Center for Public Policy Priorities


We stand for economic and social opportunity for all Texans. Because Texans believe in opportunity.
Ann Beeson, Executive Director - A renowned social justice lawyer, former philanthropy executive, and frequent public speaker and writer, Ann Beeson joined the Center in 2013. She was previously the Executive Director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Foundations, where she promoted human rights, justice, and accountability nationwide. Beeson was the national Associate Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, where she worked from 1995-2007. She argued twice before the U.S. Supreme Court, litigated numerous cases around the country, and launched groundbreaking programs to stop the erosion of civil liberties in the name of national security and to protect free speech and privacy on the Internet. Beeson has been recognized as one of the nation’s top lawyers by American Lawyer Magazine and the National Law Journal. A proud Texan, Beeson has embraced a wide range of innovative strategies to advance social change. Before joining the Center, she launched a new non-profit to involve the creative sector in social change. In 2012-13, she was a Senior Fellow and Lecturer at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at the University of Texas, where she co-produced a public media series to inspire more people to get engaged in their communities. She grew up in Dallas, Texas, and received undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Texas. Beeson obtained her law degree from Emory University School of Law, and served as law clerk to the Honorable Barefoot Sanders, then chief judge of the Northern District of Texas.

Valerie L. DavidsonManager of Finance and AdministrationValerie L. Davidson joined the Center in 2002. She is responsible for accounts payable, payroll, and other business. Before coming to the center, Davidson was an administrator in the Office of the District Judges of Travis County. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Southwest Texas State University in 1997.
Eva DeLuna Castro, Senior Budget Analyst - Eva DeLuna Castro joined the Center in 1998 and focuses on state budget issues. Before coming to the Center, she was an Analyst for the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, researching various policy issues related to state revenue and spending. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in History and Literature, cum laude, from Harvard University in 1988 and a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin in 1997.

Dick Lavine, Senior Fiscal Analyst - 

Dick Lavine focuses on state and local revenue issues. Before coming to the Center in 1994, he was a Senior Researcher at the House Research Organization of the Texas House of Representatives for ten years. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Travis Central Appraisal District, and a member of the Executive Board of AFSCME Texas Retirees, the statewide union local of retired public employees. The Equity Center named him the 2011 Champion for Equity for his work to reform our tax system to ensure it can adequately support public education and other public services. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics, magna cum laude, from Harvard College in 1969, and a Doctor of Jurisprudence, cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania in 1975.

Chandra Kring Villanueva, Policy Analyst - Chandra Kring Villanueva joined the Center in 2010 as a fellow through the Center on Budget and Policies Priorities’ State Fiscal Analysis Initiative. She focuses on state pensions and public education finance and policy. She also serves on the Customer Satisfaction Advisory Board for Capital Metro and is an advisory board member for the Center on Children and Families at the Columbia University School of Nursing. Villanueva was the manager of Advocacy and Public Policy with the Women’s Prison Association in New York City. Prior to graduate school, she served as a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow with the Congressional Hunger Center in Arizona and Washington, D.C. Villanueva earned a Master of Public Administration from the New York University Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service in 2007, and a Bachelor of Arts from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington in 2003.

Brakeyshia Samms, State Policy Fellow - Brakeyshia Samms joined the Center in 2014 as a State Policy Fellow through the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ State Priorities Partnership. She focuses on analyzing the impact that Texas budget and tax policies have on low and moderate-income communities. As an undergraduate student, she spent a semester in Washington, DC, as a Bill Archer Fellow through the University of Texas System. She earned a Master of Public Policy from George Mason University in May 2014, and a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and History from the University of Texas at Tyler in May 2012.
Frances Deviney, Ph.D., Texas KIDS COUNT Director - Frances Deviney joined the Center in 2005. As KIDS COUNT Director, she tracks the status of child well-being in Texas by collecting and analyzing state and county-level data. She also helps coordinate the center's family economic security work. Before coming to the center, she was a Research Specialist at the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, a Legislative Director in the Texas House of Representatives, and a Research Analyst at the Families and Schools Together (FAST Track) Project. Deviney earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Vanderbilt University in 1993 and a Doctorate in Developmental Psychology from The University of Utah in 2002.

Jennifer Lee, Research Associate - Jennifer Lee joined the Center in 2013. Before coming to the Center, she was an Education Pioneers Fellow with TNTP and Houston ISD. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from Wellesley College in 2007 and a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin in 2013. Before returning to graduate school, Lee was the Associate Editor at the educational publisher Eye On Education.
Oliver Bernstein, Communications Director - Oliver Bernstein joined the Center in 2014. A fluent Spanish speaker who has lived and worked along the Texas-Mexico border and nationally, Bernstein brings more than nine years of communications experience to the Center. He most recently directed a grassroots communications strategy for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, which aims to replace coal with clean energy. Bernstein also directed the Sierra Club’s national diversity media program from 2006 to 2009, serving as a bilingual on-the-record spokesman and developing Hispanic media outreach plans. As a former board member and board president of American Gateways, which works to ensure that immigrants and refugees have equal access to justice in Texas, Bernstein led a successful re-branding effort and spearheaded plans for their first annual benefit gala.

