Shavar Jeffries serves as President of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). Jeffries began this role in September 2015, and brings a personal commitment to ensuring that a child’s zip code does not define their destiny. From his efforts fighting for fair funding practices to get schools the resources they deserved to his service leading the New Jersey Attorney General’s Juvenile Justice and Civil Rights Departments, he has been a vocal advocate for social justice.
Shavar’s commitment to improve education stems directly from his personal experience. Jeffries was raised by his grandmother in the South Ward of Newark, New Jersey. His grandmother, a public school teacher, instilled in him a deep respect for the value of education.
Charles Barone leads the development of DFER’s policy agenda in areas including accountability, school turnarounds, teacher preparation, and public school choice. He has been a central player in most federal education K-12 reforms of the past 25 years including President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative, No Child Left Behind, and the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Barone’s work on education has spanned direct service, research, policy, and advocacy. He has authored numerous articles and book chapters in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, trade publications, and mainstream media outlets. His commentary on education policy and politics has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and National Public Radio and in trade publications such Politico, National Journal, and Education Week.
Barone was a top education advisor to the late Senator Paul Simon (D-IL) and to former Chair of the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee, George Miller (D-CA). Before his work on Capitol Hill, Charles was a postdoctoral fellow in the department of psychology at Yale University. He holds a Ph.D. in clinical/community psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Michael Dannenberg, Director of Strategic Initiatives for Policy
Michael has worked as a Senior Policy Advisor to the United States Under Secretary of Education, Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), and Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI) as well as contributed in a similar capacity to every major Democratic Presidential candidate over the last 12 years. He is the staff author of numerous elements of federal education law reflected in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Higher Education Act, and federal appropriations law. He founded the New America Foundation’s Education Policy Program and has published widely on education policy writ large and higher education finance in particular. Dannenberg is recognized as a national expert on college admissions, federal education politics, and all education finance issues, including student loans, education tax expenditures, and the overall federal education budget. He holds post-graduate degrees from Stanford University and Yale Law School.
Dana Laurens, Senior Associate for Policy and Advocacy
As Senior Associate for Policy & Advocacy, Dana works with federal and state policymakers and elected officials to advance pre-K-12 education policies that maximize educational opportunities for all students, particularly those from historically disadvantaged groups.
Dana began her professional career in education at DC Public Schools’ central office, and went on to teach in New Orleans as a founding staff member at KIPP’s first school in the 9th Ward. Most recently, Dana served as deputy director for StudentsFirst South Carolina, where she led all pre-K-12 legislative work and established herself as a go-to policy expert for legislators, parents, community members, and state-level non-profits and agencies. In her spare time, Dana provides ongoing support to TandemEd, an innovative start-up supporting community-wide leadership development in tandem with responsive institutions and investors. An immigrant from Trinidad & Tobago and first generation college graduate, Dana earned both her bachelor’s degree and Master of Public Policy from the University of Virginia.
Konrad is responsible for quantitative and qualitative research focused primarily on college preparation, access, affordability, and completion. Raised in South Carolina by a family of educators, Konrad was taught the value of education and the inequities of access from an early age. Prior to joining ERN, he served as a policy analyst at Young Invincibles, where he published briefs on topics such as college access, affordability, workforce training, and the challenges facing underrepresented and non-traditional students. His research has been featured by prominent national media outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic, among others. Konrad holds a Ph.D. in American Politics and Public Policy from the University of Maryland, College Park, as well as a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Furman University.