2022 in Review: Looking Back on Our Impact


December 20, 2022

2022 Election Victories

In 2022 DFER spent $6.1 million to help elect 125 Democratic leaders, including six US Senators23 U.S. Representatives, Governors in ColoradoNew York, and ConnecticutMayor Bowser in Washington D.C., and legislative champions in 15 legislative bodies across the country.

Additionally, eight alumni of our Leaders of Color program proudly ran in the midterm elections in Louisiana, New York, and Washington, D.C, with six candidates claiming victory. Taken together, these newly elected leaders join 17 Leaders of Color who have been elected or appointed across program sites this year!

See a full summary of all DFER and ERNA-supported wins here.

Launched DFER Texas

In August, we proudly launched our newest state chapter in the Lone Star State. Last month, DFER Texas and its aligned PAC, Legacy 44 (L44), successfully won three of the four general election races for the Texas House, in addition to successful victories by L44 supported primary candidates in safe Democratic districts. The 2022 investments made by DFER and L44 have helped solidify and expand the bloc of pro-education reform Democrats at the Texas Capitol as we approach the next legislative session. 

Protected Public School Choice

DFER co-led an effort to protect $440 million in federal funding for public charter schools serving 3.4 million students nationwide. Specifically, when anti-charter forces proposed a $40 million cut to CSP during the Appropriations process, DFER met with and mobilized key Members to restore funding to the full $440 million including influential Members on both the House Appropriations Committee, and the House and Senate Education Committees. Similarly, during the regulatory fight over proposed rules that would restrict charter access to federal funds, we met and appealed to multiple senior Biden Administration officials directly. This group effort convinced the USDOE to roll back the most harmful rules and to respond in a way that, while not optimal, is workable to ensure that high-quality charters continue to access federal funds. Furthermore, we’ve laid the groundwork to protect an additional $440 million in federal funds for next year’s (FY23) budget. DFER partner chapters in ColoradoWashington, D.C., and Connecticut all secured wins to make funding for public charter more equitable, and our teams in Massachusetts, and Louisiana defeated anti-charter legislation.

ARP Advocacy: Reports & Resources 

Leveraging a report focused on understanding how states are allocating educational funds earmarked by the American Rescue Plan (ARP), ERN’s national team worked with representatives in five states to strengthen their ARP plans to better serve students. In the analysis, states were assigned a “traffic light” rating in five categories along with a composite rating. Only seven states earned the highest “green” rating, and a whopping 19 state plans were designated a concerning “red light.”

To help navigate important federal COVID relief funds—designated by ARP—ERN put together a curated toolkit, to highlight and streamline a selection of resources from a host of organizations, including ERN, that help state-level officials, families, communities, schools, and district leaders better understand how ARP education funds are being allocated. You can download the ARP Resource Document, or explore the toolkit for more information on ERN’s involvement and more.

Addressed Literacy Gaps

Following on ERN Connecticut‘s landmark “Right to Read” legislation last year, the team worked to ensure a strong ally was appointed as Director of the state’s new Center for Literacy Research and Reading Success, the hub of this statewide literacy effort. Implementation has now begun in earnest, with the release of a state-approved list of early literacy curricula, from which every public school district must choose next year. Earlier this month, Director Amy Dowell appeared on a panel on the Science of Reading with Emily Hanford, Dr. Kymyona Burk, and other leading experts.

Earlier this year, ERN D.C. successfully advocated for the passage of the “Structured Literacy Training Action Plan” into law. This legislation requires structured literacy training for D.C. Public School teachers, provides a $2,000 stipend for those who complete the training, and creates a task force to expand training and support to public charter schools. ERN D.C. also partnered with Decoding Dyslexia D.C. to hold a two-day Right to Read Literacy Conference with 17 speakers, including D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, State Superintendent Dr. Christina Grant, and Ward 2 Representative Allister Chang. As a result of the literacy conference, ERN D.C. and partners proposed several recommendations for improving literacy in the District of Columbia.

Maintained Statewide, Annual Assessments

ERN’s federal policy team led a coalition of civil rights and reform advocates that successfully lobbied the US Department of Education to prevent the issuance of blanket assessment waivers to states. In our states, ERN Colorado worked to ensure schools and districts could access necessary supports and interventions based on post-pandemic summative assessments; DFER affiliate ERN Massachusetts successfully lobbied the state’s Education Committee to reject all anti-accountability bills; and DFER affiliate ERN Louisiana fought to prevent a potential waiving of statewide graduation requirements.

To combat the misinformation that abounds when it comes to annual, summative assessments, ERN also created the Essential Assessment Toolkit: a go-to guide for families, advocates, district and school leaders, and State Education Agencies. The resources created were intended to support critical conversations on why students take an annual, summative assessment, why this assessment matters, and how districts and states can improve their assessment systems to better support student achievement.

