Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.


Who Has Worked for the Presidential Candidates on Education?

By Alyson Klein — March 02, 2016 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print


Happy Day After Super Tuesday! As you scour the returns, I’ll bet you’re wondering: Who is helping these people figure out their education platforms, or who on their campaign team has an education background?

Or, if they don’t have a team in place yet, who have these candidates worked with in the past on education issues? And who are their education aides in their day jobs as senator or governor? (Those names can matter down the line—one of President Barack Obama’s original White House education advisors, science teacher Steve Robinson, first worked in his Senate office.)

We put our crack research team at the Education Week library on the case. Here’s what they came up with:

Democratic Candidates

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: The number one name you need to know when it comes to education issues is Ann O’Leary, a senior policy advisor for the campaign. (Great story on her here.) She was Clinton’s legislative director in the Senate and has expertise in early-childhood education, a signature issue of Clinton’s. Other folks who worked as top education aides in Clinton’s Senate office include Catherine Brown, who is now a vice-president for education policy at the Center for American Progress, and Mildred Otero, who is now vice president, policy and advocacy, at Leadership for Educational Equity. Otero also helped with Clinton’s 2008 campaign, but has no formal role this time around. In decades past, Clinton collaborated with many of the folks who advised her husband on education policy when he was president, including U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley and his team. UPDATE: Wondering who is in the unofficial line-up of Inside-the-Beltway education wonks for Clinton? Check out this list of folks who helped put together a fundraiser for her in Washington last week, featuring O’Leary. There are a ton of familiar names, including former Democratic Hill staff, think tank folks (especially from CAP), early childhood advocates, lobbyists, former Obama administration officials, and folks from the foundation world.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont: Phil Fiermonte, the former executive director of the Vermont American Federation of Teachers, is Sanders’ field director. And Caryn Compton is his legislative assistant on education, along with a bunch of other issues, according to Another former staffer is Jessica Cardichon, who worked for Sanders from 2010 to 2012 and is now at the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Republican Candidates

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas: His national political director, Mark Campbell, has a Ph.D. in higher education administration and has worked as a senior advisor to the International Association of University Presidents. And Alec Aramanda is his one-time education legislative assistant, now deputy legislative director, according to LinkedIn.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich: In the governor’s office, his education policy advisor is Jana Fornario. (Her resume here.) As for former Kasich edu-advisors, check out this great Rick Hess Straight Up exit interview from 2012 with Bob Sommers, who had just left his job with Kasich to return to school management.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida: J.R. Sanchez previously served as Rubio’s point man on education and other issues. And Emily Bouck is his current legislative aide on the issue, according to

What about Billionaire Real Estate Developer Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson? Our research team couldn’t find anyone who had worked for them on education issues. And the campaigns didn’t respond to requests for names. We’ll update this post if we hear something. UPDATE: Trump may be reaching out to former education secretary Bill Bennett to talk education policy, according to a tweet from Robert Costa, a Washington Post reporter.

This list is far from the final word, of course. New people join campaigns all the time. (Half the GOP education universe has, at one point or another, provided edu-advice to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, for instance, and some of those folks may be shopping around for another candidate now that he’s dropped out.) And down the line, the campaigns may release formal, full-fledged lists of education advisors.

Are you an advisor—formal or informal to one of the campaigns? Are you a former aide whose name we didn’t include, or do you know of someone we missed? Email us at or

Library Intern Maya Riser-Kositsky contributed to this report.

Related Tags: