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Everyone in the United States knows education is badly in need of reform. While K-12 and higher education costs have outpaced inflation, we have yet to see commensurate returns.  And parents who opt out of such a system pay twice for their children's education--taxes and tuition. 

Choice, flexibility, and innovation are needed. 

The lack of freedom for parents, teachers, students, and state and local governments is distorting the purpose and function of education across the country.

Join us for a one day conference at the Acton Institute where we will discuss the problems plaguing education at all levels with expert panelists made up of both practitioners and scholars. They will offer solutions to the many problems—solutions grounded in personal liberty that address cost, content and delivery of education in the United States.


Brian Britton

Brian Britton

Brian Britton has a passion for service, which he strives to live out while serving our more than 56,000 students around the country. Prior to his time as president and CEO of National Heritage Academies (NHA), Brian served as the president of OTG Management Inc., where he was responsible for the administration and operations of more than 200 restaurants and retail venues in 11 airports. Before his time at OTG, Brian served as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Levy Restaurants Inc. There he was responsible for a $1.4 billion division that included 140 sports and entertainment venues and 10 restaurants.
Before he moved to the Midwest, Brian spent more than a decade at The Walt Disney Company in multiple leadership roles. Brian led the Global Park Operations and Initiatives as vice president where he was responsible for park operating standards, planning, and initiatives. He implemented a new global operating philosophy, which focused on key behaviors and processes to drive improved service and business results. As Disney’s vice president of labor operations strategy and operations support, Brian was responsible for more than 45,000 employees and for shaping the overall labor strategy.
Brian is a proud graduate of the United States Naval Academy where he received a B.S. in Systems Engineering, and he loyally served our country for nine years. He is the recipient of the Navy Commendation Medal for his leadership and he consistently ranked as one of the highest performing Naval Officers during his service. He also received his MBA from Harvard Business School.
Brian is originally from Pittsburgh, Pa., but now resides in Grand Rapids, Mich., with his wife and three young children.

Joe Cohn

Joe Cohn

Joe Cohn, FIRE’s Legislative and Policy Director, is a 2004 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the Fels Institute of Government Administration, where he earned his Juris Doctor and Masters in Government Administration. Prior to law school, Joe attended the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV), where he graduated cum laude and co-founded the university’s ACLU chapter. A former staff attorney for the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and law clerk in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Joe joins FIRE having demonstrated a career-long dedication to advancing the cause of civil liberties.
He has served as a staff attorney at the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, where his work earned him accolades from The Legal Intelligencer and Pennsylvania Law Weekly (“2007 Lawyer on the Fast Track”) in 2007 and from Super Lawyers magazine (“Rising Star”) in 2008. In 2010, Joe taught at the University of Pennsylvania Law School as an adjunct professor, where he lectured on good trial practices and supervised law students as they represented real clients in both state and federal courts. Just prior to joining FIRE, Joe served as the interim legal director for ACLU affiliates in Nevada and Utah.

Ben DeGrow

Ben DeGrow

Ben DeGrow is the Mackinac Center’s director of education policy.
DeGrow joined the Center in 2015 after a long stint at Colorado’s Independence Institute, where he provided expert analysis on school choice, school finance, collective bargaining and education employment policies. He authored numerous policy reports and opinion-editorials for various newspapers and other publications, and regularly appeared on radio and television and before legislative committees.
DeGrow graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in history from Hillsdale College, and went on to receive a master’s degree in history from Pennsylvania State University. Ben’s experiences in the classroom include service as a university graduate assistant and as a substitute teacher in Michigan public schools. He also spent nearly a year on the editorial staff of the Hillsdale Daily News.
Originally from Oakland County, DeGrow is excited to be back in his home state after 13 years in Colorado. He brings with him his wife and three daughters, as well as his undying loyalty to the Detroit Tigers.

Timothy Hall

Timothy Hall

Timothy Hall is the Director of Operations and Academics at Thales Academy in North Carolina. He is the author of several textbook supplements, curriculums, standards and several popular history texts including The Complete Idiot’s World History and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Middle Ages. He was the course co-creator and administrator of the MOOC on Kierkegaard at Coursera entitled “Søren Kierkegaard: Subjectivity, Irony and the Crisis of Modernity.” His recent research focuses on the philosophy of Kierkegaard and non-cognitive education and religious literacy and diversity in schools.
At Franklin Academy, the largest public charter school in NC, Timothy has taught AP World History, AP European History, AP Psychology, and Medieval Studies. He has received numerous awards, including schoolteacher studentships to Oxford University for curriculum development and research fellowships to the Kierkegaard Library at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. Timothy has also collaborated with the College of William and Mary in Virginia in the development of curriculum materials for the teaching of the principle of separation of church and state in American history as an extension to a National Endowment for the Humanities seminar in which he participated.

Tom Lindsay, Ph.D.

Tom Lindsay, Ph.D.

Tom Lindsay is director of the Foundation’s Center for Higher Education and senior constitutional scholar. He has more than two decades’ experience in education management and instruction, including service as a dean, provost, and college president.
In 2006, Lindsay joined the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) staff as director of the agency’s signature initiative, We the People, which supports teaching and scholarship in American history and culture. He was named Deputy Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of the NEH in 2007.
Lindsay received his B.A., summa cum laude, in Political Science, and went on to earn his M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago. Oxford University Press recently published Lindsay’s American Government college textbook, Investigating American Democracy (with Gary Glenn). He has published numerous articles on the subject of democratic education, many of which have appeared in the world’s most prestigious academic journals, including the American Political Science Review, the Journal of Politics, and the American Journal of Political Science.
Lindsay has published articles on higher-education reform in Real Clear Policy, Los Angeles Times, National Review, Inside Higher Ed, Washington Examiner, Knight-Ridder Syndicate, Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, American Spectator, and Austin American-Statesman, among others. He has just accepted an offer to become a contributor to Forbes.
In recognition of his scholarship on democratic education, Lindsay was made the 1992-93 Bradley Resident Scholar at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Catherine Pakaluk, Ph.D.

