2023 Eddies

One of our greatest strengths as a Network is working together to spread impact and know-how. 

In that spirit, the Eddies provide an opportunity to amplify, celebrate, and learn from strategic advocacy that is driving impactful policy change. These awards recognize outstanding education policy and advocacy wins, nominated and voted on by your Network peers.

2023 Categories & Finalists

Anyone that works at a PIE Network member or partner organization can vote for a winner in each category. Check your inbox for a link to vote. Summit participants will be invited to vote on-site for Game Changer Campaign of the Year, following a plenary discussion with the finalists.

Winners will be announced during the Eddies ceremony on October 19 at the 2023 PIE Network Summit.

Game Changer Campaign of the Year

Game Changer Campaign of the Year recognizes local, state, or national advocacy campaigns that tackled a big problem and achieved a new, game-changing policy or protected an existing critical policy. Sometimes a policy window opens quickly, and advocates move fast; sometimes, the window opens after years of sustained advocacy efforts. Either way, nominees in this category pushed the envelope to make a significant impact for students and families—paving the way for others to replicate or adapt this strategy in their communities.

Game Changer Campaign of the Year Finalists

A+ Education Partnership – Passing Data Governance Legislation to Codify Education and Workforce Data for Alabamians

A+ Education Partnership was integral in the passage of HB 109—a huge win for both the state and Alabama’s students and families navigating education and workforce pathways. The legislation establishes a secure education and workforce data system. Most importantly, this law emphasizes inclusivity and diversity in how the data system is governed and aims to enhance transparency, data analysis, and policy development to improve education and workforce outcomes in Alabama. It incorporates workforce data into the system and matches it with individual-level education data to link early learning, education, workforce training, and employment outcomes—crucial pieces of information that leaders need to make decisions that benefit students. A+ Alabama’s tireless work made the passage of this law a reality. The legislation was introduced in the previous session and passed unanimously in the House but failed to pass the Senate. The dedicated advocates in Alabama took on the work to ensure its passage this year and by doing so, have set up Alabama’s students and families to access more and better information about education and workforce pathways and Alabama’s leaders to make evidence-based decisions about how to best support students through high school and beyond.

Advance Illinois – Supporting the Whole Child

Non-network partners: Center for Childhood Resilience & Illinois Education Association 

Like many (if not most) states, Illinois has not had a systemic approach to addressing student mental health and well- being. Some good work happens at the local level, but it is generally idiosyncratic and leader-dependent. With leadership from the Black Caucus, Advance Illinois, Center for Childhood Resilience, and Illinois Education Association, the state formed a Whole Child Task Force that issued recommendations on how Illinois could create a true system for supporting student mental health and well-being. This spring, these same groups drafted and passed a bill to begin implementing key elements of the Task Force recommendations, including (1) creating an ‘adversity index’ to understand the mental health issues at play in districts and communities across the state; (2) adopting a common definition of ‘trauma’ and ‘trauma-informed/healing centered’; (3) reporting school/district staffing levels for counselors, social workers, psychologists, nurses on the state report card; and (4) developing clear professional development around trauma-informed/healing-centered care. Put simply, Illinois now has a blueprint for a systemic approach to student mental health and well-being, and is taking steps to implement it.

Colorado Succeeds, DFER Colorado, Ready Colorado, Stand for Children Colorado, Teach Plus Colorado, Transform Education Now (TEN) – Improving Mathematic Outcomes In Pre-kindergarten Through Twelfth Grade Education

In 2023, Colorado passed HB23-1231: Math In Pre-Kindergarten Through Twelfth Grade. This groundbreaking bipartisan legislation is the first of its kind in the nation, implementing a holistic, all-encompassing approach to addressing the 50,000 Colorado students who are currently struggling with math. In 2019, 8th-grade students received a NAEP score of 285 in math. By 2022, that score had decreased by 10 points to 275, a trend that is not unique to Colorado, but still jarring to educators, advocates, legislators, and parents alike. This $28 million investment utilizes evidence-informed strategies through a free train-the-trainer model that trains current and future educators, as well as caregivers, enabling them to fully participate in getting their student(s) back on track to math proficiency alongside educators. Creating specific and narrow language to truly capture the essence of the bill without being over-prescriptive or burdensome to schools and school districts was challenging. The bill was also met with opposition from certain assembly members, citing concerns regarding the cost of the legislation. Because of the gravity and urgency of students’ math proficiency, investing one-time funding in math curriculum and intervention was a priority to mitigate this imminent crisis our state is facing.

Educate Texas, The Education Trust in Texas – Outcomes-Based, Student-Centered Community College Finance Reform for Texas

Non-Network partners: Commit Partnership, Texas 2036, E3 Alliance, Texas Association of Business, Texas Business Leadership Council, Philanthropy Advocates, Good Reason Houston, Greater Houston Partnership, Longview Chamber of Commerce, Austin Chamber of Commerce, Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce, Opportunity Austin, Young Invincibles, Breakthrough Central Texas 

Lawmakers and advocates united to pass House Bill 8, which provides a generational investment transforming Texas’s education and workforce system through our community colleges. Funding formulas had been largely unchanged for 50 years and failed to account for differences in student need or local resources, contributing to low rates of student completion and exacerbated workforce skills gaps, with less than 1 in 4 Texas students achieving a postsecondary credential by age 24. A multi-sector coalition of education advocates working with community college, student, business, and philanthropic leaders brought stories, data, and urgency to the Capitol. The new funding model prioritizes student outcomes tied to regional and state workforce needs. Student success is directly tied to completing credentials of value, transfer, and dual credit with additional incentives for economically and academically disadvantaged students and adult learners. HB 8 also increases access to postsecondary courses in high school with the creation of a dual credit financial aid program for economically disadvantaged students. Further, HB 8 facilitates collaboration, cost sharing, and operational efficiency across the sector. In a climate often-hostile toward higher education, passing HB 8 unanimously was a testament to strong legislative and agency leadership, bolstered by unified, cross-sector advocates.

Educators for Excellence-New York – Culturally Relevant Curriculum Campaign: Ensuring Instructional Materials are Grounded in Science of Reading

For over two decades, every school in New York City Public Schools (NYCPS) has selected its own curriculum, resulting in inconsistent quality and cultural relevance, an inability to comprehensively align professional learning with content, and a lack of understanding of what was working and what wasn’t. E4E educators from all five boroughs drafted recommendations calling on NYCPS to transform the selection of curriculum and its currently haphazard implementation. They brought these recommendations to their colleagues, garnered feedback, went back to the drawing board, and ultimately collected over 1,000 signatures in support of the final product. After meetings with Deputy Chancellors, a panel discussion with Schools Chancellor David Banks, dozens of school visits and monthly educator convenings, NYCPS announced “NYC Reads”, an early literacy initiative that will limit K-5 ELA to one of three curricula – – each of which is grounded in the Science of Reading — to be selected and used uniformly across each of NYCPS’s 32 local districts, impacting 300,000 students. The effects of this change, if implemented properly, are hard to fathom. In NYS, 14% of Black fourth graders and 20% of Latinx fourth graders are proficient in reading. These new curricula stand to triple or quadruple those figures, and the impact on each student that those numbers represent will be truly life changing. New York City is also the largest school district in the country and often sets the tone for other districts. The press coverage and national attention NYC Reads garnered has the potential to revolutionize ELA curriculum and professional learning across the US.

