The School Law Institute
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College
Columbia University

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Gary Orfield

Ph.D., is Distinguished Research Professor of Education, Law, Political Science and Urban Planning at UCLA.  His research focuses on the study of civil rights, education policy, urban policy, and minority opportunity. Co-founder and director of the Harvard Civil Rights Project, he now serves as co-director of the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA. His central interest has been the development and implementation of social policy, with a central focus on the impact of policy on equal opportunity for success in American society. Recent works include eight co-authored or co-edited books since 2004 and numerous articles and reports. He has also been involved in the development of governmental policy and has served as an expert witness or special master in several dozen court cases related to his research, including the University of Michigan Supreme Court case, which upheld the policy of affirmative action in 2003.
Patricia gandara

Patricia Gandara

Ph.D., is Research Professor of Education in the Graduate School of Education and Information Sciences at UCLA. She received her PhD in educational psychology from UCLA. She has been a bilingual school psychologist, a social scientist with the RAND Corporation, and a director of education research in the California State Legislature. Since 1990 she has been a professor of education in the University of California system. She also served as commissioner for postsecondary education for the State of California, associate director of the Linguistic Minority Research Institute, and the co-director of PACE (Policy Analysis for California Education). She is currently co-director of the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA and serves as a commissioner on President Obama's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.  She has written or edited seven books and more than 100 articles and reports on educational equity for racial and linguistic minority students, school reform, access to higher education, the education of Latino students, and language policy.

John B. King, Jr.

Ed.D., J.D., is the Senior Advisor Delegated Duties of Deputy Secretary of Education at the U.S. Department of Education, a position he assumed in January 2015. In this role, he oversees a broad range of management, policy, and program functions. Previously Dr. King served as the Commissioner of Education for the State of New York. He was among the nation's youngest state education leaders and the first African-American and Puerto Rican to serve as New York State education commissioner.  Earlier, King served as a Managing Director of Uncommon Schools, a non-profit charter management organization operating some of the highest performing urban public schools in New York and New Jersey. He was also a Co-Founder and Co-Director for Curriculum & Instruction of Roxbury Preparatory Charter School. Dr. King holds a B.A. in Government from Harvard University, an M.A. in the Teaching of Social Studies from Teachers College, a J.D. from Yale Law School, and an Ed.D. in Educational Administrative Practice from Teachers College.

Rhoda E. Schneider

J.D., General Counsel and Senior Associate Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Institute co-chair). For over 30 years, Rhoda Schneider has been chief legal counsel to the commissioner, state board, and department staff. She has advised six successive commissioners and served twice herself as acting commissioner. Besides providing legal guidance to the commissioner and the agency, she and her staff also publish advisories for school and district leaders, parents and students, and other constituents on the state and federal laws affecting public elementary and secondary schools. The issues of education law and policy that she addresses include standards-based education reform, civil rights, charter schools, school finance and governance, student assessment, special education, school and district accountability, student rights and responsibilities, and educator licensure. Rhoda is an adjunct lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the editor of the MCLE book, School Law in Massachusetts.

Maree Sneed

J.D., Ph.D., is a senior partner at the Washington, DC law firm Hogan Lovells and director of the firm’s nationally prominent education practice. She is on the Board of Directors for Magnet Schools of America. She has served on the faculty of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and as a board member and secretary of the National School Boards Foundation. She advises school districts, educational associations, and private companies in the education sector on state and federal legal issues. Previously she worked as a teacher and administrator in the Montgomery County Public Schools.

Jay Lefkowitz

J.D., lead plaintiffs’ attorney in Wright v. State of New York, is a senior partner in the litigation practice of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. He is also an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School, where he teaches a seminar on Supreme Court advocacy. He has served as lead trial and appellate counsel in a wide variety of substantive areas, including shareholder disputes, antitrust, and product liability.  He currently serves on Advisory Boards for many organizations, including Columbia Law School, NYU Alexander Hamilton Center and Barnard College.  His public service career includes serving as a senior White House advisor to two presidents, and as United States Special Envoy on Human Rights in North Korea. He earned his J.D. in 1987 from Columbia Law School and his A.B. in History from Columbia College.  In its 2013 release of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America,” The National Law Journal described him as “a leading voice on school choice issues.”

Dennis D. Parker

J.D., is the Director of the ACLU National Office's Racial Justice Program, where he coordinates the racial justice work done by the ACLU's national office and its affiliates. Parker’s work with the ACLU has brought needed attention to the school-to-prison-pipeline, which tracks many young Black and Latino students from the principal’s office to the nation’s prisons. Previously, Parker was Chief of the Civil Rights Bureau under New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.  There he oversaw the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws in housing, employment, voting, public accommodations and credit. He spent 14 years at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, where he supervised the litigation of scores of cases throughout the country in matters involving K-12 education, affirmative action, and equal educational opportunity.  Parker is a graduate of Middlebury College and Harvard Law School.  He has numerous publications on housing discrimination, educational equity, affirmative action, and testing, and has served as an adjunct professor at New York Law School.