Catherine Ruth Pakaluk, Ph.D.

Catherine Pakaluk joined the faculty at the Busch School in 2016 as assistant professor of economics. Formerly, she was assistant professor and chair of the economics department at Ave Maria University. Her primary areas of research include economics of education and religion, family studies and demography, Catholic social thought and political economy. Dr. Pakaluk is the 2015 recipient of the Acton Institute’s Novak Award, a prize given for “significant contributions to the study of the relationship between religion and economic liberty.”
Pakaluk did her doctoral work at Harvard University under Caroline Hoxby, David Cutler, and 2016 Nobel-laureate Oliver Hart. Her dissertation, “Essays in Applied Microeconomics”, examined the relationship between religious ‘fit' and educational outcomes, the role of parental effort in observed peer effects and school quality, and theoretical aspects of the contraceptive revolution as regards twentieth century demographic trends.
Beyond her formal training in economics, Dr. Pakaluk studied Catholic social thought under the mentorship of F. Russell Hittinger, and various aspects of Thomistic thought with Steven A. Long. She is a widely-admired writer and sought-after speaker on matters of culture, gender, social science, the vocation of women, and the work of Edith Stein. She lives in Maryland with her husband Michael and eight children.

Greg Reed

Greg Reed

Greg Reed is an attorney with the Institute for Justice. He joined IJ in 2013 and litigates cases promoting economic liberty and educational choice.
Greg is representing two St. Louis-based African-style hair braiders before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in a challenge to an onerous licensing regime. Greg is also representing the Archdiocese of Newark in a challenge to a blatantly protectionist law that prevents religious cemeteries from providing headstones to its parishioners. Greg is currently the lead attorney in a case challenging Baltimore’s arbitrary, anticompetitive prohibition on mobile vendors operating within 300 feet of brick-and-mortar business establishments.
Prior to joining IJ, Greg was the research assistant to nationally syndicated columnist George F. Will. Greg received his law degree from American University Washington College of Law in 2013. Greg graduated from Haverford College in 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science.
Greg is a member of the Maryland bar.

Mitchell Rocklin

Mitchell Rocklin

Mitchell Rocklin is a Resident Research Fellow at The Tikvah Fund, a Jewish educational think tank and philanthropic organization in New York. He has also served in the US Army Chaplain Corps for 11 years in both the Army Reserve and Army National Guard, and is currently a Battalion Chaplain with the rank of Captain.
Prior to his work at Tikvah, he received a B.A. from Yeshiva University in History and Political Science, an M.Phil from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University. Rabbi Rocklin is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America’s Executive Committee and Military Chaplaincy Committee. He was previously a congregational rabbi in Connecticut, and taught US History and World History at the City University of New York’s Hunter College for eight years. He is currently completing a Ph.D in US History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His articles have appeared in a number of publications, including National Review, Mosaic, The Times of Israel, and The Jewish Press.
Rabbi Rocklin has worked on integrating classical core curricular elements into college and high school education, both in the college classroom and in extracurricular seminars. He is currently designing and implementing a pilot program with a classical Jewish curriculum designed to prepare high school students for advanced classical core curricula.

Jeff Sandefer

Jeff D. Sandefer

Jeff Sandefer has been the President of Sandefer Capital Partners, L.P. since 1995. He is a Special Advisor at Tritium Partners. Mr. Sandefer served as President of Sandefer Capital. He was Founder of Sandefer Offshore. Mr. Sandefer serves as a Director of Anadarko Holding Company and RME Holding Company. He served as a Director of Anadarko Holding Company until Anadarko Holding Company merged with Anadarko Petroleum Corporation in 2000. He served as a Director at Anadarko Petroleum Corp. since 2000. He served as a Member of the Advisory Board at Murphree Venture Partners. Over the 15 years, he has worked with entrepreneur-teachers to build a nationally acclaimed entrepreneurship program, winning several teaching honors in the process. He was named by BusinessWeek as one of the top Entrepreneurship professors in the United States. Mr. Sandefer serves on the faculty of the University of Texas Graduate School of Business. He earned his B.S. from the University of Texas and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

Richard Vedder

Richard Vedder, Ph.D.

Richard Vedder is a Distinguished Professor of Economics at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. He has written extensively on labor issues, authoring such books as The American Economy in Historical Perspective and, with Lowell Gallaway, Out of Work: Unemployment and Government in Twentieth-Century America.
Vedder has written over 100 scholarly papers published in academic journals and books, and his work has also appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines including the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Investor's Business Daily, Christian Science Monitor, and USA Today.
Vedder has been an economist with the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, with which he maintains a consulting relationship. He has served as the John M. Olin Visiting Professor of Labor Economics and Public Policy at the Center for the Study of American Business at Washington University in St. Louis and has taught or lectured at many other universities.

Event Details

Start Date

End Date


Acton Institute
98 East Fulton St.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
United States

Length of Event
One Day

$30 | Regular Admission
$25 | Student Admission

*Conference fees include breakfast, lunch, and refreshments


Metered ​street ​parking ​is ​available. ​Please ​bring ​sufficient ​change ​with ​you ​for ​meters or ​pay ​for ​parking ​with ​the ​ParkMobile ​App ​on ​your ​smartphone ​(iOS ​and ​Android). ​Paid ​parking ​lots are also available ​nearby. Please ​enter ​building ​off ​of ​Sheldon ​Blvd.