At a Glance
- Career History: Executive Director of The Education Trust-West and vice president of The Education Trust (July 2001 to April 2009); President's liaison for Children's Defense Fund (2000 to 2001); Assistant director for policy and research at The Broad Foundation (1999 to 2000); Deputy co-director of The Advancement Project (1999 to 2000); Attorney at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter and Hampton (1997 to 1999)
- Alma Mater: Spelman College, attended, 1989 to 1991; American University, B.A., 1993; Northwestern University School of Law, J.D., 1997
Path to Power
Ali, a first-generation American, grew up in a single-parent home. She spent two years at Spelman College before transferring to American University in Washington D.C. She earned a B.A. in law and society, took a year off to teach on the Caribbean island of Antigua, and then enrolled at Northwestern University School of Law.
During school, she interned at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles and worked as a summer associate at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter, and Hampton in L.A. She graduated from Northwestern in 1997, having spent her third year as a visiting student at the University of Southern California Law Center.
As the head of the Office at Civil Rights, Ali will oversee the enforcement of all civil-rights laws as they relate to education. That includes Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, and Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on gender. The Office of Civil Rights also enforces the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act as it relates to education and the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act, which says any school that allows one group to meet on school grounds cannot prohibit another from equal access.
The majority of the Education Department's work is done by 12 regional enforcement offices, which are located around the country and respond to complaints of discrimination. But the national office also funds "partnerships designed to develop creative approaches to preventing and addressing discrimination."
As assistant secretary for the Office of Civil Rights, Ali will report to the Education Secretary Arne Duncan as well as Under Secretary Martha Kanter.
Though a registered Democrat, Ali is not a prominent campaign donor. She donated $750 to Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign cycle, but hasn't donated elsewhere this decade.