Speakers’ Bureau

Colleen Dippel

Houston, Texas
Colleen Dippel is the Founder and Executive Director of Families Empowered. Families Empowered serves over 40,000 low and middle-income families on Houston and San Antonio area charter school waitlists.

Peggy Venable

Austin, Texas
Peggy Venable has been named one of Campaign And Election Magazine’s top 25 influencers in Texas. She lead Americans for Prosperity and its predecessor in Texas for 20 years and had served in the Reagan Administration as White House Liaison to the US Department of Education.

Eric Garza

Brownsville, Texas
Eric Garza is the Texas Coalitions Director of The LIBRE Initiative working to build partnerships to advance positive public policy benefitting the Hispanic community and all Texans alike. He also serves as a school board member for the Jubilee Academic Center Rio Grande Valley District.

Arif Panju

Austin, Texas
Arif Panju joined the Institute for Justice in 2012. He litigates economic liberty, First Amendment, property rights, school choice, and other constitutional cases in federal and state courts. In the area of school choice, Arif helped represent six parents in the successful defense of the Alabama Accountability Act, the state’s school choice law. Magee v. Boyd was a resounding victory in the Alabama Supreme Court for parents and children.


Mayes Middleton

Houston, Texas
Mayes Middleton is President of Middleton Oil Company in Houston, TX. He sits on the board of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the First Liberty National Bank, the Wallisville Heritage Park in Chambers County and is a member of the Texas Business Leadership Council.

Robert Schoolfield

Austin, Texas
Robert Schoolfield is the founder of the Austin CEO Foundation, which helped provide private scholarships for low-income families in Travis County. Robert is a passionate advocate for empowering parents from low-income and minority backgrounds with school choice.

Allan Parker

San Antonio, Texas
Allan Parker, President of The Justice Foundation (formerly the Texas Justice Foundation), is a former Professor of Law at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, where he taught Education Law and Civil Procedure. Mr. Parker is the author of numerous works on school choice and a frequent lecturer on education topics. He and The Justice Foundation were selected in 1996 by the Texas State Board of Education to evaluate the Texas Open-Enrollment Charter Program.

Laura Colangelo

Austin, Texas
Laura Colangelo is the Executive Director of the Texas Private Schools Association and the Texas Private Schools Accreditation Commission. She represents the over 845 private, accredited non-profit schools in Texas in the state legislature and in DC.

Melissa Bodenger

Austin, Texas
Melissa Bodenger is a Mother of two; 5 year old Leah and 10 year old Josh who is autistic. She is a passionate supporter of school choice and believes that every parent should have the freedom to find the best educational environment for their child so that they can grow to become the best they can be.

Kelby Woodard

Dallas, Texas
Kelby Woodard is a former Minnesota State Legislator where he was chief author of the Opportunity Scholarships Bill and his party’s Lead on education finance and reform. Kelby now serves as the President of Cristo Rey Dallas College Prep.


Basya Benshushan

Houston, Texas
Houston native, Basya Benshushan is a proud mother of three and the CEO of PinkCilantro. Basya and her team work with a wide spectrum of clients including startups like Green Plate Foods, to household names like AT&T, Whiteflash.com, T-Mobile, to non-profits and political campaigns like The United Methodist Texas Annual Conference, Texans For Clean Water, Bill King for Mayor and many more. Basya believes that the best tool to give to anyone is an opportunity and chance for quality education.


Rebecca Hucker

Austin, Texas
Rebecca Hucker is a former special ed student who believes that school choice opens up new opportunities for special ed students and gives parents more power to customize their children’s education.

Cecilia Castellano

San Antonio, Texas
Cecilia Castellano is the mother of two boys. As an advocate for private school choice, Cecilia has made it her priority to ensure that every child has access to an educational setting that meets their unique needs. She has advocated for students with special needs and works to bring parents and community leaders together to fight for education reform.

Nicole Neily

Washington D.C.
Nicki Neily is the president of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, and has worked on education issues for the past 10 years in Washington DC. She is the mother of two small children.

