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Raise Your Hand Texas Announces New Staff to Lead Advocacy & Outreach Efforts in Upcoming Session

May 15, 2018  

AUSTIN, TX (May 14, 2018) – Raise Your Hand Texas today announced that Dr. Michelle Smith, a lobbyist with HillCo Partners, will serve as Director of Governmental Relations, and Dr. Libby Cohen, an Oxford graduate and a dynamic community organizer, will serve as Director of Advocacy and Outreach. Smith will lead the organization’s efforts to fight for Texas public schools in the upcoming legislative session while Cohen focuses on organizing a broad base of grassroots support among civic leaders, educators, business leaders, parents and other advocacy organizations.

“Michelle and Libby make a formidable team, and will work side-by-side to enhance educational opportunities for our kids. I am confident they will successfully carry the torch for Texas public schools in what’s bound to be a tough legislative session,” said Charles Butt, Chairman and CEO of H-E-B and founder of Raise Your Hand Texas. “Making an impact at the Capitol will require a Texas-sized effort — we’ve got to rally the whole state to stand up and fight for equity, quality and a strong public education system for all children. Our future depends on it.”

Named to Capitol Inside’s Top 100 Hired Guns lobby list in 2017, Smith is known as a savvy and knowledgeable advocate for education with a deep understanding of how things work within the classroom walls as well as the Capitol halls. A former public school teacher with a doctorate in school improvement from Texas State University, Smith has combined her passion for education with a love for public policy instilled by her father, beloved former Texas legislator Jimmie Don Aycock. For the past seven years, Smith has lobbied on behalf of education-based for-profits, non-profits, advocacy organizations and superintendent-led associations. She has served as a lobbyist for Raise Your Hand Texas in the past, and as executive director of the Fast Growth School Coalition.

“Raise Your Hand Texas is a leading voice for public education in Texas, and I’m honored to join the team. The organization’s work positively impacts the lives of the 5.4 million young Texans in our public school systems,” Smith said. “I look forward to helping elevate the good work of Texas public schools, and advocating strongly and effectively on their behalf at the State Capitol. It’s imperative that our state supports, funds and advances a public education system that ensures all students are well prepared to enter the 21st century workforce.”

Libby Cohen, originally from Dallas, has served for the past several years as an organizer for Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD), where she created unique voter organizing strategies and helped secure $180 million in supplemental education funding for Baltimore City Schools, 350 new community health workers positions to help residents in distressed neighborhoods, and $3 million for park renovations and facilities updates in the Irvington community. She helped to negotiate a $135 million community benefits agreement attached to Port Covington, the largest urban redevelopment project currently underway in the United States. Cohen also helped found a non-profit in Cambodia dedicated to fighting child sexual exploitation. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, a Rhodes Scholar, and holds a doctorate in economic and social history from the University of Oxford.

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Raise Your Hand Texas focuses on identifying breakthrough ideas to improve education, piloting them in our public schools, and supporting the conditions and public policies that can scale to reach all Texas students.

Visit RaiseYourHandTexas.org to learn more.

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Connect with us on Twitter: @RYHTexas


Petri Darby – VP of Marketing
[email protected] or (512) 617-2137

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