Fought for Fairer College Admissions

In March, ERN National and our New York chapter joined New York State Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assemblywoman Latrice Walker to introduce The Fair College Admissions Act (Senate Bill S8498), which is aimed at banning legacy preference and the binding early college admission policies that discriminate against racial minority, working class, and low-income students. ERN and Leaders of Color co-hosted a press conference with Senator Gounardes and Assemblywoman Walker to discuss the bill and its impact on improving access and equity in higher education, during which several Leaders of Color fellow and alumni spoke. 

ERN Connecticut supported the introduction of a bill that would put an end to the practice of using legacy preferences during the college admissions process in their state. ERN CT also advanced a bill to end the withholding of college transcripts from students with debts. Last year, ERN Colorado helped make its state the first in the nation to ban legacy preference in higher education.

In addition, ERN released a series of three issue briefs identifying areas (Early DecisionLegacy AdmissionsTransparency & Accountability) of the admissions process at selective colleges and universities that demand reform. Admissions reform to expand access and opportunity for underrepresented students and to increase diversity on campuses is long overdue, but it has become imperative in light of the likelihood that United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) will strike down the use of race-conscious admissions policies in its current term. The reports received coverage in USA Today, ForbesThe Chronicle of Higher EducationInside Higher EdNPR and Education Dive, among others.

Following the SCOTUS hearings on affirmative action, ERN hosted a debrief on the hearing, with record-setting attendance. The conversation was moderated by The Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Eric Hoover, and featured:

  • Marie Bigham, Founder and Executive Director, ACCEPT,
  • Art Coleman, Managing Partner and Co-Founder, EducationCounsel,
  • Genzie Bonadies Torres, Associate Director for the Educational Opportunities Project, Lawyers, Committee for Human Rights under Civil Law,
  • Michaele Turnage Young, Senior Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and
  • James Murphy, Senior Policy Analyst, Education Reform Now.

Advocated for Resource Equity

One big highlight of ERN’s work to address resource equity comes from ERN D.C. who successfully advocated for the passage of three pivotal bills:

  • D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson included two new concentration at-risk weights in the per student funding formula for a total of $10.4 million in recurring funding for D.C. Public Schools and public charter schools that serve high populations of students furthest from opportunity. 
  • ERN D.C. successfully advocated for the passage of the “Uniform Per Student Funding Formula Adequacy Study” into law, which studies the costs and expenses associated with operating D.C. Public Schools, and public charter schools, included and excluded from the per student funding formula. 
  • ERN D.C. advocated for ways to retain educators in the District. This work culminated in the passage of the Educators Housing Incentive Amendment Act of 2022, which expands a current homeowner financial assistance program to educators.

Hosted 7th Philos Conference

Last month, over 180 policymakers, advocates, donors, and reporters attended ERN’s seventh Philos Conference in Washington, D.C. This year’s theme, “Leading Forward: From Crisis to Opportunity,” challenged attendees to take action to turn the crisis of the pandemic and the longtime crisis of inequity in our education system into opportunity for students.

Honorees included:

  • Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser
  • National Urban League President Marc Morial
  • National Parents Union Founder and President Keri Rodrigues 
  • U.S. Representative Ritchie Torres, and
  • Massachusetts Representative Chynah Tyler.

Panelists included U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, CNN Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein, DGA Executive Director Noam Lee, New York City Public Schools Chancellor David Banks, D.C. Superintendent Dr. Christina Grant, and CT Senator Patricia Billie Miller.

Above (left to right)Politico Reporter Juan Perez, Jr., CNN Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein, DGA Executive Director Noam Lee, Impact Research Principal Molly Murphy, and Voto Latino Vice President Kenny Sandoval. 
Below (Clockwise from top left): New York City Public Schools Chancellor David Banks, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser, Washington, D.C., State Superintendent Dr. Christina Grant, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley.

Leaders of Color

To date, Education Reform Now’s Leaders of Color program has grown to include:

  • 210 alumni of the program
  • 82 leaders in non-elected positions of influence
  • 26 Fellows appointed to community / non-profit boards
  • 34 Fellows involved in active advocacy campaigns
  • Fellows who have founded own non-profits

Leaders of Color 2022 Advocacy Highlights:

  • Leaders of Color D.C.: Charter parent and Leaders of Color D.C. alumna LaJoy Johnson-Law worked in collaboration with Vice President Harris to expand broadband access to over 11.5 million low-income households.
  • Leaders of Color Louisiana: Alumni led a successful initiative for a new property tax measure that will fund pre-K at $20 million over the next five years and create more than 1,000 early childhood seats for children from low-income families. 
  • Leaders of Color New York: Alumna Natasha Cherry-Perez led a project to inform, train, and support over 400 parents who are a part of the New York State Charter Parent Council to meet with and promote charters to elected officials across the state; testify at City Council and State hearings; and send close to 30 letters to NYS Regents (and counting) in support of charters. Additionally, Cherry-Perez’s group registered 140 voters.
  • Leaders of Color Memphis: Among many achievements, alums Sheleah Harris and Frank Johnson both fought for public school choice by voting against the closure of four charter schools in Memphis, keeping the schools open.