Policymaking Academy

Policymaking Academy

Tools to build systems so that all children, families, and educators have what they need to thrive.

Tools to Advance Early Education and Care Systems


The Zaentz Initiative applies findings from our groundbreaking longitudinal study, Professional Learning Academy, and other work to inform national, state, and local policy; create innovative early education policy agendas; and maximize investments that promote high-quality early learning for all.


Our work in this area includes the Zaentz Navigator, the Zaentz-Hunt Early Childhood Policy Academy, and other action-oriented programs and tools designed to help policy leaders build stronger, more equitable early education and care systems.

Key Initiatives

The Zaentz Navigator

The Zaentz Navigator is a user-friendly, interactive, and innovative digital tool that helps policymakers and leaders learn how cities and states across the country are tackling the same issues they face as they work to structure, finance, expand, and improve early education and care. The Navigator shares state and city policy strategies and innovations across 5 key categories: Infrastructure + Systems, Dedicated Funding Streams, Cost Estimation for Subsidies, Expansion, and Workforce. It also describes the contexts in which these policy strategies and innovations have been implemented and links them to findings from a groundbreaking statewide study of early education and care.

The Early Childhood Policy Academy

Through our hybrid online and in-person Early Childhood Policy Academy, run in partnership with the Hunt Institute, we have supported several diverse cohorts of leaders who share a commitment to improving the lives of young children and their caregivers. The group is comprised of leaders from across the political spectrum and in a variety of roles, including lieutenant governors, legislators, agency heads, and others. Policy Academy coursework builds upon our Certificate in Early Education Leadership’s learning design and foundational content, including topics such as child and adult development, stress and resilience, and equity. It also introduces resources and tools related to early education financing, governance, and workforce development.

Early Childhood Policy Academy Voices



Early Childhood Policy Academy Participant Highlights

Juliana Stratton

Lieutenant Governor


Juliana Stratton serves as the 48th lieutenant governor of the State of Illinois. Among other responsibilities, Stratton’s portfolio includes overseeing the administration’s Justice, Equity, and Opportunity Initiative; chairing the board of the Restore, Reinvest, and Renew Program; and leading efforts that address the needs of Illinoisans, including building a strong and diverse teacher pipeline, helping create pathways to economic empowerment for women, and establishing the Ag Connects Us All Agricultural Equity and Food Insecurity Initiative.

Kristen Baesler

State Superintendent of Public Instruction

North Dakota

Kirsten Baesler is the state school superintendent and administrator of the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction. The superintendent and her 86-person team oversee the education of public and nonpublic school students in more than 480 sites across the state. First elected in November 2012, she was re-elected to a third four-year term in November 2020. Before taking office in January 2013, Superintendent Baesler had a 24-year career in the Bismarck Public School system—the state’s largest school district—as a vice principal, library media specialist, classroom teacher, and instructional assistant. Superintendent Baesler also spent nine years as an elected member of the Mandan School Board, serving as the board’s president for seven of those nine years, and she worked for a time as assistant director of the North Dakota School Boards Association.

Dave Lent

State Senator


Dave Lent has represented District 33 in the Idaho State Senate since 2018. He has served on a variety of committees, including as chair of the Senate Education Committee. Lent also served on the Idaho Falls School District 91 Board of Trustees beginning in 2006, where he played a key role in replacing four elementary schools and transitioning a junior high into a successful project-based high school, and was invited by Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper to participate in a committee that eventually recommended the creation of the College of Eastern Idaho. He is a graduate of Eastern Idaho Technical College and Idaho State University with a national credential in Radiation Protection.