The Intersection

Sixth Cohort of Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows Focuses on State Education Policy in Critical Election Year

January 23, 2020

The 2020 Presidential Election is upon us and for the next 11 months much of the nation’s attention will be focused on who will occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2021. While the race for the presidency will dominate the headlines in the months to come, we at The Hunt Institute are excited to spend the year preparing state elected officials to boldly lead on education within their state.

We began this work last month when Cohort 6 of the Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows gathered for the first time in Washington D.C.  Governors Jim Hunt (D-NC) and Tom Kean (R-NJ), namesakes of the program, kicked off the meeting by reminding the bipartisan group that, “Washington is not where education leadership lives. It lives in the states.” 

This truism is the foundation of the Fellows program. Ensuring that all children have access to a high-quality public education requires states to have well-informed, thoughtful, and passionate leaders who are determined to fight for educational equity. The Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows program recognizes this reality and is committed to identifying, recruiting, and supporting leaders from across the nation who are unafraid to tackle the challenges within our education system.

While we were in D.C., Fellows had the unique opportunity to engage with leading experts, from across the country, on topics including early childhood education, school funding, school choice, and state K-12 education systems. The key to the program’s success is rooted in pushing Fellows thinking on these issues. We do not shy away from the difficult conversations; instead, we encourage debate and tough questions because only when there is open and honest dialogue can learning occur.

The idea of challenging each other’s thinking is captured throughout the programming as Cohort 6 Fellows had the opportunity to hear from eight former governors over the course of the meeting. Through this unique aspect of the Fellows program, Fellows hear firsthand about the challenges and success of serving as their state’s leader. In addition to Governors Hunt and Kean, Fellows heard from Advisory Board members Governor Susana Martinez (R-NM), Governor Bob Wise (D-WV), Governor Rick Snyder (R-MI), and Governor Douglas (R-VT) as well as special guests Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) and Governor Martin O’Malley (D-MD).

With the Fellows thoughtful participation throughout the meeting, l left the first session as Director of the Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows program inspired. Regardless of the governors or Fellows political party, it was clear that everyone at the table was most concerned with crafting smart, thoughtful education policies designed to ensure all students have access to a high-quality education. It was refreshing to see a level of camaraderie and statesmanship among Fellows, especially in a presidential election year and in a city known for its divisiveness.

We at The Hunt Institute look forward to continuing our focus on the issues over the next year and helping these state leaders realize a vision of educational opportunity for all students.

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David Struhs
Director, Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows

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