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Ed reform experiences from childhood to adulthood

Vinny Badolato is vice president of public affairs at the Colorado League of Charter Schools.

Allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Vinny Badolato and I am the newest blogger on EdNews Colorado. I am excited to have the opportunity to engage in some spirited and (hopefully) civil conversations and debates on education issues in Colorado and nationally.

Some of you know me already, but many more of you don’t.  So in order to try and frame my future pontifications, I would like to use this post to provide a little information about me – where I am coming from, what I do, and what I believe in terms of education policy and reform.  I promise to keep it brief.

I was born and raised in a mostly blue collar, middle-class neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York and attended NYC public schools through high school.  I did attend Stuyvesant High School, NYC’s top tier specialized public high school, so I am the first to admit that the educational opportunities I had did not match the vast majority of the other public school kids in NYC.  I will circle back to this in a bit.

I graduated from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., with a BA in history.  I then spent some time in D.C. post-graduation working as the research director at a private firm engaged in improving federal agency performance management.  While I liked the work, I wasn’t satisfied as knew I wanted to get engaged in education policy to improve the system.  See, I received an excellent public education in NYC, but that was definitely the exception at the time.  I experienced first-hand the vast disparities that permeated the system –in facilities, teacher quality, curriculum, and materials – and saw many of my friends fall victim to those disparities and not succeed anywhere near to their potential in school and in life.  I wanted to dedicate myself to making a drastic change in the education system, but didn’t yet have the chutzpah to make the change in my career trajectory.

That push happened though, after I heard Jonathan Kozol give a talk primarily to incoming freshman at American University.  He issued a call to action to get involved and improve education, so I did (it’s funny to me now that it was Kozol that got me in this game since the more I work in the field the less I agree with the vast majority of his positions, but hey, someone had to light the fire).  I decided then that I was going to devote myself to reforming education through policy change.  So my wife and I picked up, moved to Colorado, and I enrolled in CU-Boulder’s School of Education where I received my Master’s in Education Foundations, Policy and Practice.

I have worked in several gigs in education policy here in Colorado.  I cut my teeth at the Alliance for Quality Teaching, a now defunct non-profit that worked to improve teacher quality in the state. Lots of important work came out of that shop, but the one I am most proud of is moving SB 07-140 through the legislature, the bill that created the Quality Teachers Commission and the teacher identifier system, a necessary precursor to SB 10-191.

I then worked several years at the National Conference of State Legislatures where I was a national specialist in higher education policy, particularly community colleges and adult education.  But I missed working in the K-12 arena and very much missed working to move the needle in Colorado, so I reentered the fray in my current position as vice president of public affairs at the Colorado League of Charter Schools.  I love being the central advocate for the vibrant Colorado charter school sector, and you can expect future posts about the great educational improvements charter schools are making in the state (I do offer the obligatory disclaimer that while I do work for the League, everything I write is purely my own and does not reflect the views of the League or its board of directors).

But while I firmly believe that charter schools are an essential piece of the education puzzle and are demonstrating that we can transform education to improve opportunities for all kids, I am not a pure charter school homer.  I don’t think charter schools and choice can – or should – solve all the education deficiencies we currently have in the massive and outdated system we currently operate in.

Nor am I above taking a critical look at charter schools – when it is warranted and grounded in fact, unlike how most critics try to disparage charter schools.  And I am not a one issue guy; there are a lot of changes and reforms we need to make in the system and I plan on writing about those, too.

So there it is.  I am hoping that this post was useful to help the readers understand my ed policy background and reform lens a little bit.  Thanks for reading and let’s have some fun.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.