Shavar Jeffries  |  President

shavar_bioShavar Jeffries serves as President of Education Reform Now (ERN). 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 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.

Read more about Shavar here


Charles Barone  |  Policy Director

Charlie Headshot

Charles Barone is the director of policy at Democrats for Education Reform and Education Reform Now. He has led DFER/ERN’s efforts advising President Obama’s 2008 transition team, advocating for state reforms under Obama’s Race to the Top initiative, and setting DFER’s policy agenda at the state and federal level in areas including accountability and testing, teacher preparation and charter schools.

Barone’s work on education and children’s issues over the past three decades has emphasized equity and excellence and spanned direct service, research, policy and advocacy. He has authored numerous articles and book chapters on education policy and politics in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, trade publications, and mainstream media.

A Capitol Hill veteran, Barone was a top education advisor to the late Senator Paul Simon (D-IL) and to Congressman George Miller (D-CA), under whom he acted as lead negotiator for House Democrats on the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Before his entry into Washington politics, Charles was a postdoctoral fellow in the department of psychology at Yale University. He has a doctorate in clinical/community psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara.


See Charles’ work here

Michael Dannenberg  |  Director of Strategic Initiatives for Policy 

Michael_DannenbergHIGHRESMichael 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.


See Michael’s work here

Mary Nguyen Barry  |  Senior Policy Analyst 

Mary conducts research on a broad range of higher education issues, and has recently published on topics related to student debt among college dropouts, low-performing colleges, and President Obama’s higher education legacy.  Her research has been featured by the Washington Post, among other national media outlets, and it has received favorable review from the New York Times editorial boardShe became passionate about higher education issues at the University of Virginia in her efforts to advocate for student financial aid and socioeconomic diversity. She holds a Master of Public Policy degree from Johns Hopkins University and bachelor degrees from the University of Virginia.


See Mary’s work here

Dana Laurens  | Senior Associate for Policy and Advocacy

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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.