Conservative Leaders for Education is a campaign comprised of leading state lawmakers and education chairs focused on ensuring conservative principles gain traction in state policy decisions as states begin to develop accountability plans under the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
The enactment of ESSA which supplants No Child Left Behind (NCLB) decidedly returns the principal authority of education policymaking to its rightful place: states and localities. We are now requiring states to develop state-specific implementation plans covering things like teacher evaluations, assessments, and plans on how they will intervene in the states’ lowest performing schools.
ESSA presents us with a unique window of time to weigh in and shape education policies in a way that leaves a lasting and meaningful imprint. Conservatives currently control more state legislatures than at any time in modern history. Let’s seize the day and create a brighter future for education in America.
Dr. William J. Bennett
William J. Bennett is one of America’s most important, influential, and respected voices on cultural, political, and education issues. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Bill Bennett studied philosophy at Williams College (B.A.) and the University of Texas (Ph.D.) and earned a law degree (J.D.) from Harvard. He is currently the Chairman of Conservative Leaders for Education and serves on the Advisory Board of Udacity, one of the world’s leading online education organizations, as well as the Advisory Board of Viridis Learning, Inc. He is also a Senior Advisor to HigherEducation.com, which specializes in assisting universities in marketing their degrees.
Over the course of his professional life, in education, government and the private sector, Dr. Bennett has succeeded in a trifecta of American institutions. He is an award-winning professor in academia, having taught at Boston University, the University of Texas, and Harvard; he is a three-time confirmed executive in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations including holding two cabinet-level positions, Secretary of Education under Ronald Reagan and the Nation’s first Drug Czar under the first President Bush. He was formerly the host of Morning in America, one of the largest national talk shows in the country, and is now host of The Bill Bennett Interview, a nationally syndicated series of exclusive, in-depth interviews aired across the country on the Salem Radio Network. And he is also an experienced technology entrepreneur, having been the founding Chairman of K12.com a multi-billion dollar online education company. He is the author of more than 24 books, including two New York Times number one best sellers and two of the most successful books of the 1990s.
Alabama: Mary Scott Hunter
Mary Scott Hunter has been a member of the Alabama State Board of Education since 2010 and currently serves as President Pro Temp.
Some of Hunter’s political focus areas have been Workforce Development, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics), Career Technical Education, and closing Alabama’s School-to-Prison Pipeline. She is currently running for the Alabama State Senate.
Arizona: Rep. Paul Boyer
State Representative Paul Boyer has been serving in the Arizona legislature since 2013. He is the Chairman of the House Education Committee. Previously, he was the Supervisor of District Communications for Mesa Public Schools, the largest school district in the state. Last year, Boyer authored House Bill 2180 that allowed local school districts and charter schools to select one of several statewide achievement tests to administer to their students. Boyer also teaches 10th grade at Veritas Preparatory Academy, a charter school in Phoenix, AZ.
Colorado: Sen. Owen Hill
Senator Owen Hill was elected to the Colorado State Senate in 2012 and currently serves as chair of the Education Committee in the Colorado State Senate. Hill was an original sponsor of House Bill 1375, a measure to create equal funding for charter schools and traditional public schools, which will become law when the Governor signs the bill later this summer. Owen is an Air Force Academy Graduate with a Ph.D. in Economics from the Pardee RAND Graduate School. He currently serves as the CFO for a non-profit, also owns his own management consulting company. He is currently running for the U.S. Congress.
Florida: Rep. Michael Bileca
State Representative Michael Bileca was first elected in 2010. He is the current chairman of the House Education Committee.
In his time in the legislature he has passed significant education reform legislation such as expanding choice options for children with special needs, children trapped in failing schools as well as the nation’s largest Educational Savings Account program.
Georgia: Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle
Former State Senator, Casey Cagle made history in 2006 by becoming the first Republican ever elected to Georgia’s second highest office.
After winning re-election in November of 2010, Georgia voters overwhelmingly re-elected him again in November 2014, returning Lt. Governor Cagle to office for his third term. Cagle has established himself as a bold leader and champion for education and economic development. He also authored the book, “Education Unleased,” covering student reform and measuring classroom achievement.
Kentucky: Sen. Mike Wilson
Senator Wilson was recently appointed as the new Majority Whip. He formerly served as the chair of the Senate Education Committee in Kentucky. He also was former co-chair of the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee (EAARS). Senator Wilson was a champion in passing SB1 in early 2017, to improve the state’s education accountability system. The bill was the first comprehensive education legislation passed in the nation under the new Federal ESSA structure. Wilson also served in the United States Marine Corps for over eight years.
Missouri: Rep. Kathy Swan
Representative Kathy Swan currently serves as the chair of the Missouri House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education.
She was first elected in 2012. Representative Swan is also the Chair of the Missouri Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia, member of the Missouri Career and Technical Education Advisory Council, and member of the Missouri School Improvement Plan 6 Development Team.
Nevada: Assemb. Melissa Woodbury
Assemblywoman Melissa Woodbury was the former chair of the Assembly Education Committee in Nevada.
She was first elected to the Nevada Assembly in 2009. In her time in the legislature, Woodbury has fought to protect the critical education funding that students in Nevada deserve. Woodbury currently teaches third grade at Sue H. Morrow Elementary School.
Ohio: Sen. Peggy Lehner
Senator Peggy Lehner was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 2008, and was later appointment to the Senate in 2011. She now serves as Chairwoman of the Ohio Senate Standing Committee on Education. Senator Lehner has demonstrated a passionate interest in the well-being of children through her role as a co-chair of the Ohio Children’s Caucus. Senator Lehner has also been at the forefront of efforts to align K-12 education with college and career readiness, working with stakeholders from across the country to find innovative solutions to Ohio’s challenges.
Oklahoma: Sen. Gary Stanislawski
Senator Gary Stanislawski was elected to the Oklahoma Senate on August 26th, 2008. In 2011, he was elected by his caucus to serve as a Majority Whip. He is also the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee. Gary was awarded a four-year ROTC scholarship and attended Oregon State University where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. Upon graduation, Gary entered the Air Force and subsequently earned his wings as a pilot in 1984. Gary flew for eight years, flying such planes as the B-52 and the B-1 Bomber.
Tennessee: Sen. Dolores Gresham
Senator Delores Gresham is Chairman of the Senate Education Committee in Tennessee. Gresham was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2002 and then was elected to the State Senate in 2008.
She also serves as the Vice-Chair of the Women’s Caucus. Dolores possesses a track record of over 40 years in public and community service. Gresham is also retired from the United States Marine Corps with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Texas: Donna Bahorich
Donna Bahorich was first elected to the Texas State Board of Education in 2012 where she currently serves as chair.
Her focuses include approving and promoting college and career ready courses, including strong career and technical education courses, leading to increased opportunities for students after high school.
Utah: Senator Howard Stephenson
Senator Howard Stephenson was first elected to the State Senate in 1992. He serves as the Senate Chairman for the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee for Utah. He also serves on NCSL’s State Policy and Research for Early Education (SPREE) Working Group as well as a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
West Virginia: Delegate Paul Espinosa
Elected in 2012, Delegate Paul Espinosa serves as chairman of the House Education Committee and as a member of the Rules, Finance, Roads & Transportation, and Small Business, Entrepreneurship & Economic Development Committees where he advocates for first-rate schools, economic growth, greater government accountability & transparency, and controlling government spending. In addition, Paul co-chairs the Joint Standing Committee on Education, the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability, and the Joint Technology Committee.
Wisconsin: Sen. Luther Olsen
Senator Luther Olsen was first elected to the Wisconsin Senate in 2004 He currently serves as the Chair of the Education Committee. Senator Olsen also serves on the Executive Committee and Steering Committee for the Education Commission of the States (ECS). He previously served as the Vice-Chair of ECS, and formerly served as the Co-Chair of the Education Committee for the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
President: Karen Nussle
Karen Nussle serves as President of Conservative Leaders for Education. A veteran communications strategist with experience in the private, public, political and non-profit sectors, Karen has owned and operated a successful boutique communications firm, Ripple Communications, held positions at both Burson-Marsteller and Prime Policy Group, and has considerable non-profit leadership experience. Karen worked for Newt Gingrich when he was Minority Whip and made the historic move to The Speaker’s Office in 1994. She served in a variety of roles in The Speaker’s Office, including policy advisor on education issues.
Policy Director: Chris Mohrman
Christopher Mohrman has worked for 25 years on issues at the intersection of public policy, law and politics. Before receiving his J.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Mr. Mohrman held various positions in the administration and campaigns of Governor Tommy Thompson. In addition to leading campaign roles, Mr. Mohrman assisted in the development, passage, and implementation of many of Thompson’s groundbreaking reforms, including education reform.
Policy Advisor: Mark Middleton
Mark has a broad background in education policy, advocacy, and lobbying. Previously, as the Georgia DOE Chief of Staff, Mark was responsible for all administrative functions of the department, including direct supervision of the legal, legislative, public relations, personnel, procurement, and budgetary staffs. He has represented education clients before the Georgia General Assembly, State Board of Education, State Charter School Commission, and the Technical College System of Georgia.
Policy Advisor: Thom Goolsby
Thom is a former North Carolina State Senator. As accomplished attorney and law professor with two decades of experience in the public and private sector, Goolsby well understood North Carolina law and the state’s legal system. During his time in the state legislature he served on the Senate Education and Higher Education Committee. With vast experience in legislative service, practicing and teaching law, military leadership and media relations, Thom Goolsby stands ready to help his clients achieve their public policy objectives.