About Us

Who We Are

We are a national think tank and advocacy organization that develops and drives forward bold, new ideas that can transform the American public education system from pre-school to and through higher education to better serve all students, especially low-income students and students of color. 

Our Mission

We aim to expand what works and change what’s broken in the public education system, with the interests of students and families first and foremost.

We seek to create progressive education change at both the federal level and in states across the country – and we do it at every stage from K-12 to higher-ed because Americans of all ages, from cradle to grave, deserve full and fair access to a globally competitive high-quality public education that empowers them to fulfill their limitless potential.   

“We have an obligation and a responsibility to be investing in our students and our schools. We must make sure that people who have the grades, the desire and the will, but not the money, can still get the best education possible.” — President Barack Obama  

How We Do It

We develop new ideas to fix public education and better serve all students focused on our five policy priorities [learn more here]:

  • Resource Equity – so that funding goes to the students and schools that need it most.
  • Teacher Quality and Preparation – so that teachers have the knowledge, skills, and support they need to help all students succeed.
  • Accountability – so that we know what is and isn’t working, can channel resources to struggling schools and prepare all students for college and career.
  • Public School Choice – so that all families can choose the public school that best meets their child’s needs.
  • Higher Ed Quality and Affordability – so that everyone has a chance at more opportunities and a better life.

We study and analyze what is and isn’t working in public education today – and we develop solutions to fix problems and improve our schools for all students.  Our research and policy proposals help drive the discussion on progressive education reform in Washington, D.C. and in statehouses across the country. 

We lobby national and state political leaders to support and champion policies that will better serve all students, especially students of color and students from low-income families. We provide technical assistance in drafting legislation at the federal, state and local levels and help strategize the path forward for policies we support.

We build and sustain national and state-level progressive education reform coalitions to advocate for policy solutions we support.  We identify and cultivate emerging leaders and constituent groups and aid in their growth and development.  Each year we bring together a community of progressive ed reformers including lawmakers, academics and community leaders at Philos, our national convening. 

Our Impact

Here are highlights of how our fight for progressive policies that best serve students is making a real difference—especially for students of color and students from low-income families:

Resource Equity

  • We identified and analyzed the extent proposed changes to the federal state and local tax deduction (SALT) would undermine public education funding. Cited by organizations and political leaders ranging from the National Education Association (NEA) to Republican Members of Congress, our work led to a major scaling back in tax reform changes that would have devastated public education spending. The SALT deduction remains in place for the vast majority of taxpayers.
  • We lobbied Congress and made it a requirement for all states to report how much they spend per student — so that we can use this transparency in our fight to make sure that funding is distributed equitably and towards the students who need it most. 
  • We lobbied Congress to fix the problem that students of color and students from low-income communities are often taught by the least experienced, qualified and effective teachers. The result is that under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states much address inequalities in the assignment of teachers and work to ensure an equitable distribution of great teachers for all students. 
  • In Washington State, we partnered with Representative Frank Chopp and Representative Pat Sullivan to deliver $18.5M in new money to the State Need Grant program that helps low-income kids pay for college, and advanced a bill that would add $970M per biennium to the K-12 public education budget. 

Teacher Quality and Preparation

  • We worked closely with Senator Cory Booker on the STRIVE Act that would overhaul federal loan forgiveness programs for teachers and reward those who teach in low-income schools and in shortage areas like STEM and special education.
  • We worked with the Obama Administration to increase accountability and standards for the nation’s 2400+ teacher preparation programs by incentivizing them to make high-quality clinical preparation an essential part of their curriculum.
  • We were a lead advocate behind New Jersey State Senator Teresa Ruiz’s (D-Newark) groundbreaking teacher tenure reform legislation. The new law overhauls the state’s antiquated tenure law, replacing it with annual evaluations to ensure only effective teachers remain in the classroom.
  • In New York, we helped create policies at the State University of New York (SUNY) system that allow high-quality public charter schools to train their own teachers.

Accountability

  • As part of a coalition that we helped found—and in the face of intense opposition from defenders of the status quo—we lobbied Congress to vote for the Murphy-Booker amendment to the Senate’s ESSA bill that strengthened accountability and directed more money to low-performing schools.
  • We are a major player in pushing both Congress and the U.S. Department of Education to rigorously monitor how states are implementing their ESSA plans. We are also tireless watchdogs on alert to turn back efforts to weaken state ESSA plans.
  • We play an active role in co-leading coalitions in Colorado, Louisiana, New York, and Washington, DC that mirror those at the national level and that succeeded in ensuring their state’s ESSA plans met high standards for accountability.

Public School Choice

  • We work annually with coalition partners to enlist support for the federal public Charter School Program (CSP). In March 2018, Congress approved $400 million – a 17 percent increase – for the CSP in its FY 2018 spending bill, bringing the program it to its highest funding level in history. 
  • We succeeded in securing funding to replicate and expand high-quality public charter schools, one of President Obama’s most enduring legacies on education reform.
  • At the state level, we achieved significant funding wins for public charter schools throughout the country, including:
    • A landmark Colorado law generating $34 million in new funding; $7 million in additional funding in Connecticut;
    • An increase in funding by $1,000 per pupil in New York with increases slated over the next three years as well as facilities funding support;
    • More than $100 million in facilities and per-student funding in Washington, D.C.;
    • In Washington State, we led the coalition that lifted the ban on public charter schools and the state now has one of the strongest public charter school laws in the country.

Higher Ed Quality and Affordability 

  • We are sounding the alarm on the moral imperative to reform America’s higher education system and developing new, groundbreaking high-school-to-higher-ed policy ideas so that ‘free’ college programs are also high-quality and focused on degree completion. We are guiding state policymakers, advocates and political candidates around the country on what a quality ‘free college’ policy should look like. Our access, affordability, and accountability ideas have been picked up by groups and advocates ranging from Third Way to the Democratic education leadership in Congress.
  • We were the primary group involved in developing the ASPIRE Act, authored by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Johnny Isaacson (R-GA), which will spur some of the nation’s most selective colleges to improve access for low-income students and devote funding to help boost completion rates at schools that serve disproportionately high numbers of low-income students. This legislation is supported by advocacy groups ranging from The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) to the country’s largest representative of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the National Association For Educational Opportunity (NAFEO).
  • We are exposing what’s not working in public higher education systems across the country. Most recently, ERN’s report on Massachusetts – No Commencement in the Commonwealth–uncovered that, despite being known as a leading state on higher education, the Latino graduation gap in the Bay State ranks 37th worst in the country.