National Alliance of Public Charter Schools – Monumental New Charter School Law in Montana

The passage and signing of HB 562, The Community Choice Schools Act, brings public education options to students and families in Montana, the 46th state to enact a charter school law. HB 562 was a necessary step to provide more high-quality public education options in the state. All public charter schools, or community choice schools as they are called in HB 562, are public schools and free to attend. Until this law Montana was one of the only five states in the nation that did not allow public charter schools, depriving families of the opportunity to choose innovative public schools that best fit their students’ needs. According to the National Alliance’s Charter School Model Law, HB 562 will be ranked as one of the strongest laws in the nation. According to a recent poll conducted by JMC Analytics and Polling that surveyed 550 Montana residents in eight counties, only 15% of respondents describe the quality of their local public schools to be excellent, and 56% of parents and grandparents with a child in school support or strongly support the establishment of charter schools in Montana. ‘In Montana, less than half of students in public schools are proficient in language arts, and only one-third are proficient in math. Clearly, there is a need for higher quality public education,” says Monica Berner, parent and advocate. ‘Parents should have a choice of schools, regardless of their reasons why.’ HB 562 was championed by citizens who saw a need for public education options in their state. Trish Schreiber, one of the citizen leaders who advocated for this bill, says, “This was a colossal effort, 24 years in the making, that ultimately was accomplished by having a strong relationship with the National Alliance in conjunction with the right bill, the right sponsor, the right leadership in both chambers and, of course, the right Governor.”

Learn more about the 2023 nominees in Game Changer Campaign of the Year.

Best Collaboration

Best Collaboration features coalitions of leaders and organizations who worked together to achieve a significant impact for students and families. Working in a coalition can be incredibly powerful—and incredibly challenging. This category honors the hard work of coalitions that organized artfully to respond to unique opportunities or challenges in their states and communities, contributed to a policy win, and inspired others to take up similar efforts. Leaders and organizations in this category not only advanced or protected critical policy to impact students—they did it in partnership and across lines of difference.

Best Collaboration Finalists

American Federation for Children (AFC), ExcelinEd, Ohio Excels, Thomas B. Fordham Institute-Ohio – Passing a Transformational Budget in Ohio: Investments in Charter Schools, Early Literacy, Vouchers & CTE

Non-Network partners: School Choice Ohio

Ohio’s biennial budget represents a commitment to both improving and transforming the state’s education system. Fordham Ohio, Ohio Excels, ExcelinEd, School Choice Ohio, AFC, and a host of other partners collaborated to identify, prioritize and advocate for change on behalf of students. Leaders in Ohio were heavily influenced by the broad and influential coalition.

This transformational budget includes:
•Brings charter school funding closer to parity by increasing the Quality Community Schools Fund, providing $650 per pupil to all charter schools, and investing $175 million for charter school facility improvements.
•Invests $160M in early literacy aligned with the science of reading.
•Provides $43M for teacher professional development/training.
•Provides $18M for literacy coaches.
•Bans outdated three-cueing reading instruction and reading programs that are not grounded in the science of reading.
•Invests $64M to provide schools with high-quality literacy instructional materials.
•Expands the state’s EdChoice Scholarship Program so all students are eligible for some level of voucher scholarship, prioritizing those with the highest need and investing $1B in the program over the next two years.
•Invests $28M for CTE programs. Prioritizes postsecondary success with a new division for CTE programs within the newly named Department of Workforce and Development.

ConnCAN, Educators for Excellence-Connecticut, FaithActs for Education, School & State Finance Project, Connecticut Charter Schools Association – Education Justice Now Coalition

Connecticut students will experience a historic $150M educational investment due to a hard-fought, three-year campaign by the Education Justice Now Coalition. This policy reaches every public school across the state, representing Connecticut’s largest K-12 increase in a decade. The Education Justice Now Coalition achieved this in a year when the Governor initially sought to flat-fund education. Students, especially Black, brown and low-income students, will have more resources to support learning, programming, and critical staffing. The coalition pushed to allocate funds equitably based on Connecticut’s weighted-funding system – a formula the coalition strengthened in 2021. As a result, Connecticut can begin to address its deeply unjust $550M racial-funding gap. The Education Justice Now Coalition was among the broadest, most collaborative, and most successful campaigns in Connecticut history. The core consisted of five education-focused organizations with different skills, strengths, and political bases. The coalition brought in more than 180 organizations, legislators, municipal leaders and individuals in support. Every political and geographic corner of the state was represented. The coalition stayed engaged with one another through rapidly changing political landscapes. Never wavering, the organizations took significant time creating the norms and trust necessary to persist through challenges. The coalition’s work transformed Connecticut’s education narrative. As a key and ongoing priority, leaders have led meaningful conversations about how Connecticut structures education, clearing the way for future progress.

DFER Massachusetts, Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, National Parents Union – Massachusetts, Educators for Excellence-Boston, Massachusetts Public Charter School Association, Teach Plus Massachusetts – Voices for Academic Equity Coalition: Toward a Better MCAS

Earlier this year, 11 organizations and 2 community leaders—including Education Reform Now Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, Educators for Excellence-Boston, Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, National Parents Union and Teach Plus—came together to form the Voices for Academic Equity Coalition to change the narrative on annual, summative assessments in Massachusetts. The statewide assessment is the only objective measure for educators, families and policymakers to know where students are excelling and where they need additional support to meet grade level expectations. In the face of a potential ballot initiative aimed at removing the assessments as a graduation requirement, the coalition released a report and hosted a webinar detailing the value of the state test (the MCAS) and provided eight recommendations for how the state could improve the assessment to mitigate challenges and make it a more effective tool for all stakeholders. The recommendations received coverage in 13 outlets across the state, igniting a pro-equity perspective that had largely been missing. As the Boston Globe noted, “This coalition understands the value the MCAS brings as a uniform statewide standard of assessment but wants to make the test less intimidating for students, even while rendering their MCAS results a more timely tool for helping individual students.” Since the report was issued, we anticipate that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education — in its RFR for a new test vendor — will include one or more of the committee’s recommendations. The coalition members will continue their partnership beyond the MCAS, with the MassCore Standards as their next area of focus.

myFutureNC – NC Workforce Credentials

Non-Network partners: North Carolina Community College System, North Carolina Department of Commerce, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Office of Governor Roy Cooper

Over the last several years, myFutureNC has facilitated stakeholders from across the education and workforce development sectors to form the North Carolina Workforce Credentials Advisory Council. This coalition has worked to identify non-degree credentials offered throughout the state that are industry-valued (i.e., the credentials lead to employment in high-demand, high-growth fields that pay family-sustaining wages). To date, the Council has identified more than 150 such credentials. State gubernatorial and legislative leadership responded by creating the North Carolina Short-Term Workforce Development Grant Program to offer no-cost pathways to industry-valued credentials using federal G.E.E.R. funds and state appropriations. This year, through the collaborative advocacy of myFutureNC and its partners, these grants are set to be codified and to receive recurring funding in North Carolina’s budget. This exceptional collaborative impact resulted from the Advisory Council’s members—including the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the state’s community colleges, the North Carolina Department of Commerce, business and industry, and the Office of the Governor—who dedicated time and resources to develop criteria for examining industry-valued credentials. While each partner is responsive to its own stakeholders, this collaborative effort underscores a shared recognition that driving educational attainment and economic growth are best accomplished through coming together and leveraging each partner’s unique expertise and influence.