Michael A. Rebell

J.D., is an experienced litigator, administrator, researcher, and scholar in the field of education law. He is the executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity and Professor of Law and Educational Practice at Teachers College, Columbia University. The Campaign seeks to promote equity and excellence in education and to overcome the gap in educational access and achievement between advantaged and disadvantaged students throughout the United States.  He is the author of five books and dozens of articles on issues involving law and education. Previously, Mr. Rebell was the co-founder, executive director and counsel for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. In CFE v. State of New York, the Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, declared that all children are entitled under the state Constitution to the "opportunity for a sound basic education" and it ordered the State of New York to reform its education finance system to meet these constitutional requirements. Mr. Rebell also serves as a consultant to attorneys, advocates and policymakers involved in education reform and education litigation throughout the country, and he is currently counsel for the plaintiffs in New Yorkers for Students Educational Rights v. State of New York.

Perry A. Zirkel

J.D., LL.M., Ph.D., is University Professor of Education and Law at Lehigh University, where he has held the Iacocca Chair in Education and has served as Dean of the College of Education. He has more than 1,400 publications on various aspects of school law, with an emphasis on legal issues in special education. He writes a regular column for Principal magazine and did so previously for both Phi Delta Kappan and Teaching Exceptional Children. Past president of the Education Law Association and co-chair of the Pennsylvania special education appeals panel from 1990 to 2007, in 2013 he received the Research into Practice Award from the American Educational Research Association and the Excellence in Research Award from AERA’s Division A, and in 2014 he received the University Council of Educational Administration's Edwin Bridges award for significant contributions to the preparation and development of school leaders.

Richard Casagrande

J.D., is general counsel to the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), a position he has held since 2010. He represents NYSUT as a defendant in Wright v. State of New York. Previously, as a member of Hinman Straub P.C., he represented individual employees and several public and private sector unions. He also served for many years as general counsel to the New York State Public Employees Federation, a union representing over 50,000 professional State employees. Mr. Casagrande has litigated many employee rights' cases involving tenure and due process, and has argued numerous cases before the State Court of Appeals, New York's highest court. Mr. Casagrande received his B.A. from Colgate University and his J.D. from Albany Law School where, from 1998 through 2005, he was a member of the adjunct faculty. He is a member of the Labor sections of the ABA and NYSBA, and has been a frequent CLE presenter on a variety of labor and employment issues.

Jay P. Heubert

Institute Faculty Chair, is a Professor of Law and Education at Teachers College and an Adjunct Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. For thirty years at Columbia and Harvard, he has taught courses on education law, policy, and practice for students in education, law, and related fields.  His research focuses on civil rights issues, including desegregation, charter schools’ obligations to serve students with disabilities, and high-stakes testing. He has also served as chief counsel to the Pennsylvania Dept. of Education, a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, a specialist on desegregation and gender equity in Philadelphia, and a high-school English teacher in rural North Carolina. He also served as study director to a National Research Council committee conducting a Congressionally-mandated study of high-stakes testing published as High Stakes: Testing for Tracking, Promotion, and Graduation. A Carnegie Scholar, in June 2001 he received the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s annual Alumni Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education.
Faculty > Staff


  • Kendra Thompson-Mitchell

    Kendra Thompson-Mitchell (program administrator) is an Education Policy doctoral student in the Department of Education Policy and Social Analysis at Teachers College, Columbia University, concentrating on educational policies affecting youth who have come to be in the ward of state governments by virtue of their interaction with the juvenile and criminal justice systems.  Kendra received her B.A., summa cum laude, in Political Science from Hampton University, and her J.D. from Harvard Law School. Upon graduation from law school, she practiced as a business and litigation lawyer in the private sector, and also completed a fellowship with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, where she focused her efforts on the Institutionalized Persons Project.  During her fellowship, Kendra assisted in leading an investigation into the quality and quantity of education afforded to children in Youth Centers throughout the state of Illinois. This fellowship provided the fertile ground from which Kendra’s current research and professional interests sprang. She is currently a research assistant to Professor Michael Rebell, an education law scholar and expert on school-finance and school-funding litigation, as well as a teaching assistant to Professor Jay Heubert, faculty chair of the School Law Institute and expert on education law and policy. 
  • Alison Ewing

    Alison Ewing (program administrator) recently completed the program in higher and postsecondary education at Teachers College and has a B.A. in history from Cornell University.  She currently works as the assistant to the chief of staff in the Office of the President at Columbia University.  Alison is interested in the intersection of the law and the day-to-day work of educators, especially in higher education and university governance.

  • Elizabeth Snell

    Elizabeth Snell (program administrator) is a kindergarten-2nd grade special education teacher for Rockland BOCES.  She is finishing up her third year as a Ph.D. student in the Applied Behavior Analysis program at Teachers College. She has an M.A. in Applied Behavior Analysis from Teachers College and a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Elizabeth is interested in the application of the basic and applied sciences of behavior and how they can inform teaching practice, specifically for students with disabilities and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

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-Elementary School Teacher, Ed.D Candidate, Curriculum & Teaching