Our Impact

Here are highlights of how our work to elect Democrats for Education Reform and our fight for progressive policies that best serve students is making a real difference—especially for students of color and students from low-income families:

Resource Equity – so that funding goes to the students and schools that need it most:

  • We lobbied Congress to fix the problem that students of color and students from low-income communities are often taught by the least experienced, qualified and effective teachers. The result is that under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states must address inequalities in the assignment of teachers and work to ensure an equitable distribution of great teachers for all students. 
  • We lobbied Congress and made it a requirement for all states to report how much they spend per student — so that we can use this transparency in our fight to make sure that funding is distributed equitably and towards the students who need it most. 
  • In Washington State, we partnered with DFER champions Representative Frank Chopp and Representative Pat Sullivan to deliver $18.5M in new money to the State Need Grant program that helps low-income kids pay for college, and advanced a bill that would add $970M per biennium to the K-12 public education budget.  


Teacher Quality and Preparation – so that more students receive the high-quality public education they deserve:

  • We worked closely with Senator Cory Booker on the STRIVE Act that would overhaul federal loan forgiveness programs for teachers so that they are more generous and more targeted at teachers who serve in low-income schools and in areas with teacher shortages like STEM and special education.
  • We worked with the Obama Administration to increase accountability and standards for the nation’s 2400+ teacher preparation programs by incentivizing them to make high-quality clinical preparation an essential part of their curriculum.
  • DFER NY helped create policies at the State University of New York (SUNY) system that allow high-quality public charter schools to train their own teachers.

Accountability – so that we know what is and isn’t working and can prepare all students for college and career:

  • As part of a coalition that we helped found—and in the face of intense opposition from defenders of the status quo—we lobbied Congress and got 43 of 46 Democrats to vote for the Murphy-Booker amendment to the Senate’s ESSA bill that strengthened accountability and sent more money to low-performing schools.
  • We are a major player in pushing both Congress and the U.S. Department of Education to rigorously monitor how states are implementing their ESSA plans. We are also tireless watchdogs on alert to turn back efforts to weaken state ESSA plans.
  • DFER chapters in Colorado, Louisiana, New York, and Washington, DC played an active role in co-leading coalitions that mirrored those at the national level and that succeeded in ensuring their state’s ESSA plans met high standards for accountability.

Public School Choice – so that all families can choose the public school that best meets their child’s needs:

  • We consistently play a major part in enlisting Democrats to support increases in the federal public Charter School Program (CSP). In March 2018, Congress approved $400 million – a 17 percent increase – for the CSP in its FY 2018 spending bill, bringing the program it to its highest funding level in history. 
  • We succeeded in securing significant set-asides for the public charter management organization (CMO) competition, one of President Obama’s most enduring legacies on education reform.
  • At the state level, we achieved significant funding wins for public charter schools throughout the country, including a landmark Colorado law generating $34 million in new funding; $7 million in additional funding in Connecticut; an increase in funding by $1,000 per pupil in New York with increases slated over the next three years as well as facilities funding support and $108 million in facilities and per-student funding in Washington, D.C.

Higher Ed Quality and Affordability – so that everyone has a chance at more opportunities and a better life:

  • We are sounding the alarm on the moral imperative to reform America’s higher education system and developing new, groundbreaking high-school-to-higher-ed policy ideas so that ‘free’ college programs are also high-quality and focused on degree completion.
  • We were the primary group involved in developing the ASPIRE Act, authored by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Johnny Isaacson (R-GA), which will spur some of the nation’s most selective colleges to improve access for low-income students and devote funding to help boost completion rates at schools that serve disproportionately high numbers of low-income students.
  • Our partner Education Reform Now’s research exposes what’s not working in public higher education systems across the country. Most recently, ERN’s report on Massachusetts – No Commencement in the Commonwealth –uncovered that, despite being known as a leading state on higher education, the Latino graduation gap in the Bay State ranks 37th in the country.