National Parents Union, Educators for Excellence-Minnesota, EdAllies, Great MN Schools – The Minnesota READ Act: Supports for Students Not Reading Proficiently in 3rd Grade + Teacher Training on Science of Reading

Non-Network partners: Decoding Dyslexia MN, MN Department of Education, Education MN, Minnesota Business Partnership, and Education Evolving

When Minnesota state test results revealed that nearly half of public school students can’t read at grade level, National Parents Union (NPU) took up the call to action and started organizing groups to work together. Bringing together more than 120 organizations, NPU fought for the adoption of a curriculum based on the Science of Reading. This shared fight saw parents and organizations bringing their stories to the state house, backed with data to help write a bill so Minnesota’s children would have a new curriculum to follow the science of reading, and included teacher training, funding and accountability processes. Three tireless years of relentless work culminated into passage of the READ Act which was recently signed by Governor Walz. Guaranteeing 1.3 million children in Minnesota will read proficiently by third grade, The Read Act holds schools accountable with actionable steps for parents if students aren’t on grade level. The bill also includes $90 million in direct funding for professional development to teach educators how to successfully deliver curriculum based on the science of reading. Because of the success in Minnesota, NPU has taken the fight to Massachusetts, with plans to expand to all 50 states and Washington D.C.

Parents Ampliyfing Voices in Education (PAVE), DC Charter School Alliance, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) DC – #DCStudentsSucceed Coalition Rally for Equitable Funding and Supports

The D.C. Students Succeed (DCSS) is a partnership of more than 40 community organizations, charter schools, and advocacy groups. DCSS members believe families must be able to choose the public school that meets their unique needs, education leaders need flexibility to do their best work, and students always come first, especially Black and Brown students.  

Despite the threat of a $1.7B budget deficit for DC, DCSS members successfully advocated for significant funding to support a more equitable school system, including:

• $145M increase in per student funding (+5.05% per pupil and 0.2 increase to the at-risk funding weight)
• $74M for public charter school teacher pay increases, $15M above the Mayor’s proposed level
• $15.3M in new funding for OST grants, Department of Parks and Recreation, and Summer Youth Employment Program
• Inclusion of public charter school teachers in the Employer Assisted Housing Program that provides up to $10,000 in assistance
• New funding for structured literacy trainings
• New funding for flexible scheduling for educators
• Bonus payments for early childhood educators to ensure workforce stability
• $1.2 million to create a pipeline of behavioral health specialists by funding a Master of Social Work degree at the University of the District of Columbia

Teach Plus California, TNTP, The Education Trust-West – California Education Diversity Action Network

Non-Network partners: Latinos for Education, UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools, One Million Teachers of Color Campaign, and the Association of California Community Colleges Teacher Education Programs (ACCCTEP)

Despite years of effort and investment, California leaders have made limited progress in fostering a diverse, sustainable educator workforce. This catalyzed the creation of the California Education Diversity Action Network. This diverse coalition set out to craft a comprehensive vision by convening key stakeholders– educators, advocates, higher education representatives, policy influencers, and funders– in Sacramento at the Building Bridges Summit. The gathering anchored participants in teacher-led discussions, using networked problem-solving to identify innovative solutions to advance educator diversity in California. While California is full of leading organizations and coalitions engaged in advancing educator diversity forward, the California Education Diversity Action Network adds unique value to this landscape by centering educators of color and multilingual educators in its work, bridging their expertise with the decision-makers who shape systems. The coalition continues its work to develop a state vision and the impact of this work is just beginning. But even in the 2023-24 California State Budget, we were able to protect against cuts to key programs like grow your own teacher pathway grants, and also saw policy changes to improve the impact of existing programs, like increasing stipends for teacher residents to $40,000.

Teach Plus Illinois, Stand for Children IL, IL Network of Charter Schools, Kids First Chicago, Educators for Excellence-Chicago – Racism-Free Schools Act

After a 2021 federal report found harassment in schools increasing, half of those incidents based on race, and 1.6 million children targeted by hate speech annually, a politically diverse coalition of 36 partners including network members Teach Plus Illinois, Stand for Children Illinois, Kids First Chicago, the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, and Educators for Excellence Chicago conceived the Racism-Free Schools Act to prevent racial harassment, train educators to recognize and report it, and ensure students and families know their rights.

Coalition members leveraged relationships to build support and, through dozens of stakeholder meetings, addressed the concerns of opponents who believed current protections were strong enough while preserving core principles that protected students and teachers. The coalition drew on the strengths of constituent organizations to make the case to key legislators, including identifying students and teachers to testify about the need for the bill and why current protections weren’t working.

In today’s contentious climate it’s difficult to find agreement on issues of race, but this campaign cut through the culture wars to address real problems students face every day. Thanks to the coalition’s diverse membership and connections, the bill passed with strong bipartisan support and a unanimous final vote.

Learn more about the 2023 nominees in Best Collaboration.

Best Defense

Best Defense highlights campaigns that strategically defended important policy at significant risk and overcame significant odds using innovative tactics; sometimes, the most significant wins are actually holding the line. Nominees in this category provide models for how to deploy sharp strategies to defend policies or efforts that benefit students.

Best Defense Finalists

Cardinal Institute of West Virginia, EdChoice, ExcelinEd, National School Choice Awareness Foundation – West Virginia Hope Scholarship Defense

Non-Network partners: Institute for Justice, Americans for Prosperity-West Virginia, Love Your School-West Virginia, West Virginia Families United for Education, Yes.EveryKid., Stand Together, State Policy Network, Catholic Education Partners

The Hope Scholarship was signed into law on March 29th, 2021. Immediately, the Cardinal Institute shifted its coalition of national and state partners into a defensive posture. Given the heated nature of the debates surrounding Hope’s passage, the coalition knew a lawsuit would be forthcoming and that Hope must be defended in the court of public opinion as much as, if not more than, in the court of law. Beginning April 2021 with a Hope Scholarship eligibility quiz, media appearances, and social media ads, the coalition launched a multi-faceted campaign to raise awareness of Hope and defend it against opposition that spanned 18 months. Members created outreach materials for local events, created a website to explain Hope before the state did, identified parents to participate in litigation, and began preparation for the anticipated lawsuit. On January 19th, 2022, the lawsuit against Hope was filed and a week later the Cardinal Institute hosted West Virginia’s first ever School Choice Fair. This event celebrated growing education freedom in West Virginia, educated families on the Hope Scholarship, and served as a public launch for two local partner organizations founded to empower parents and education providers as they navigate the changing education landscape in the Mountain State. On July 6th, 2022, after children had already been accepted into the Hope Scholarship, an injunction halted its operation. The Cardinal Institute created a statewide storytelling campaign called Hope in the Hills which highlighted the families that the Hope Scholarship would help and who were being hurt by the injunction. Other coalition members also created storytelling campaigns, and one launched a podcast, dedicated to highlighting the growth of education opportunities in West Virginia, called We Have Hope. Coalition members actively participated in litigation and filed amicus briefs on behalf of Hope. On October 6th, 2022, the Hope Scholarship program was upheld as constitutional. Find additional details here.