Matt Mackowiak

Austin, Texas
Matt Mackowiak is the founder and President of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC, a political and corporate communications consultancy. A graduate of the University of Texas with a degree in Political Communications, Matt and his wife Suzanne live in Austin, TX. They personally support the IDEA Public Schools charter school system and Matt is an ardent school choice and education reform advocate.

Ann Ziker, Ph.D.

Houston, Texas
Ann Ziker presently serves as Executive Vice President, Strategy & Advancement for YES Prep Public Schools. YES Prep is a public charter school system that serves more than 11,500 students at 16 campuses across Houston.

Kevin P. Chavous

Washington D.C.
Kevin P. Chavous is a national education reform leader and a former Washington, D.C. Councilmember who helped usher in bold reforms with the expansion of charter schools and the passage of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Fund.

Aaron Ceder

Dallas, Texas
Aaron Ceder has been actively engaged on school choice for the last ten years. He is a passionate advocate for allowing parents the freedom to choose their child’s education setting and has worked on campaigns to fight for this freedom.

Leslie Polvado

Round Rock, Texas
Leslie Polvado is a certified teacher and has spent over a decade working with At-risk and Special Needs populations. She is also a mother of a student who was struggling in the traditional school system and opted to invoke the right to choose alternate educational options.

David Dunn

Austin, Texas
David Dunn is the Executive Director of the Texas Charter Schools Association and has more than 30 years of experience in education policy.

Randan Steinhauser

Austin, Texas
Randan Steinhauser is a national leader on education reform and has worked in more than twenty states on the issue. Randan previously served as the National Outreach Director for the American Federation for Children and currently works with Texans for Education Opportunity, EdChoice, and National School Choice Week, among other education-related non-profits.

Michael Cloud

Victoria, Texas
Michael Cloud is the founder and creative director of Bright Idea Media, County Chair of the Victoria Country Republican Party and represents District 18 on the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC).

Aaron Smith

Houston, Texas
Aaron Smith is an education policy analyst at Reason Foundation and former senior director of analytics at YES Prep Public Schools. At YES, he was the founding member of the analytics department and oversaw research, state accountability, and data management.

Justin Yancy

Austin, Texas
Justin Yancy is President of the Texas Business Leadership Council. Before joining TBLC, he served in the administrations of Governors George W. Bush and Rick Perry and is active in various boards and organizations in Austin.

The Honorable Stefani Carter

Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
Stefani Carter is a former state representative from Dallas, and the first Republican African-American woman to serve in the Texas House. Carter served as an assistant district attorney, after having been trained at Vinson & Elkins, and is currently the principal attorney at Stefani Carter & Associates. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, Harvard Law School, and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Doug Deason

Dallas, Texas
Doug is President of Deason Capital Services, LLC. Doug is a former CEO of Precept Builders, Inc., and has served on the finance committee of the Dallas County Republican Party for four years, as well as the Executive Committee for the West Texas Chapter of the Young Presidents Organization.

Brendan Steinhauser

Austin, Texas
Brendan is a partner at Steinhauser Strategies, former campaign manager for Senator John Cornyn and a political adviser to House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul.

Russell Withers

Austin, Texas
Russell Withers is General Counsel at the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute (TCCRI). He has previously served as a clerk at the Institute for Justice and a policy consultant for Greg Abbott’s campaign for Governor in 2014.

Derek Nelson

Angleton, Texas
Derek Nelson is an account executive for a cyber security company and has worked on several republican campaigns including Michael Truncale for Congress and Greg Bonnen for State Representative. He also currently serves as an elected Precinct Chairman and Election Judge for Harris County’s Precinct 30.

William Clay

Dallas, Texas
William Clay is Former CFO and current Vice President and Partner with Premier Parking. He is passionate about serving Texas and furthering the impact of education on the future generation of leaders.


Rafael “Rafa” Bejar

Austin, Texas
Rafa is a policy advisor for Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Education Freedom. He has over 30 years experience working in political and government affairs, and is the former Texas State Director of The LIBRE Insitute, where he focused on a variety of issues including the promotion of school choice.

Stephen Oliver

San Antonio, Texas
Stephen Oliver is a licensed Certified Public Accountant with over 20 years of professional experience.

Request a speaker:

All fields are required.