals.
Danielsen is the founder and president of Environmentalists for Effective Education, a public charity devoted to researching and communicating the community benefits produced by educational choices; revitalizing blighted neighborhoods, reducing urban sprawl, reducing segregation and creating sustainable cities.
Danielsen received his Ph.D. in financial economics from the University of Florida, and he has provided financial consulting services to numerous domestic and multinational companies.
Publisher and CEO, L.A. Weekly
Brian Calle is publisher and CEO of the L.A. Weekly, the editor-in-chief of CalWatchdog.com and a professor at Chapman University.
Prior to his current professional endeavors, Brian was opinion editor of the Southern California News Group, overseeing editorial content for its 11 newspapers and websites including the Los Angeles Daily News, Orange County Register, Riverside Press-Enterprise, Daily Breeze in Torrance, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Pasadena Star-News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Whittier Daily News, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, the Sun in San Bernardino and the Redlands Daily Facts.
He also served as the director of sales and marketing for Sally Ride Science where he worked under noted astronaut and CEO Sally Ride and was the co-host of Fox 11’s, “You Decide: SoCal” weekly news broadcast as well as host of the Catch-Up daily radio show on KABC.
He has worked as vice president of the Claremont Institute and as a congressional aide in the United States House of Representatives. Calle has also taught undergraduate students at California State University, Los Angeles and California State University, Fullerton and a graduate course at Pepperdine University.
Brian holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Communications and Political Science from the University of Southern California and California State University, Los Angeles, respectively. And he is an emeritus member of the Board of Governors for the University of Southern California.
Chairman of the Board and CEO, Overstock.com
Since Patrick Byrne launched Overstock.com in 1999, he and his company have garnered attention from numerous national media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, ABC News with Peter Jennings, Fortune, CBS Marketwatch, and Business Week, among others, and has been a frequent guest on Bloomberg TV, CNBC, and Fox News shows.
In 2002, Byrne was named to Business Week’s list of the 25 most influential people in e-Business. The magazine cited survival strength and vision as qualities that qualified Byrne for the list. In 2003, Ernst & Young awarded Byrne an “Entrepreneur of the Year” award in the category of Lifetime Achievement.
Patrick Byrne received a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College (Asian Studies & Philosophy), a master’s degree in philosophy from Cambridge University as a Marshall scholar, and a doctorate in philosophy from Stanford University. Byrne served as chairman, president and CEO of Centricut, LLC, a manufacturer of industrial torches, then held the same three positions at Fechheimer Brothers, Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway company manufacturing police, firefighter, and military uniforms.
Senior Policy Analyst, Heritage Foundation
Jonathan Butcher serves as senior policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation. He has researched and testified on education policy and school choice programs around the U.S. His work has appeared in journals such as Education Next and the Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy, and he has appeared on local and national TV outlets, including C-SPAN, Fox News, and HBO’s Vice News Tonight. He has also been a guest on many radio programs, and his commentary has appeared nationally in places such as the Wall Street Journal, Education Week, National Review Online, and Forbes.com, along with newspapers around the country.
In 2017 he received the State Policy Network’s Bob Williams Award for Most Influential Research for a proposal to protect free speech on campus, along with his co-authors Stanley Kurtz of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and Jim Manley of the Goldwater Institute.
Jonathan previously served as the education director at the Goldwater Institute. He was a member of the Arizona Department of Education’s first Steering Committee for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, the nation’s first education savings account program. He is also a Senior Fellow with The Beacon Center of Tennessee, a nonpartisan research organization, and a contributing scholar for the Georgia Center for Opportunity.
Prior to joining Goldwater, Jonathan was the director of accountability for the South Carolina Public Charter School District, South Carolina’s only statewide charter school authorizer. Jonathan previously studied education policy at the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas and worked with the School Choice Demonstration Project, the research team that evaluated voucher programs in Washington, D.C. and Milwaukee, Wisc.
Jonathan holds a B.A. in English from Furman University and an M.A. in economics from the University of Arkansas.
Director, Center for Education Policy and Will Skillman Fellow in Education, The Heritage Foundation
As director of the Center for Education Policy, Lindsey Burke oversees the Heritage Foundation’s research and policy on issues pertaining to preschool, K-12 and higher education reform. In 2013, Burke was also named the Will Skillman Fellow in Education Policy, devoting her time and research to reducing federal intervention in education at all levels and empowering families with education choice.
Burke’s commentary, research, and op-eds have appeared in various newspapers and magazines, and she has appeared on numerous radio and television shows and spoken on education reform issues across the country and internationally. She has published evaluations of education choice options for various public policy foundations and has done extensive work developing and evaluating education savings accounts (ESAs).
