Education Reform Now Celebrates Historic Week at DNC Convention & Camp Philos 2016

2016 Presidential Elections

August 2, 2016

After an exhilarating week in Philadelphia, Education Reform Now is reinvigorated in our ability to influence the progressive direction of our Party and our nation’s education policies. We kicked off the week with our third-annual Camp Philos that featured some of the biggest names in politics and policy. Below is a recap of our speakers’ comments and a snapshot of the positive national media coverage it generated.



Our keynote speakers delivered strong remarks throughout the day. Hillary Clinton’s Senior Policy Advisor Ann O’Leary spoke of Secretary Clinton’s longtime advocacy for the nation’s schoolchildren and noted that “We hope that she will soon be nominated as not only our first woman President but also our first child advocate President.”

On Clinton’s support from Kindergarten through college, O’Leary said: “It is a crime that we ask people to pay for remedial education in college when they should have gotten that support in K-12.” On Clinton’s commitment to public charter schools, O’Leary said: “One of the things Hillary said at the NEA and AFT conference is: ‘I’m not going to say different things in different rooms. I’m going to tell you, I am a supporter of great public charter schools and I am going to keep being a supporter of great public charter schools.’ And so that’s something she feels very deeply about.”

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) stated how proud they are to be known as Democrats for education reform, and described their histories of leadership for kids. In a particularly powerful moment touching on the connection between K-12 and higher education, Senator Coons said: “The moral outrage that has animated the education reform movement needs to be brought to higher education as well. The federal government doles out roughly $180 billion in student aid and education tax benefits with no strings attached.”



Both Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa transfixed the audience with stories of how the obstacles they faced as schoolchildren cemented their commitment to improving our public schools.

Governor Malloy opened: “I grew up with very serious learning disabilities and physical disabilities that took years to overcome,” he said. “I was thought to be mentally retarded as late as the fourth grade. I couldn’t button a shirt or tie a shoe until the fifth grade…I was in so many ways a student that would have been fairly easily to marginalize, park somewhere,” he continued. “The only reason I’m here today is because a bunch of folks including public school teachers, private school teachers, therapists, a mother who drove the process … that’s really the only reason that I’m here.”

Likewise, former Mayor Villaraigosa attributed his success to the support of a single mother and public school teachers who took him under their wing as a high school drop out.

This year’s event featured two panels. The first focused on how to build on the historic progress and reforms made on behalf of our students under President Obama. The second delved into the interconnections between in-school and out-of-school factors affecting students’ ability to learn.

Our lineup of panelists and moderators included Executive Director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Kristen Clarke, New Jersey State Senator Theresa Ruiz, journalist Jonathan Alter, former Obama administration press secretary Ben LaBolt, Colorado State Representative Rhonda Fields, and Massachusetts State Representative Alice Peisch.

Panelist Kira Orange Jones, an elected member of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), said afterward that she is “profoundly concerned” by the prospect of the Democratic Party diverting its attention from protecting the rights of all children, especially the most disenfranchised. “That’s my party, that’s why I’m a Democrat,” she said. Her fellow BESE member Jada Lewis remarked that she was impressed with the diversity of the event’s attendees and participants.

We were so pleased to be joined by a packed house of passionate, diverse parents, leaders, and advocates. Our state chapter directors also brought targeted leaders from their states to the event, including a cross-section of elected officials and activists from the communities where we work.

philos collage



The day’s programming concluded with an evening reception where guests had the chance to hear from Representative Jared Polis of Colorado and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and to network with other leaders in the ed reform community. On a week when all of the Democratic Party’s significant interest groups had a presence at the DNC, our reception enabled us to show that the education reform community is a core part of the Party.

philos reception


Here are a few highlights from over 20 national press mentions our DNC events received last week: