Sec. Duncan


April, 18 2016 – The McCourt School of Public Policy’s 2016 LEAD Conference, A New Era in School Finance, led by Seattle-based research center Edunomics Lab, convened leading authorities for a dialogue on the complexities of education finance in light of the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The conference opened with a welcome by Marguerite Roza, Director of the Edunomics Lab and an expert on education finance, and remarks from Edward Montgomery, Dean of the McCourt School.

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who served as keynote speaker, told the audience of approximately 150 attendees at Fisher Colloquium that policies going forward must empower state and local educators and administrators – those who intimately understand their students, budgets, and communities – with the flexibility to meet federal guidelines, as opposed to Washington mandating certain approaches. 

Secretary Duncan pointed to ESSA, which was signed into law in December 2015, as embodying such an approach. ESSA sets a definitively high bar while ensuring that states have the capacity to meet those standards in ways that they see fit.  

The Secretary added that despite its successes, ESSA, like any legislation, is imperfect and may need to be modified in the coming years to commensurate with the ever-changing education landscape. 

Education Leaders Workshop

Dr. Roza led a morning workshop on leveraging funds to maximize student outcomes, detailing her research on productivity in education and the importance of maximizing interactions between school staff and students. 

More than 30 school principals and other education finance leaders from across the country including representatives from schools in Chicago, Boston, Houston and Washington, DC, took part in the workshop, to understand and embrace financial decisions and trade-offs at the school level in order to promote greater outcomes for kids.

The panel touched on many topics related to school finance, like data and financial literacy for school principals, and connecting education finance decisions with accountability and improved outcomes. 

Shifting the Decision Making to Schools

The conference also convened a diverse group of panelists who together spoke about the shifting roles in education finance decisions in light of ESSA.

The panel included Emma Vadehra, Chief of Staff to U.S. Education Secretary John King; Stephen Bowen, Director of Innovation at the Council of Chief State School Officers; Dr. Lewis Ferebee, Superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools; and Scott Cartland, Principal of DC Public Schools’ Wheatley Education Campus. Dr. Stefanie Sanford, Chief of Global Policy,  Advocacy & Communications at the College Board, moderated the panel. 

Education Policy Incubator

Dean Edward Montgomery acknowledged the many contributions that a number of McCourt School faculty have made – and continue to make – to the growing field of education policy. 

Among the faculty and their recent accomplishments are Jane Hannaway, who testified before Congress on education research and student privacy; Nora Gordon, who published a Hamilton Project report on Title I reforms; and William Gormley, who published an Early Childhood Research Quarterly report on universal pre-k in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Additionally, McCourt School Researcher Thomas Toch’s insight on pressing education matters including charter schools has been sought and cited by national media.

Support for the 2016 LEAD Conference was provided by EduWonks, Georgetown’s premier education policy student organization.