President, Democrats for Education Reform
Newark, New Jersey
Shavar Jeffries serves as president of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). Jeffries began this role in September 2015, and brings a personal commitment to ensuring that a child’s zip code does not define their destiny. From his efforts fighting for fair funding practices to get schools the resources they deserved to his service leading the New Jersey Attorney General’s Juvenile Justice and Civil Rights Departments, he has been a vocal advocate for social justice.
Shavar’s commitment to improve education stems directly from his personal experience. Jeffries was raised by his grandmother in the South Ward of Newark, New Jersey. His grandmother, a public school teacher, instilled in him a deep respect for the value of education. After receiving scholarships to Seton Hall Preparatory School, Duke, and Columbia Law School, he moved back to Newark with the firm belief that his path to success—through high-quality education—should not be the outlier for students in Newark, but rather the rule.
Shavar has been extensively involved in the Newark community and has tirelessly advocated to improve the city’s schools. He was the founding board president of TEAM Academy Charter School, board president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newark, and a board member of Seton Hall Preparatory School. In 2010, he was elected to the Newark Public Schools Advisory Board, and was then unanimously selected by his colleagues to serve as board president.
Shavar ran as a candidate for Newark mayor in 2014 in a campaign that attracted national attention, and during which he made improving Newark’s schools a cornerstone of his campaign. Despite being a first-time municipal candidate, Shavar gained broad support, obtaining over 46 percent of the vote, a historic number for a first-time Newark municipal candidate.
Shavar also serves as a partner at Lowenstein Sandler, where he has been a fierce advocate for families seeking fair practices in funding education and ensuring that the laws governing education systems help students, rather than trapping them in failing schools. Prior to joining the law firm, he was an associate professor of Law at Seton Hall Law School’s Center for Social Justice in Newark, New Jersey, where he ran a litigation clinic focused on complex and class action litigation and advocacy. In this role, he helped numerous clients, in both individual and class actions, defend themselves against unlawful education policies, consumer fraud, and overly broad government actions in wide-ranging matters affecting individual rights and liberties.
From 2008 to 2010, Shavar was counsel to New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram. In that role, Shavar oversaw all multi-state investigations, spanning a range of issues from securities and consumer fraud to environmental protection and human trafficking. He also supervised several divisions of the office, including the Division on Civil Rights, encompassing responsibility for enforcing a wide range of state and federal employment and anti-discrimination statutes.
Shavar began his legal career as an associate at Wilmer Cutler & Pickering, where he represented the University of Michigan in defending its affirmative-action student admissions programs, and also represented Black farmers who had been discriminated against by the United States Department of Agriculture. After leaving Wilmer, Shavar served as a Gibbons Fellow in Public Interest and Constitutional Litigation at Gibbons P.C., where he handled school-funding, special-education, affordable-housing, and prisoners’ rights cases, among others.
Shavar has received numerous honors for his advocacy, including “40 Under 40” recognition by the National Bar Association as one of the nation’s top lawyers, the Congressional Black Caucus’s Chairman’s Award, the NAACP’s Freedom Fund award, the Brendan Byrne Distinguished Public Servant Award, and the Black Alliance for Educational Options’ education-reform award.