In 2015, Burke won Heritage’s prestigious W. Glenn and Rita Ricardo Campbell Award in recognition of her work fighting against national standards and tests and for expanded education choice options.
Burke holds a bachelor’s degree in politics from Hollins University in Roanoke, Va. and a master of teaching degree in foreign language education from the University of Virginia. She is currently pursuing a PhD in education policy and research methods at George Mason University, where she examines the intersection of education choice and institutional theory.
Executive Director, NYCAN: The New York Campaign for Achievement Now
Derrell Bradford is an education entrepreneur, with deep experience bringing people together to find creative solutions to today’s educational achievement challenges.
Derrell recently finished a two-and-a-half-year commitment as the Executive Director of Better Education for Kids (B4K), a 501c4 organization supporting common-sense bipartisan education reforms in New Jersey. Derrell is also a trustee of We Can Do Better NJ, which supports school choice and a wide range of systemic reforms to improve education for all students.
Success Academy charter schools of New York City recently invited Derrell to join their board of directors. Success Academy opened its first school in Harlem in 2006, serving 165 students, and today celebrates 22 schools serving more than 6,700 children.
Before joining B4K, Derrell served as the Executive Director and Director of Communications for New Jersey’s Excellent Education for Everyone (E3). He also led and co-led the research and legal efforts, respectively, for the organization. Additionally, he served on Gov. Chris Christie’s Educator Effectiveness Task Force, which gave recommendations on designing a new, statewide evaluation system for teachers and leaders.
In 2011, Derrell was named to NBC’s “The Grio 100: History Makers in the Making,” and also received the Tri-County Scholarship Fund’s “Making a Difference Award.” In 2012, he was named an “Ed Reform Champion Under 40” by the Black Alliance for Educational Options. Derrell also sits on the board St. Anthony (Jersey City) Catholic high school. Derrell appears frequently in print, radio, and on television to discuss and debate a wide range of education reform issues.
A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Derrell attended the St. Paul’s School For Boys and is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a B.A. in English and creative writing.
Director of Policy, EdChoice
Jason Bedrick is director of policy for EdChoice. Previously, he was policy analyst with the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom. He also served as a legislator in the New Hampshire House of Representatives and was an education policy research fellow at the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy.
Bedrick received his master’s degree in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where he was a fellow at the Taubman Center for State and Local Government. His thesis, “Choosing to Learn,” assessed scholarship tax credit programs operating in eight states, including their program design, impact on student performance, fiscal impact, and popularity.
Research Fellow, Independent Institute
Vicki Alger is a research fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California, with a forthcoming book on the history of the U.S. Department of Education. She holds senior fellowships at the Fraser Institute, headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the Independent Women’s Forum in Washington, D.C. Alger is also president and CEO of Vicki Murray & Associates LLC in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Alger’s research focuses on education reforms that promote a competitive education marketplace and increase parents’ control over their children’s education. She is the author of more than 40 education policy studies, co-author of Lean Together: An Agenda for Smarter Government, Stronger Communities, and More Opportunities for Women, Short-Circuited: The Challenges Facing the Online Learning Revolution in California, and Not as Good as You Think: Why the Middle Class Needs School Choice, as well as associate producer of the documentary, “Not as Good as You Think: Myth of the Middle Class School.”
Alger has advised the U.S. Department of Education on public school choice and higher education reform. She has also advised education policymakers in nearly forty states and England, provided expert testimony before state legislative education committees, and served on two national accountability task forces. Alger’s research helped advance four parental choice voucher and tax-credit scholarship programs in Arizona, as well as the state’s first higher education voucher, and she provided expert affidavits as part of the successful legal defense of educational choice programs for low-income, foster-care, and disabled children.
Alger’s research also inspired the introduction of the most school choice bills in California history—five in all—and her research was used as part of the successful legal defense by the Institute for Justice of the country’s first tax-credit scholarship program in the U.S. Supreme Court (Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn). Her research and commentary on education policy have been widely published and cited in leading public-policy outlets such as Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance, Education Week and the Chronicle of Higher Education, in addition to national news media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Investor’s Business Daily, Forbes, Fortune, Human Events, La Opinión, the Los Angeles Times, and US News & World Report. She has also appeared on the Fox News Channel, Global News, local ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS affiliates, as well as news radio programs across the country.
Prior to her career in education policy, Alger taught college-level courses in American politics, English composition and rhetoric, and early British literature. She has lectured at numerous American universities, including the U.S. Military Academy, West Point. Alger received her Ph.D. in political philosophy from the Institute of Philosophic Studies at the University of Dallas, where she was an Earhart Foundation Fellow. Alger lives in Arizona with her husband David.