DFER Announces New National President: Shavar Jeffries

Blogs, Letters & Testimonials

September 3, 2015

Contact: press@dfer.org


Democrats for Education Reform Announces New National President: Shavar Jeffries

Washington, DC – Today, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) announced that longtime education advocate and former Newark mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries will serve as the National President of DFER and Education Reform Now, its affiliated policy think tank.

In announcing Jeffries’ appointment, DFER’s National Advisory Board chair, former Colorado Lt. Governor Barbara O’Brien said, “We could not be more excited to have Shavar leading our national efforts. He brings a deep understanding that a quality education for every child can and should be not just our goal, but a given. We are delighted that Shavar will be continuing this fight alongside the countless Democrats around the country who are working to improve our public education system.”

Democratic leaders across the country praised Shavar’s record as a champion for public education and a leading voice on social justice issues.

“Shavar Jeffries knows first hand why it’s so critical that we make sure that every child, from Los Angeles to Newark, has access to a quality education no matter what neighborhood they’re from,” said Antonio Villaraigosa, former Mayor of Los Angeles. “He has fought throughout his career to promote better opportunities for underprivileged kids and to fix what’s broken in our education system. I’m confident he’ll be a strong leader for DFER because he understands that as Democrats, it’s our obligation to make sure the public education system gives every child a fair shot to succeed.”

“It’s been a long time since I’ve met someone with the vision, drive, and limitless potential of Shavar Jeffries. His commitment to the students of Newark and his genuine passion for helping all kids get the educational opportunities that allow them the chance to succeed is infectious,” said Mary Landrieu, former U.S. Senator (D-LA). “Here in New Orleans, in the decade since Hurricane Katrina, I’ve seen first hand the transformative power of local leaders willing to challenge the status quo when it had failed our kids. Shavar has proven time and again that he won’t allow our next generation to be defined by the economic circumstances they are born into.”

In an email to DFER’s supporters, Jeffries wrote, “I am a Democrat for Education Reform because a high-quality education changed my life. Virtually everything I am is connected to the opportunity to receive an education that enabled me to fulfill my potential. I want the same thing for every child in our country.

“Here at DFER, we fight every day to ensure that every child, regardless of where they grow up, has access to a quality education. We are committed to investments in what is working and getting rid of the programs that fail our kids. We believe that being a Democrat means being a voice on behalf of the voiceless—that the Democratic Party has always been and should continue to be the party that refuses to accept mediocrity for our students.

“We’ve made enormous strides over the past decade. Under President Obama and Secretary Duncan’s leadership, we’ve made significant advances in improving educational standards and quality, increasing graduation rates and incentivizing performance across the board. But we have much work to do. We must make sure all children, regardless of race or class, have access to a quality education. Too many interests are still protecting a status quo that has perpetuated an unfair system.

“When it comes right down to it, I’ve been a Democrat for education reform my whole life—before I knew what education reform was and before there was a DFER to bring us all together. I couldn’t be prouder to join as president, and I look forward to protecting the progress we’ve made and working every day on behalf of America’s students.”


About Shavar Jeffries

shavarShavar 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. After receiving scholarships to Seton Hall Preparatory School, Duke, and Columbia Law School, he moved back to Newark with the firm belief that his path to success—through high-quality education—should not be the outlier for students in Newark, but rather the rule.

Shavar has been extensively involved in the Newark community and has tirelessly advocated to improve the city’s schools. He was the founding Board President of TEAM Academy Charter School, Board President of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newark, and a board member of Seton Hall Preparatory School. In 2010, he was elected to the Newark Public Schools Advisory Board, and was then unanimously selected by his colleagues to serve as Board President. Shavar ran as a candidate for Newark mayor in 2014 in a campaign that attracted national attention, and during which he made improving Newark’s schools a cornerstone of his campaign. Despite being a first-time municipal candidate, Shavar gained broad support, obtaining over 46% of the vote, a historic number for a first-time Newark municipal candidate.

Shavar also serves as a partner at Lowenstein Sandler, where he has been a fierce advocate for families seeking fair practices in funding education and ensuring that the laws governing education systems help students, rather than trapping them in failing schools. Prior to joining the law firm, he was an Associate Professor of Law at Seton Hall Law School’s Center for Social Justice in Newark, New Jersey, where he ran a litigation clinic focused on complex and class action litigation and advocacy. In this role, he helped numerous clients, in both individual and class actions, defend themselves against unlawful education policies, consumer fraud, and overly broad government actions in wide-ranging matters affecting individual rights and liberties.

From 2008 to 2010, Shavar was Counsel to New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram. In that role, Shavar oversaw all multistate investigations, spanning a range of issues from securities and consumer fraud to environmental protection and human trafficking. He also supervised several divisions of the office, including the Division on Civil Rights, encompassing responsibility for enforcing a wide range of state and federal employment and antidiscrimination statutes.

Shavar began his legal career as an associate at Wilmer Cutler & Pickering, where he represented the University of Michigan in defending its affirmative-action student admissions programs, and also represented Black farmers who had been discriminated against by the United States Department of Agriculture. After leaving Wilmer, Shavar served as a Gibbons Fellow in Public Interest and Constitutional Litigation at Gibbons P.C., where he handled school-funding, special-education, affordable-housing, and prisoners’ rights cases, among others.

Shavar has received numerous honors for his advocacy, including “40 Under 40” recognition by the National Bar Association as one of the nation’s top lawyers, the Congressional Black Caucus’s Chairman’s Award, the NAACP’s Freedom Fund award, the Brendan Byrne Distinguished Public Servant Award, and the Black Alliance for Educational Options’ education-reform award.