Lisa Graham Keegan, who served as a top adviser on K-12 issues during Sen. John McCain’s bid for the presidency in 2008, is set to join former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s campaign early next year.
Keegan, a former superintendent for public instruction in Arizona, has a long record in education politics. She very nearly became President George W. Bush’s first secretary of education. (He ultimately picked former Houston school superintendent Rod Paige instead.) And she headed up the Education Leaders Council, a coalition of conservative education officials. The ELC ran into some federal audit issues back in 2006, which Keegan addressed while campaigning for McCain.
Back in 2008, as McCain’s go-to-guru on K-12, Keegan went toe-to-toe with a host of Obama’s campaign advisers. (Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who is now the administration’s education secretary, wasn’t on the campaign trail.)
More recently, Keegan has been working in the area of school choice, as president and founder of the Education Breakthrough Network. And she testified before the House education committee earlier this year, to help inform reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Keegan told me in an interview last week she’s excited about joining Gingrich. She said he gets the issue because “he’s an educator” himself. (She was referring to his work as a history professor.)
I asked her whether Gingrich’s work stumping with the Rev. Al Sharpton, a noted civil rights activist, and Secretary Duncan, squared with his new plan to slim down the U.S. Department of Education.
“I think it squares exactly,” Keegan told me. The tour was part of Gingrich’s work with the Education Equality Project, a non-profit organization advocating for a “no excuses” approach to education redesign.
The tour “wasn’t about the specific pathways to getting there. ... [It was] simply advocating for the view that all children must have access to schools that work,” Keegan said. Gingrich strives to communicate with people with whom he disagrees, and find common ground when possible, she added.
“The country has to be able to talk to each other,” she said.
UPDATE: Joining Keegan is Michael Moe, an entrepreneur and investor who now serves as CEO of GSV Asset Management Center, an investment company. Moe sits on the board of the Center for Education Reform, an organization in Washington that advocates for expanding school choice. He is also on the board of ePALs Corporation, an education technology company, and serves as co-chairman of Arizona State University’s Education Innovation Council.