Leslie Cornfeld

Founder & CEO of National Education Equity Lab

Ms. Cornfeld has devoted her career to advancing equity and opportunity for our nation’s underserved communities — through their schools, justice systems and unconventional partners. A former federal civil rights prosecutor, senior Obama administration official, advising two U.S. Secretaries of Education and the White House for the President’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, and a two-term advisor for former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, she currently leads the National Education Equity Lab, a nonprofit that she founded to drive opportunity at scale through innovation, collaboration and action. She taught at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and started her career as an aide to former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in Washington DC.

Ms. Cornfeld has a strong track record of designing and leading cross-sector efforts to tackle pressing social and community challenges. A Washington Post editorial praised the effort she led in NYC schools to address truancy and chronic absenteeism as “an example of what’s possible,” and the U.S. Conference of Mayors called it a “model for other cities.”

As a federal civil rights prosecutor, Ms. Cornfeld led complex public corruption, police abuse, and human trafficking cases and twice received the U.S. Attorney General’s Director’s Award for outstanding performance. Prior to that, she was appointed deputy chief counsel of the NYC Commission to Investigate Alleged Police Corruption (the “Mollen Commission”) where she helped develop and lead investigations of alleged police corruption, brutality, and system failures – resulting in NYC’s creation of a permanent police oversight commission. She was a litigation associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; and clerked for the Honorable Pierre N. Leval, SDNY (now U.S. 2nd Circuit).

Ms. Cornfeld serves as trustee for numerous non-profit boards, including the Children’s Defense Fund for over a decade (former trustee), the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Center for Law, Brain and Behavior, the Hospital for Special Surgery, and serves on the Brookings Institute’s Task Force on Next Gen Community Schools. She founded a public speaking and advocacy program for East Harlem girls and has served for the past decade as an active coach and mentor to a large group of extraordinary young women who recently began college.
Her articles and op-ed pieces have appeared in many publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, the NY Law Journal, and Huffington Post; she is a frequent speaker on education equity, civic engagement, and policing, and has been featured on numerous national news and media programs on these topics.

A proud graduate of Broward County public schools, Ms. Cornfeld graduated from Harvard College, Phi Beta Kappa, and Harvard Law School. She attributes her career path to her high school English teacher who remains the most inspiring teacher she ever had. She has two children and lives in New York City.