Dr. Kevin Lawrence Henry, Jr. may be newer to the UW-Madison faculty, but he has a long relationship with the university and with Madison. Henry earned his Ph.D. from the School of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction in 2016. He served as Assistant Professor of Education Policy Studies and Practice at the University of Arizona for 3 years before returning to Madison. Currently, he is Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis in the School of Education. In the last year, Henry has been honored with 2 national awards for excellence in research: the Jack A. Culbertson Award Early Career Award from the University Council for Educational Administration and the Early Career Award in Educational Policy and Politics from the American Educational Research Association.

A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, Henry’s celebrated research centers on the educational climate of post-Katrina New Orleans that he personally experienced. The structure of schooling in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina has been the subject of much study and has become the proverbial poster child for the “portfolio model” of school structure. Under the portfolio model, a large governing body, such as New Orleans’ Recovery School District (RSD), is responsible for managing a variety of schools within its portfolio, but not for actually running the schools That responsibility is left to individual school managers or charter management organizations. The RSD takes over “underperforming” schools and manages their reorganization via educational philanthropists, nonprofit organizations, and charter managements corporations. This model has been copied—in whole or in part—in cities like Memphis, New York, Chicago, and Milwaukee.

If this sounds more like the management of a Fortune 500 company than what public schools, that’s because it is. Henry’s research focuses largely on charter school policy and its roots in capitalism and anti-Blackness. He also looks at the effects that charter school proliferation and educational reorganization have had on New Orleans, its Black teachers and students, and its Black community writ large. His work is celebrated among colleagues as simultaneously theoretically rich and intensely loving.

An important element of Henry’s research is the connection that he draws between the long-held tradition in Black communities to take control of the education of their children within and beyond schools and today’s school choice movement. He exposes how current educational projects and policies that use this rhetoric to justify their claims for benefit to Black children largely do not align with the historical precedent because their corporate and financial interests supersede their interest in Black self-determination through education.

Locally, Henry serves on the Advisory Council for Charter Schools for Wisconsin, a division of the Universities of Wisconsin Office of Educational Opportunity. The council reviews applications for new charter schools and renewals for existing charter schools throughout the state. He is currently celebrating the release of his book The Promise of Youth Anti-Citizenship: Race and Revolt in Education, a collection edited with Dr. Kevin Clay of Rutgers University.