How the 1989 Education Summit Reshaped American Public Schools

The Aspen Education & Society Program, in partnership with The 74, published a series of Q&A’s to commemorate the historic 1989 Education Summit, a gathering of 49 out of the nation’s 50 governors, only the third time in American history this occurred. Hosted by President George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, then the governor of Arkansas and chair of the National Governors Association, the event at the University of Virginia assembled leaders who insisted that the nation needed measurable education goals and accountability, but placed responsibility for this system squarely in the hands of state leaders. The summit, held in Charlottesville, Va. on September 27-28, established the template for standards-based reform that would shape the next 30 years of education.

With state leadership on the rise and federal influence waning, we have reached a critical moment in public education. We interviewed eight accomplished leaders across education, politics, and advocacy—Senator Lamar Alexander, Governor Jeb Bush, Governor Tony Evers, former DC Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, Governor Jim Hunt, Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson, president of UnidosUs Janet Murguía, and Brittany Packnett, vice president of national community alliances and engagement at Teach For America to speak about the legacy of the summit and to offer their thoughts on how state policy can further excellence and equity.