Nora Reikosky

PhD Candidate in Education & Political ScienceUniversity of Pennsylvania


I am a joint education and political science PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania in the Education, Culture, and Society division of the Graduate School of Education and the political theory department in the School of Arts and Sciences. Beginning in the Fall of 2024, I will be a Visiting Assistant Professor of Ethics and Leadership at The Elizabeth D. Rockwell Center on Ethics and Leadership at the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs.

My scholarship considers the role of wealthy private actors like philanthropists and philanthropic corporations in shaping the priorities and purposes of public education. I focus on the ways race, class and gender function in the political discourse and projects of powerful private actors who are involved in centering schools as sites of workforce training and racial uplift while leaving other exploitative structures unchanged

I aim to reveal the stakes of this increasing entanglement between private actors and public education as an urgent political issue, where the loud voices of powerful and wealthy actors dominate our political discourse through philanthropic action and policy advocacy, shaping educational priorities through initiatives like computer science education for all.

Using approaches from political theory, American Political Development, American Political Economy, and critical discourse analysis, my work explores the impact and stakes of private actors in public institutions. My focus is on the privatization of public education in particular, where a coalition of state and private actors collaborate to implement a schooling for work agenda, one that downstreams the training of future employees to K-12 schools.

In my research I ask:

1) how do wealthy private actors—philanthropic and corporate actors, in particular—influence the priorities and purpose of education?

2) what is the relationship between private actors and the coalescence around workforce training and career readiness as a primary purpose of public K-12 education in the United States?

3) what tensions are produced by the involvement of private actors in public education when such actors are not subject to democratic accountability?