Ben LaBolt is a communications strategist and founding partner of The Incite Agency. At The Incite Agency, LaBolt has advised organizations from Fortune 500 companies to advocacy groups on how to be more targeted, proactive and agile, defend brands under siege and tackle significant customer and public policy initiatives.
For the prior decade, LaBolt managed press relations for candidates and elected officials from the city to the national level. He served as National Press Secretary for the 2012 Obama-Biden campaign and Communications Director for Rahm Emanuel's successful campaign for Chicago Mayor.
LaBolt worked on Capitol Hill as Press Secretary for U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), then-Congressman Sherrod Brown's successful campaign for the US Senate (D-OH), as well as for US Senator Barack Obama (2007 – Senate Press Secretary). He was the Deputy Press Secretary for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.
During his tenure at the White House, POLITICO called him “one of the best sources … for intelligence on what the media are thinking and what story lines reporters are likely to pursue.”
LaBolt also serves as an adjunct instructor in Crisis Management at NYU’s School of Professional Studies. He is a graduate of Middlebury College and a native of LaGrange, IL.
Lea joined ERN in the summer of 2013 as the National Deputy Director. She started her career as a middle school teacher through Teach for America, in East Palo Alto, California. With a commitment to make the world a better place through improved neighborhoods and cities, she led innovative programmatic efforts to increase the use of public transit at the Chicago Transit Authority and oversaw the financial operations for Chicago’s concession agreement with LAZ Parking. Knowing a school can change neighborhoods and lives, Lea returned to her roots in education by joining StudentsFirst where she led advocacy efforts at the state level in Iowa, Missouri and Nevada on a variety of education reform issues, including improved teacher evaluations, tenure reform and expansion of and accountability for charter schools.
Originally from New Jersey, Lea received her BA from Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California and a Masters degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy.
Lea serves on the Board of Directors for Silver Bay, YMCA of the Adirondacks and the Center for Supportive Schools and lives in Washington, DC with her husband Jeb and daughter.
Charles Barone is the director of policy at Democrats for Education Reform and Education Reform Now. He has led DFER/ERN’s efforts advising President Obama’s 2008 transition team, advocating for state reforms under Obama’s Race to the Top initiative, and setting DFER’s policy agenda at the state and federal level in areas including accountability and testing, teacher preparation and charter schools.
Barone’s work on education and children’s issues over the past three decades has emphasized equity and excellence and spanned direct service, research, policy and advocacy. He has authored numerous articles and book chapters on education policy and politics in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, trade publications, and mainstream media.
A Capitol Hill veteran, Barone was a top education advisor to the late Senator Paul Simon (D-IL) and to Congressman George Miller (D-CA), under whom he acted as lead negotiator for House Democrats on the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Before his entry into Washington politics, Charles was a postdoctoral fellow in the department of psychology at Yale University. He has a doctorate in clinical/community psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Michael has worked as a Senior Policy Advisor to the United States Under Secretary of Education, Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), and Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI) as well as contributed in a similar capacity to every major Democratic Presidential candidate over the last 12 years. He is the staff author of numerous elements of federal education law reflected in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Higher Education Act, and federal appropriations law. He founded the New America Foundation’s Education Policy Program and has published widely on education policy writ large and higher education finance in particular. Dannenberg is recognized as a national expert on college admissions, federal education politics, and all education finance issues, including student loans, education tax expenditures, and the overall federal education budget. He holds post-graduate degrees from Stanford University and Yale Law School.