Gina Chavez, Communications Associate - Gina Chavez joined the Center in 2010. She works with Communications Director Brian Stephens and Communications Associate Alexa Garcia-Ditta on all marketing, social media, and media relations for the center. She was the Communications Coordinator at Texas Pharmacy Association for six years before leaving the country to volunteer for eight months in El Salvador. Chavez is also a native Austinite and a singer songwriter. She holds a Bachelor of Journalism with a concentration in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin.

Mia Ibarra, Outreach AssociateMia Ibarra joined the Center in 2012 as an Outreach Associate. Her primary responsibility is coordinating Texas Forward, a state-wide revenue coalition, along with other outreach and civic engagement activities. Before relocating to Austin, Mia managed the nationally-competitive Udall Scholarship program for four years at The Udall Foundation. Before that, she conducted legislative research and oversaw other research and voter education programs as the Tucson Office Director for Project Vote Smart. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in political economy from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.  

Deirdre Anderson, CFRE, Development Director - Deirdre Anderson joined the Center as Development Director in 2012 and oversees development activities for the organization,including the annual Legacy Luncheon fundraising event.  Beginning her career in fundraising in 1998, she has worked for both local and statewide organizations serving low-income families, individuals with disabilities, at-risk youth and those providing health care services, most recently Planned Parenthood in Austin. She is past president of the Greater Austin Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and received her professional fundraising certification, CFRE, in 2010.  She was honored in 2011 as Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year at the Annual Philanthropy Day Awards Luncheon.  Deirdre is also a member of Leadership Austin's Class of 2012. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Texas at Austin.

Laura Rosen, OpportunityTexas Project Coordinator - Laura Rosen joined the center in July 2010. She is the Project Coordinator for OpportunityTexas, a joint initiative of CPPP and RAISE Texas to move more Texas families toward greater economic opportunity through academic and financial education and savings. Rosen completed her Master of Public Policy from the University of Michigan in 2010 and received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and a Bachelor of Arts in Government from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004. Before returning to graduate school, she was a Fulbright Scholar in Peru where she researched microfinance.

Interns: Alejandra Cerna Rios, Master of Public Affairs and Master of Social Work dual degree candidate at the University of Texas Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and the University of Texas School of Social Work
AmeriCorp VISTA: Scott Zienty, Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology and Hispanic Studies from the University of Texas

Lauren Stebbins, Master of Public Affairs candidate at the University of Texas Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs
Chandra Kring VillanuevaPolicy Analyst - (see Budget and Taxes)
Anne Dunkelberg, Associate Director - Anne Dunkelberg joined the center in 1994. She is one of the state's leading experts in policy and budget issues relating to health care access. In 2007, she was named Consumer Advocate of the Year by Families USA in Washington, D.C. Before coming to the center, she served as Program Director for Acute Care in the Texas Medicaid Director's Office and spent six years with the Texas Research League, where she authored numerous reports on Texas health and human services issues and tracked state health and human services budget issues. She earned dual degrees from The University of Texas at Austin—a Bachelor of Arts (Plan II), magna cum laude, in 1979 and a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs in 1988.

Stacey Pogue, Senior Policy Analyst - Stacey Pogue joined the center in 2008. She focuses on health policy issues. Before coming to the center, she did health policy and research work with the Medicaid and CHIP Division of the Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of Insurance. In 2010 and 2011, she was selected to serve as a funded Consumer Representative to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). Pogue earned a Bachelor of Science in Geography, summa cum laude, from Texas A&M University in 1997 and a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin in 2005.

Katharine Ligon, Policy Analyst - Katharine Ligon joined the center in 2012 with a focus on mental health policy. Prior to joining the center she was a Hogg Foundation Mental Health Policy Fellow with Mental Health America of Houston. Ligon earned a Master of Social Work with a concentration in Advocacy, Leadership, and Administration from the Graduate College of Social Work at the University of Houston in 2010, and a Bachelor of Psychology in 2003. Prior to graduate school, Ligon interned with the Legislative Study Group during the 2009 Legislature and worked at DePelchin Children’s Center. She also spent nearly two years at Nuestras Pequenas Rosas: Home for Abandoned and Abused Girls in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
Rachel Cooper, Senior Policy Analyst - Rachel joined the center in 2012 with a focus on food and nutrition programs as well as obesity. Before joining the center, she worked for the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) where she was in charge of research and data analysis and authored reports such as the School Breakfast Scorecard, Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, and State of the States. Rachel also worked for the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), in their New York office, where she focused on helping families gain access to programs that provide work supports, such as tax credits, Medicaid, SCHIP, and food stamps. Rachel received her Masters in Human Development and Social Policy from Northwestern University.