5 Women Who Shape Education Policy

Nina Rees implemented much of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act while Carmel Martin oversaw Race to the Top grant applications.

Melinda Gates of the Melinda Gates Foundation. 
©2011 Richard A. Bloom
National Journal Staff
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National Journal Staff
July 25, 2014, 1 a.m.

This year, Na­tion­al Journ­al‘s Wo­men in Wash­ing­ton list fo­cuses on wo­men who ex­er­cise power­ful in­flu­ence in five policy areas: en­ergy, health care, tech­no­logy, de­fense, and edu­ca­tion.

Mar­tin was Edu­ca­tion Sec­ret­ary Arne Duncan’s right-hand aide un­til March, when she left her post as as­sist­ant sec­ret­ary to run the edu­ca­tion-re­search unit at the lib­er­al Cen­ter for Amer­ic­an Pro­gress. At the de­part­ment, she over­saw Duncan’s ma­jor en­deavors, in­clud­ing Race to the Top grant ap­plic­a­tions. At CAP, Mar­tin is a go-to ex­pert on all things K-12. She pre­vi­ously worked for edu­ca­tion guru Ed­ward Kennedy in the Sen­ate.

Any­one who can go toe to toe with Chica­go May­or Rahm Emanuel must have some stam­ina. As pres­id­ent of the Chica­go Teach­ers Uni­on, Lewis has been on the front lines of the city’s battles over longer school days, teach­er eval­u­ations, and salar­ies. She led the 2012 teach­ers uni­on strike, when her mem­bers sought a 30 per­cent pay in­crease.

Gates is the non-Mi­crosoft face of a phil­an­throp­ic or­gan­iz­a­tion that has re­vo­lu­tion­ized how edu­ca­tion is viewed in the United States. The Gates Found­a­tion bank­rolls dozens of groups ded­ic­ated to re­form­ing pub­lic schools, and is a big sup­port­er and fun­der of the con­tro­ver­sial Com­mon Core State Stand­ards. She is also a prom­in­ent force for re­du­cing glob­al poverty.

Rees is an out­spoken ad­voc­ate of school choice and has fre­quently func­tioned as a con­ser­vat­ive spokes­wo­man on edu­ca­tion. She im­ple­men­ted much of Pres­id­ent Bush’s No Child Left Be­hind Act, and served as an edu­ca­tion ad­viser to Mitt Rom­ney dur­ing the 2012 cam­paign.

At the Edu­ca­tion De­part­ment, Del­isle — Arne Duncan’s top aide on all mat­ters per­tain­ing to pre-K and K-12 — is in charge of ap­prov­ing states’ re­quests for No Child Left Be­hind waivers. Be­fore join­ing the de­part­ment, she was a seni­or fel­low at the In­ter­na­tion­al Cen­ter for Lead­er­ship in Edu­ca­tion, which part­ners with schools and dis­tricts to cre­ate best prac­tices for classrooms.

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