The Messy Reality of Education Policy

Editor's Note: DC Action is pleased to welcome Bonnie O’Keefe, who will be joining us this summer as an Education Pioneers Fellow.

In my professional and personal life, I’ve often had to explain why I care about education, and why I’m focusing my graduate studies on education policy.  It’s a fair question, but I find it surprisingly tough to answer.  I was lucky enough to go to an excellent public school from grades K-12, where my sisters and I could safely walk to and from school.  My parents were always involved in my education, and my mother was such an active parent she eventually became president of the school board. This educational environment enriched my life in more ways than I can express. As I’ve grown up, I’ve learned that too few children and adults can say the same, and I want to be part of a change.  

Part of what draws me to education policy is the complexity of the challenges education advocates face.  Education policy is not only about schools, students and teachers; it is also about communities and neighborhoods, equality and opportunity, physical health and economic growth.  It is about the diverse and interconnected lives of children and their families.  This complexity makes our task difficult, but it also expands the rewards for success.    

This messy reality is part of why I’m so excited to be working with DC Action for Children this summer.  DC Action’s perspective brings interconnectedness of issues to the forefront of the discussion and grounds advocacy in the reality of children’s lives in the District.  By focusing on children’s well-being in D.C., we can lift up the whole city. In my experience in politics and policy, I’ve learned that great data can change the game for advocates and policymakers, so I’m especially excited to learn more about D.C. KIDS COUNT and other unique data DC Action is developing with its collaborators.   

As an Education Pioneers Fellow, I’m one of over 50 fellows in D.C. and 400 fellows nationwide working with partner organizations this summer to learn more about the education landscape and work towards better education for all.  I’m honored to be a part of that effort, and I’m ready to contribute whatever I can to improving the lives of children in D.C.      

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