EdAllies, Great MN Schools, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), National Parents Union – Standing Up for Choice & Cultural Relevance for Historically Underserved Families

Since 2015, the Cruz-Guzman v. Minnesota case has moved through the courts. Plaintiffs point to charter schools as a driver of metro-area school segregation, and potential remedies could limit historically underserved families’ ability to choose the best educational option. In 2023, the Minnesota Supreme Court considered a question with significant implications: does the existence of racial imbalance in a public school violate the state’s Education Clause? EdAllies, Great MN Schools, and the National Parents Union’s Minnesota team, with support from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, worked to ensure parents of color—including those who choose culturally-affirming schools with a high proportion of students of color—would be heard. Early in the case, advocates partnered to develop an issue- specific microsite, http://realvoicerealchoice.org/, and held several community forums. This year, the coalition drafted an amicus brief signed by eight organizations focused on racial justice, led a community press conference, and more. These efforts ensured impacted voices were included in the narrative. Moreover, the amicus brief helped prompt questions for the Supreme Court justices during oral arguments. This work has set the stage for ongoing legal and legislative debates, hopefully centering on school quality, cultural relevance, and agency for historically underserved communities.

Educators for Excellence-Minnesota – Tiered Teacher Licensure Defense Campaign

This year, E4E-Minnesota members’ testimonies persuaded a bipartisan group of legislators to defend tiered licensure pathways for Minnesota educators. With a coalition of local organizations, E4E-Minnesota mobilized educators, parents, students, and other stakeholders to write constituent letters, speak at hearings, and sign petitions to protect these pathways. Tiered licensure changes were first implemented in 2017. These pathways ranged from obvious ones, like allowing licensed teachers to transfer from other states, to innovative measures like licensing for classroom-based staff under a principal-and-peer-evaluation system. Expanding these pathways diversifies the teaching profession; in a 2017 study, half of newly hired Black teachers were certified through an alternative pathway, compared to 22% of all other first-year teachers. In Minnesota schools people of color represent 5.9% of the workforce, but 36.7% of students. With a Democrat-controlled Governor’s office and State Legislature, E4E-MN members expected these pathways to be safe, but in a bid for tighter control on teacher preparation as their top legislative priority, the state teachers’ union lobbied democratic lawmakers to eliminate tiered licensure. In partnership with EdAllies, E4E-MN had a Republican Senator introduce legislation protecting these pathways, and convinced 3 Democratic lawmakers to cross party lines and vote in favor of the bill, which ultimately passed!

ExcelinEd – Tennessee Early Literacy (Retention)

Tennessee’s 2023 session featured an effort to repeal early literacy reform achieved by Gov. Bill Lee’s administration. In 2021, Tennessee legislators passed the Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act, which established a comprehensive early literacy policy grounded in the science of reading to mitigate pandemic learning loss. The policy included early literacy principles, proven to improve learning outcomes, including retention and additional interventions for struggling 3rd grade readers. Before session, a widespread effort gained momentum to weaken or repeal the 2021 literacy-based promotion requirements before their August 2023 implementation date. With pressure from local school boards, more than fifteen bills were filed to push Gov. Lee and lawmakers to make concessions, weakening the law. In response, ExcelinEd/ExcelinEd in Action worked alongside state leaders to successfully protect the comprehensive literacy policy. The organizations authored research briefs on the efficacy and long-term benefits of retention and provided critical testimony advocating upholding the state’s 2021 literacy law. Lawmakers preserved the retention requirements and passed new legislation that makes slight changes to the existing law without compromising the law’s original intent.

Nashville Propel, Tennessee SCORE, Tennesseans for Student Success, Tennessee Charter School Center, TennesseeCAN, The Memphis LIFT – Defending Foundational Public Charter School Policies

Prior to the 2023 session of the Tennessee General Assembly, the public charter school sector was impacted by coordinated, vocal opposition and increasingly negative press. Media coverage diverted attention from the positive impact of charter schools on students and focused on expanding school choice outside of urban areas, controversial curriculum choices, and serving non-economically disadvantaged students. Heightened polarization and opposition on both sides of the political aisle raised concerns and threatened to dismantle foundational charter school policies, including the establishment of the state authorizer and equitable funding. Advocates knew these policies would be under attack during the legislative session. The Tennessee coalition of partners aligned before the session began on legislative priorities and strategy to defend and advance key priorities. The coalition worked together to elevate student data and news from the charter sector to demonstrate the positive impact the sector was making on students and communities. No negative legislation passed during the 2023 session that impacted charter schools including attempts to limit the power of the state authorizer and decrease funding for public charter school students. Five anti-charter bills were filed that our coalition opposed. Thanks to advocacy efforts, two of the filed anti-charter bills were never calendared. Of the three other anti-charter bills which were on the calendar this year, they failed in committee or subcommittee. None of the bills were ever brought to a floor vote. Additionally, an important policy was passed that enabled charter schools in Tennessee to preference students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds in their enrollment lotteries.

National Parents Union – Mobilization Against HR 5

The national GOP introduced H.R.5, calling it the “Parents Bill of Rights Act”, it purported to allow for greater transparency into curriculum, spending and public reporting of violence in schools. A poorly disguised continuation of the culture war currently plaguing schools. It was obvious that parent voices were deliberately excluded from the conversation. So the National Parents Union (NPU) showed up. With only three days’ notice, NPU mobilized almost 100 parents from across the country to advocate at the federal level against H.R.5, visiting all 435 House Member offices and to the House Chambers for discussion of the bill. NPU’s policy paper outlining H.R.5’s lack of parent voice representation was entered into the Congressional Record and was submitted into the library of congress as official record. As expected, the bill survived the House vote, but NPU continued the fight, attending on-going meetings and working with Senators to ensure that the bill died in the Senate. The campaign to defeat the bill was successful, opening doors to additional difficult conversations and allowing parents to continue to speak truth to power and hold lawmakers accountable. This action effectively opened the door for parent voice to be heard on the national level.

Texas Public Charter Schools Association – The Best Defense is a Good Offense: Protecting Texas Charter Schools

This session we had many wins on the defensive front in Texas and attribute much of this to the fact that we were strategically offensive in advance.

Proof Points:
• Opponents filed 19 bills designed to make it harder for families to access public charter schools. Not a single one was given a hearing.
• We blocked many anti-charter amendments during a multi-hour debate on our key priority bill, often with only seconds to review the amendment and determine how to quickly defeat it.
• Hearing that the State Board of Education was going to file an anti-charter bill, we ran an offensive priority bill on the same topic and created one-pagers to push back on the myths. While our priority bill only passed the House Committee and did not become law, the anti-charter bill on this topic never even got a hearing or gained any traction. This was a huge defensive win.

Keys to Success:
• We reached out to charter-friendly lawmakers to encourage them to request appointment to the House Public Education Committee, which has been anti-charter in past sessions.
• We built momentum with Capitol Connections Week, an extended advocacy event where we trained nearly 400 advocates and convened 70 meetings with state lawmakers over Zoom. These relationships mattered down the stretch!

The Oakland REACH – Keep Oakland Kids in School, Parents Say NO to an OEA Strike

In progressive cities like Oakland, pushing back publicly against the teacher’s union does not happen, even when many disagree with the union’s tactics. In May 2023, The Oakland REACH launched a bold communications campaign calling out the teacher strikes and their harm and disruption to student learning. Their month-long campaign kicked off with a community petition condemning the strikes that garnered several hundred signatures both locally and nationally. Once the strike started, REACH’s CEO and team of Parent Liberators interviewed with every local news outlet and pushed out daily “anti-strike” communications. Their earned media “reached” nearly 30 million people, and social media presence made over 250,000 impressions. REACH was unable to prevent the 8-day strike, but they were successful in changing the narrative against teacher strikes, making it very unpopular with many parents, who became more outspoken. They were able to influence the quality of the district’s communications to the public, and convinced their local NAACP chapter to issue a statement condemning the strikes. Their communications strategy can be leveraged in future strike threats. A policy was not at risk, but student learning was. REACH built a responsive defense that has laid the groundwork for legislative action and advocacy.

Learn more about the 2023 nominees in Best Defense.

Best Implementation

Best Implementation is a new award this year that highlights the necessary implementation work to ensure that breakthrough policies or laws lead to sustained impact for students. Advocates know that passing policy is only the beginning of the work to change outcomes and opportunities for students. This is the first time work has been recognized in this category.

Best Implementation Finalists

A for Arizona – Arizona School Spending Transparency Portal

The Arizona School Spending Portal is a first in the nation tool for Arizonans to understand how dollars are spent in schools. In 2017, A for Arizona worked with the Arizona Legislature to craft legislation requiring the state report public schools’ annual financial reports and school level financial data in a transparent fashion. The bill had an enactment date in 2021 so the state would have time to build the system. As A for Arizona worked on implementation, we quickly realized that a simple report from the state on how schools spend money was note enough, we needed a more user friendly option. In 2021, we went back to the legislature to establish the Arizona School Spending Portal, which would stand as its own tool for families, instead of a report on a department website. This tool lets constituents look up any public school in the state to see how their federal, state and local funding is spent. This shows breakdowns on how funding at the site level is being spent and how much is actually spent on the student. A for Arizona lead on focus groups, vendor selection and promoting the tool to families. After it’s launch in 2023, A for Arizona continues to lead on this project in promoting this tool to community members, working closely with agencies and constantly improving the tool to ensure it is the top operating system in the country.

BEST NC – Meaningful Career Pathways for Education Professionals: Advanced Teaching Roles in North Carolina

North Carolina is well on its way to disrupting an industrial-model staffing structure that stifles teacher collaboration, limits professional advancement, and deprives students’ access to effective educators. For the past eight years, BEST NC has championed an innovative new approach to school staffing and compensation called Advanced Teaching Roles (ATR). Under ATR, schools implement modern, locally-customized organizational models that elevate effective educators into leadership roles – and pays them more in the process. ATR models are extending the reach of effective teachers to more students, providing meaningful career opportunities for effective teachers, and ensuring embedded professional support for all teachers. Originally established in 2016 as a pilot program, BEST NC has led the way as ATR has been refined and expanded, becoming a permanent part of state statute in 2020 and now implemented in ~20% of North Carolina school districts. Over 1,000 ATR teachers are currently in leadership roles and district demand continues to grow as we move steadily toward statewide implementation. BEST NC is committed to a deliberate, long- haul approach that has demonstrated the effectiveness of ATR. We know this massive cultural shift must happen over many years, as the “coalition of the willing” expands strategically toward statewide adoption.

Forward Arkansas – Transforming University-Based Educator Preparation

Arkansas faces severe teacher workforce challenges and university educator preparation programs (EPP) remain, by far, the largest source of new teachers. In 2020, The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) created “Day One Ready”, rigorous new standards for the preparation of teachers. A year later, Forward launched the EPP Design Collaborative, a first-of-its-kind competition to catalyze transformation among university EPPs. Open to all, 16 of the state’s 19 EPPs applied. We accepted a diverse cohort of 8, that engaged in a year-long process, guided by expert national partners. Each EPP created a detailed three-year “transformation plan”, which prioritized robust practical experiences for candidates, deep district partnerships, and increased data capture. We awarded two EPPs “transformation awards” and three years of expert implementation support. All eight – comprising nearly 60% of the total teacher pipeline – continue their transformation efforts. Our work supports implementation of “Day One Ready” and also informed the development of a new EPP accreditation system replacing CAEP. In 2023, the state passed Arkansas LEARNS, which includes many innovative components cultivated within the Collaborative, such as a year-long “residency” for all teacher candidates. Forward was asked by ADE to expand the Collaborative to support implementation efforts in all University EPPs in the state. Learn more here: A New Lesson Plan: Classroom Residencies Help Train Better Teachers and New Approaches to Tackling Big Challenges in Education.

Mississippi First – Raising the Rate for the Early Collaborative Program in Mississippi

In 2023, Mississippi took a significant step forward in early education with the passage of House Bill 817. This groundbreaking legislation, driven by the efforts of Mississippi First, permanently raised the funding rate for early learning collaboratives (ELCs) to $2,500 per child for full-day programs from $2,150—a $350 increase per child in state funds or about $7,000 per classroom of 20. Mississippi First was deeply involved in every stage of the process, from writing the bill’s language to advocating steadfastly until its passage. The journey of implementing House Bill 817 has been both challenging and rewarding, given the obstacles faced in previous legislative sessions. However, through perseverance and collaboration with legislators, pre-K champions, and other key leaders, Mississippi First ensured that collaboratives have the necessary funds to operate.

Since the passage of the Early Learning Collaborative Act in 2013, Mississippi First’s leadership has led to over 36 high-quality collaboratives serving 6,800 students—a remarkable 283% increase from its first year of implementation. The state’s investment in the program has also grown significantly, from $3M annually for the first six years to $24M. This increased funding has expanded access to high-quality early learning opportunities to 25% of Mississippi’s four-year-olds, a goal set by Mississippi First to be achieved by 2025. In addition to leading the legislative charge, Mississippi First worked tirelessly to explain the tax credit to collaboratives and donors, resulting in millions of dollars in donations from individuals and corporations. we have provided comprehensive support to the Mississippi Department of Education through training, resources, and strategic planning. Despite this exponential growth, Mississippi First’s work is not done—their new goal is to offer high-quality pre-K seats to 50% of the state’s four-year-olds by 2030.

Parents Amplifying Voices in Education (PAVE) – School-based Mental Health Supports: Parents ensure quality and expansion remain top priority

Since PAVE parents first selected school-based mental health (SBMH) as a top priority in 2018, they have been the drivers and co-creators of a comprehensive SBMH system. This year, parents’ vision for collective learning and identifying solutions culminated in Whole DC Community Learning Sessions: an initiative to bring diverse perspectives together to build understanding of the whole child model, improve implementation, and expand holistic supports. More than 80 DC leaders attended including cabinet-level city officials.

Additionally, in response to PAVE parent leaders’ years of advocacy, access to a mental health clinician in DC schools have been significantly expanded. An analysis of federal data by Education Week this year found that DC is the only state-level system with 100% of public school enrollment meeting “ideal ratios of school psychologists and counselors to students.” 

This year, DC made even more progress around improving the SBMH workforce: 

• DC was awarded a $9.7 million grant from the US Department of Education to support the recruitment and retention of mental health clinicians. 
• In response to PAVE parents’ advocacy, two pieces of legislation were introduced to remove barriers for SBMH professionals to gain the certifications they need to work in schools.

Rodel – Implementing Career Pathways 2.0 in Delaware

Non-Network partners: Bloomberg Philanthropies, American Student Assistance, Walton Family Foundation

Rodel and partners started Delaware’s career pathways effort in 2014 with 27 students and set a goal of engaging 50% of high schoolers, 20,0000 students, by 2020. We achieved that goal, and in 2021 launched Pathways 2.0. and set our sights on: – Starting earlier in the middle grades – Our goal was to begin rolling out a new set of standards and supports to all 30,000 of our middle schoolers in 2025. At this point, after a student-centered design phase, 10 local schools will pilot “Rethinking Middle Grades” this fall to over 5,000 middle school students. – Going deeper with our high schoolers – We plan to not only reach our goal of 80% of all high schoolers, or 32,000 students enrolled in career pathways by 2025, but we are going deeper, starting with our vocational school students to accelerate apprenticeship programs. – Strengthening employer partnerships – Our plan is to engage hundreds of employers statewide by 2025 including a deep dive in IT. To do this, we launched the Tech Council of Delaware, DE’s first tech sector intermediary to connect the dots between IT training providers and employers. This work was made possible through a blend of public and private resources.

Tennessee SCORE – Implementation of High-Dosage Tutoring

In 2021, Tennessee passed policy and provided funding to support high-dosage tutoring implementation to address pandemic learning loss. Prior to that, SCORE launched a multiprong approach to spread and scale high-dosage tutoring by providing guidance to districts, key geographical on-the-ground support, data collection to measure impact, and recommendations to policymakers and educators to refine practices. SCORE published a tutoring implementation guide and provided broad professional learning accessible to all Tennessee districts and charter schools. SCORE supported Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) to design, pilot, and scale a high-dosage tutoring model aligned to research, one of the largest in the country—serving 7,000 students in year one, enabling MNPS to strategically launch tutoring before state support was available and providing intervention to a large proportion of the state’s historically underserved students. Additionally, SCORE launched a network of 6 districts, serving nearly 20,000 students, working to ensure their tutoring models were financially sustainable, scheduled during the school day for equitable access, and aligned to an instructionally coherent vision for student success. Network learnings led to the release of an instructional coherence white paper advocating for changes to Tennessee’s framework for intervention to ensure that funding for tutoring reaches students with greatest need.

Learn more about the 2023 nominees in Best Implementation.

Most Actionable Research

Most Actionable Research spotlights resources or tools that shed new light on pressing and widespread problems or solutions and that state and local advocates across the Network leveraged to make a compelling case for policy change and achieve breakthroughs. 

Most Actionable Research Finalists

BEST NC: Teacher Pay in North Carolina – A Smart Investment in Student Achievement

Research finds that teachers are the most significant in-school factor for student success. And yet, most proposals around teacher compensation are just asking for “more of the same.’ In 2023, BEST NC examined the root cause of teacher compensation and pipeline challenges, specifically the outdated step-and-lane salary schedule used in most states, which hinders our ability to recruit and retain the best and brightest to teach. Teacher Pay in North Carolina: A Smart Investment in Student Achievement is an extensive, first-of-its-kind report that examines how existing teacher pay structures fail to address decades-long shifts in our national workforce and are inadequate for meeting the personal and professional needs of teachers. Instead of “more of the same,” the report offers a specific set of research-based solutions that align teacher pay levels and structures with how other high-skilled professionals are compensated to attract top-tier talent, fill vacancies, and retain/motivate staff. With its grounding in national best practices for high-skilled employees, every state and district can find actionable research and recommendations to strengthen their compensation systems. Several of the report’s recommendations are already included in NC policy proposals this year, including funding Advanced Teaching Roles pay for teachers and front-loading the pay schedule.

Data Quality Campaign (DQC) – A Vision to Transform State Data Systems to Inform People’s Pathways through Education and the Workforce

DQC’s vision to transform state data systems sets a new goal for state education and workforce data. The vision clearly defines the kinds of data access that state data systems should enable for individuals, the public, and policymakers, while providing state leaders and advocates with a roadmap for how to make data access a reality. The resource gives advocates a tool to ground conversations about the data access their communities deserve, state leaders the roadmap for how to make it happen, and national leaders the context for how they can ease and expedite this work across the country. With this resource, every PIE Network member can support their state leaders to move forward with the crucial work of changing their state data systems to ease transitions between education and workforce for individuals and the public, and provide policymakers with the information they need to support these transitions.

Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University – ESSER BUNNY SAVES THE DAY! A Dashboard with actual district-by-district data on relief spending

In early pandemic days, Congress deployed an eye-popping $190 billion to districts with little ask in return. Districts did draft “plans,” but those were moot as soon as the labor market tightened, inflation hit, and math scores plummeted. The feds weren’t collecting any data on how districts were spending these dollars, effectively leaving advocates in the dark on the largest-ever infusion of public funds in our public education system. Then came the ESSER bunny to the rescue! That’s the unofficial name of Edunomics Lab’s ESSER Expenditure Dashboard, where users can track ESSER spending in every US district via the first national —and freely accessible—online tracker. To surface accurate ESSER spending data, Edunomics Lab scrambled to build a data portal and assemble timely and accurate data from all 50 states, often deploying complex scraping code to wrangle thousands of lines of data out of near-impenetrable e-grant systems. Based on media interest, feedback, and web traffic (the dashboard has been accessed over 29,000 times), advocates and leaders are mining the data for insights into spending in their communities, and using that to inform how remaining funds should be targeted to the students and schools who need them most.

National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) – Teacher Prep Review: Strengthening Elementary Reading Instruction

Tens of thousands of teachers step into classrooms each year without the training needed to help students learn to read. NCTQ’s Teacher Prep Review: Strengthening Elementary Reading Instruction analyzed nearly 700 teacher preparation programs across the country, showing state leaders, policymakers, and programs themselves where teacher preparation could do better. It provided customized course-level feedback and individualized state profiles illustrating the quality of states’ prep programs and reading policies, coupled with highly personalized campaigns supporting state leaders, advocates, and programs to drive improvement. This report and resources are already yielding policy changes and galvanizing action. The Teacher Prep Review shaped the narrative on teacher prep’s critical role in reading instruction, with 645 traditional news media mentions by early July. NCTQ engaged with PIE network members, advocates, policymakers across the nation through 20 webinars held with an estimated 250+ attendees, and more than 20 individual phone calls.  The Teacher Prep Review catalyzed and informed legislative action: NY legislator announced a science of reading bill aimed at teacher prep programs; Ohio recently passed legislation holding teacher prep programs accountable after NCTQ supported local advocates’ push; and NCTQ partnered with advocates in New Mexico, Illinois, and Georgia to supply new data and analysis that yielded new literacy laws focused on teacher prep to support teachers and their students in learning to read.

National Parents Union (NPU) – National Parent Poll

The National Parents Union (NPU) knows that recommending solutions to the challenges faced by children means having data-driven arguments to back them up. Which is why NPU prioritizes listening directly to parents by conducting the only national poll developed by parent advocates for parents. The polling is designed to ensure that parent perspectives are infused into public policy debates and media coverage about issues facing American families. The monthly survey keeps NPU ahead of the debates on core issues, including the on-going “culture war,” curriculum and content access. Our polls often test support for bills on issues such as equitable access to basic needs, literacy and student assessment. NPU purposefully includes elements of proposed legislation in our polls so lawmakers know how parents feel about upcoming bills. Additionally, NPU polls are shared quarterly with the U.S. Department of Education, offering information about current challenges, and outlining solutions identified by families. Data points are shared in Congressional policy briefs and policy papers, and data from the March 2023 poll was entered into Congressional Record during the debate on H.R.5. Additionally, NPU polling data has been used to help form, pass and advance legislation across the country.

NewMexicoKidsCAN – Literacy Toolkit & Literacy Action Center

The NewMexicoKidsCAN Literacy Toolkit can be replicated, branded and used by other advocacy organizations across the country. The toolkit breaks down the key information about early literacy in terms that make sense to parents. Additionally, it provides parents tools to meaningfully engage with their child’s teacher so that they can collaboratively support their student in the literacy journey. Reading instruction will not change in classrooms without a groundswell of community knowledge building and support. Though policy is important, we need informed community members to know and understand the policy to help support its implementation. This is one of the only tools that exists to help everyday parents understand the complexities of reading instruction and encourages them to take a more active role in their child’s literacy journey. The Literacy Toolkit is paired with the Literacy Action Center which guides parents and community members through a journey of action steps that will help them build their knowledge and context for the ‘reading wars.’ Together, both tools provide necessary support for the community to help improve literacy in their child’s classroom, their local district and across New Mexico.

Learn more about the 2023 nominees in Most Actionable Tools & Research.

Power to the People Campaign

Power to the People Campaign features grassroots policy and advocacy campaigns at the local level that responded to community needs, grew from community power, and transformed opportunities for students and families in their community.

Power to the People Campaign Finalists

Bluum – Empowering Parents to Access Supplemental Learning Opportunities

At the height COVID-19, Idaho Governor Brad Little invested $50 million in CARES Act funding for grants directly to parents through the Strong Families, Strong Students (SFSS) program. More than 80,000 students applied. The successful SFSS program was followed by the $30 million Empowering Parents grant program. Approved by the 2022 Legislature, that program covers grants of up to $1,000 per child or $3,000 per family and funded nearly 44,000 students as of March 2023. Bluum supported both programs during development and launch. Along the way, we worked to gauge the impact of these programs on students as reported by parents themselves. With support from the Filling the Gap Fund program administered by Bellwether and generously funded by the Walton Family Foundation, Bluum engaged the education research firm FDR Group to survey Idaho parents that applied for Empowering Parents grant support. The FDR Group conducted focus groups with parents statewide and conducted an online survey with 369 parents in January 2023. The findings from this research were shared with the Idaho State Board of Education and the public to ensure parents have a voice in how this now-permanent grant program evolves to best meet their needs.

Education Civil Rights Now – Codifying quality public education as a civil right for all children

Education Civil Rights Now (ECRN) is working with partners in multiple states to craft constitutional rights language that establishes an actionable right to high quality public education for all children. Former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is leading the campaign in California, Opportunity 180 is leading the campaign in Nevada, and 50CAN affiliates are leading the campaign in multiple other states. This theory of change threads a fine constitutional and political needle, codifying universal values into a legal framework with radical implications for parents and children. It is grounded in the fact that we are playing a rigged game because kids can’t vote and parents don’t have lobbyists. We are all going to Vegas trying to win against the House for kids. Codifying quality public education as a civil right would reorient the physics of education politics by empowering parents and families with a seat at the table to advocate for the interests of all children while shifting the narrative from choice and billionaires to civil rights and children.

GO Public Schools Frenso – Empowering English Learners: A Community-Driven Campaign for Change

In the development and planning of this campaign, the community played a central role as a key partner. Led by family leaders, our action committee recognized the challenges faced by English learners in our area and embarked on a journey to address these issues together. Through diligent research and analysis of local data, we created the report ‘Forward, Together’ which served as a foundation for our advocacy. Engaging in data-walk events facilitated by the GO team, we brought school personnel, parents, elected officials, and local organizations into the conversation. By sharing valuable information and fostering meaningful discussions, we collaboratively formulated recommendations to improve the district’s Master Plan for English Learners. A sign-on letter, supported by nearly 200 signatures from our Family Leaders, presented these recommendations to Fresno Unified’s Board of Education. As a result of our grassroots policy and advocacy campaign, exciting opportunities have emerged for students and families. The revised Master Plan for ELs, incorporating our suggestions and parent input, will come into effect in the fall of 2023. This transformative progress promises a brighter future for English learners, providing them with enhanced support and access to quality education. Our community’s partnership has proven that collective action can create lasting positive change for those we care about most.

Innovate Public Schools – Advocating for Better Translation & Interpretation Services in SFUSD

Without adequate access to translation and interpretation, parents cannot fully participate in the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) process or give informed consent, which significantly delays and/or limits the services and support their children receive. In San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), there was no historical timeline or requirement for translation services—some families waited up to 6 months for translations. In 2021, Innovate Parent Leaders introduced an equity resolution to the district to require live interpretation services and adequately translated documents within 30 days of IEP meetings. As a result of parents’ listening campaigns, research meetings, and advocacy with district officials, the resolution was unanimously passed in 2022. The resolution significantly enhanced the accessibility of full participation in the IEP process for 12,000 SFUSD families who do not speak English as a first language, including Arabic, Chinese, Filipino, Samoan, Spanish and Vietnamese. Building on the success of the SFUSD Resolution, Innovate Parent Leader teams across the state are now proposing these requirements at the statewide level with Senate Bill 445, co-sponsored by Senator Portantino and supported by SFUSD. This bill, pending approval, will assist families of the 700,000 students across CA who have an IEP.

Kids First Chicago – Chicago’s Future Elected School Board: Demanding Fair Racial Representation

A 2021 law put the country’s 4th largest school district, Chicago Public Schools (CPS), on a pathway to a 21-member fully elected school board (ESB) by 2027. This is a seismic shift for CPS, which has been governed by a 7-person Mayoral appointed board since 1995. Kids First Chicago (K1C) and its Chicago parent-led task force have been calling for a future elected school board that represents the lived experiences of the students within CPS, gives non-citizen CPS families an equal say, and creates measures for everyday parents to participate. Essentially, parents want a board that is fair, functional, and representative. Throughout the 2023 legislative session, Chicago parents showed up again and again to make their voices heard to the Illinois General Assembly. K1C and K1C parent leaders hosted a press conference on May 17, delivered 17 oral testimonies through 13 hearings, garnered media mentions 30+ times, and ultimately, successfully advocated to elected leaders to put their families’ interests over politics. As a result, the Illinois Senate and House voted in the final hours of the spring legislative session to delay the deadline for drawing new electoral districts from July 1, 2023, to April 1, 2024. While only a temporary “win,” the change allows gives more Power to the People to determine the future of Chicago’s school board.

Parents Amplifying Voices in Education (PAVE) – Win for equity in Out-of-School-Time: Dedicated Funding and New Equitable Sign-Up Process

PAVE parent leaders selected Out-of-School-Time (OST) programs as one of two parent priorities for this budget advocacy season. Their asks were clear: more OST seats, better supports for students with disabilities in OST, and a more accessible and equitable system to sign-up for programs. Parents’ remarkable advocacy alongside OST partners from around the District made each of those asks a reality! Wins included: 

• Maintained $23.8 million for OST and added 5,000 Department of Recreation (DPR) OST seats.
$6.8 million to fund dedicated childcare slots for infants and toddlers with disabilities and OST slots for children with disabilities.
$3.125 million for grants for after-school providers to increase seats at priority elementary schools.
• After hearing from PAVE parents that those closest to privilege were far more likely to gain seats in OST programs, DPR launched a lottery program for the first time this year to create a more equitable sign-up process.
$1.875 million to develop a new “My Afterschool DC” hub, which will serve as a centralized location for parents to receive information about OST programs and sign-up for programs through the new OST lottery.

Learn more about the 2023 nominees in Power to the People Campaign.

Suzanne Kubach PIE Network Weaver of the Year

Suzanne Kubach PIE Network Weaver of the Year honors local, state, or national leaders who consistently go above and beyond their job description to connect and support peers advancing state and local advocacy policy. This category recognizes advocates who thoughtfully and intentionally support the leadership and work of others, strengthening the Network and the sector. This category was previously called Network MVP.

Suzanne Kubach Weaver of the Year Finalists

Charlie Barone & Michael Petrilli – Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) & Thomas B. Fordham Institute

In the spring of 2022, the Building Bridges Project, initiated by Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, convened a group of education advocates from the Left, Right, and Center to discuss American education in the wake of the Covid pandemic. The group met in-person six times over 12 months. While the group did not agree on everything, all members agreed that we need a bold vision for change, leadership that works across lines of difference, and decisive action to make good on America’s promises to all children today and in the future. The group ultimately put forth five actions that are a strong beginning—a foundation upon which a more responsive and engaging educational system can be built going forward.

Both Charlie and Mike worked to convene this diverse group, including many PIE Network members, in a polarized time, to rethink our shared policy priorities. Their commitment to bridging differences helped to forge new relationships, strengthen old ones, and remind us that we have a shared goal and many shared ideas across ideological lines.

Charlie and Mike also circulated a sign-on letter embodying these principles that currently has almost 100 signees, most of them PIE Network members. The hope is that this group’s work can be a springboard to coalition-driven advocacy and policymaking nationally and at the state and local level.

Derrell Bradford – 50CAN

Derrell deserves this award, first and foremost, because of the generosity with which he lends his significant intelligence to anyone who asks. Often, he does this in the broad light of day, such as at his testimony this year at the US Capitol in the hearing on the learning loss crisis, where he spoke truth to power, resulting in a fiery and important debate. But that’s a mere iceberg tip for what he does behind-the-scenes: synthesizing and synergizing the policy ideas from many different groups into the robust vision of the future that the movement is in need of; hosting conversations to focus on the pragmatic, bipartisan coalition needed for change rather than succumb to growing polarization; and flying around the country to attend and support dozens of groups each year in the PIE Network and help them achieve their goals. The Weaver of the Year award is focused on the individual who most strengthens the movement and members of the PIE network. That is Derrell, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. His work with partners sits alongside his support for the 10 chapters of the 50CAN network and the participants of his National Voices Fellowship, now at 50 alumni and growing. No matter where in the movement people work, Derrell is constantly thinking about how to match leaders to opportunities and connect us all together so we can do more for kids.

Eric Lerum – America Succeeds

Eric Lerum, America Succeeds, COO Eric is a quiet giant. He is not ostentatious in his leadership, but rather puts his head down to drive the work forward while supporting his colleagues, and other PIE Network members along the way, never expecting nor asking for recognition. Eric can always be counted on to provide constructive feedback, to push leaders past the easy answers and to challenge them to rise to their greatest capacity. Eric is not recognized enough for the depth of knowledge and experience he brings to the work. He is one of the brightest and most authentic minds in the Network when it comes to navigating the challenging political environment of our time. He is bold in his convictions but ALWAYS open to honest and respectful dialogue. He is an absolute asset to the PIE Network and would be a worthy recipient of the Suzanne Kubach Network Weaver of the Year.

Keri Rodrigues Langan – National Parents Union (NPU)

Keri Rodrigues Langan, Co-Founder & Founding President, National Parents Union (NPU) Called “arguably the most successful parent organizer in education advocacy today”, Keri’s commitment to social, economic and education equity for children and families spans decades. As a teen, Keri learned firsthand how difficult it was to obtain a quality education without support. As a mother navigating the education system for her children, it became clear that schools were not adequately meeting the needs of students and parents. Keri drew on her communication and organizing skills to focus on education activism. Through national polls, focus groups, and telling their stories, designing pathways for families to be acknowledged as key stakeholders. Where parents didn’t have a seat at discussion tables, Keri brought chairs, creating parent-led spaces where legislators, educators build together. Keri’s work, impact and perspective have been featured by major media outlets as she raises awareness of education inequity and the lack of high-quality education outcomes for students. Believing that we must work together to be successful, collaborating with everyone from The U.S. Department of Education, to UnidosUS, to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Under her leadership, NPU has united more than 1,000 affiliated parent organizations globally.

Dr. Kymyona Burk – ExcelinEd

With a relentless commitment to comprehensive policy and evidence-based practice, Dr. Kymyona Burk is a champion for early learners and a changemaker who, by changing policy, is changing the trajectory of young lives in dozens of states across the country. In collaboration with colleagues, policymakers, partner organizations and key state stakeholders, Dr. Burk consistently plays a key role in supporting the development, advancement and implementation of comprehensive early literacy policy; delivers expert testimony before state legislatures, boards of education, policy shapers and educators; and analyzes new or existing policy to align them with ExcelinEd’s Fundamental Principles of Early Literacy Policy. An expert in her field, Dr. Burk has developed model policies for early literacy and educator preparation program alignment to the science of reading and been a leader in the charge to eliminate failed reading instructional practices, such as three-cueing, from elementary classrooms. She is instrumental in contributing to implementation science, which seeks to “systematically close the gap between what we know and what we do.” Since joining ExcelinEd in 2020, Dr. Burk has grown the impact of ExcelinEd’s Early Literacy Network, which now includes 90 state education agency literacy leaders representing 30 states and the District of Columbia. Over the past year, and in collaboration with Network members, Dr. Burk developed and released key policy resources, including leading the development of EarlyLiteracyMatters.org. This one-of-a-kind website equips policymakers and education leaders with comprehensive policy solutions for supporting teachers, administrators, students and families—and ultimately changing lives through literacy success. Policymakers and education leaders are regularly using this resource to develop stronger state policy and more effective policy implementation to improve student achievement.

Rachel Canter – Mississippi First

As we celebrate our 15th anniversary at Mississippi First, we nominate our esteemed Executive Director, Rachel Canter, for the Suzanne Kubach PIE Network Weaver of the Year award. Rachel has been a beacon of hope, resilience, and innovation since the inception of Mississippi First. Her leadership has been instrumental in navigating the complex political landscape of Mississippi. Our landmark victories since our founding, among numerous other educational strides, are testament to her unwavering commitment to advancing education within the state. Rachel’s strength lies not just in her ability to effect policy change, but also in fostering meaningful relationships. She has built and maintained strong connections with legislators, education champions, stakeholders, effectively rallying a community around the noble cause of improving education. What sets Rachel apart is her dedication to working behind the scenes, ensuring that the mission always remains front and center—regardless of the obstacles. She embodies the ‘give and get’ spirit that the Suzanne Kubach PIE Network Weaver of the Year award celebrates. Rachel is the quintessential super connector, constantly sharing ideas, resources, and strategies, and amplifying the policy and advocacy work of her peers. We firmly believe that her tireless efforts, steadfast commitment, and unwavering dedication make her perfect for the Suzanne Kubach PIE Network Weaver of the Year award.

Learn more about the 2023 nominees in Suzanne Kubach PIE Network Weaver of the Year.

2023 Timeline

  • Late Spring: Determine Award Categories – categories are generally consistent each year, however, we do adapt, add, and remove areas each year to stay in line with the field. Best Implementation, Best Defense and Power to the People Campaign have been added in recent years.
  • Summer: Nomination Deadline – all-call for nominations from PIE Network members for their own work or to recognize the work of other Network members. 
  • Late Summer: Finalists Announced – finalists in each category are announced as selected by the Eddies Nomination Committee. The committee is comprised of 14 local, state, and national leaders.
  • August 29 – September 15: Network VotingNetwork members cast their votes for winners. NOTE: Voting for the Game Changer Campaign of the Year will happen onsite at the 2023 PIE Network Annual Summit.
  • October 19: Winners Announced – Winners will be announced at the 2023 PIE Network Annual Summit in Nashville, TN.