Twenty years ago, “alternative education” wasn’t the behemoth it has become today. With politics, economics, and contemporary education reform tangled into one giant mess in 2014, primary education as we know it has certainly taken a new shape in the twenty-first century.

One of the greatest examples of this “new school” want for education reform lies in the induction of charter schools and other forms of alternative education into American culture. Charter schools – privately run institutions that often receive funding from private donors – have become a hot button topic in much of current political discourse. It used to be that these schools were controlled on a local, private basis, but now charter schools, voucher programs, and other education issues are being included in a larger political agenda.

StudentsFirst, an organization created and led by former Washington D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee, is becoming a leading force for alternative education and reform. The organization is gaining national attention – something that a charter school petitioner simply wouldn’t have had twenty years ago. According to Slate, StudentsFirst “is leading a new wave of ‘education reform’ organizations, funded largely by wealthy donors, that are challenging teachers’ unions and supporting mostly conservative candidates up and down the ticket in dozens of states,” of the growing presence the organization has not only in schools, but in politics as well. Backed by both large organizations and private investors like Daniel Loeb with a penchant for charter schools, StudentsFirst is becoming a formidable force for contemporary education reform.

Charter schools, voucher programs, and magnet schools have been known to provide students with a valuable education, but many have reservations about StudentsFirst and its charter school agenda, which tends to disagree with teachers’ unions on a variety of fronts, from teacher tenure to where funds are best spent.

Learn more about the ongoing education reform debate and the presences of StudentsFirst by reading Slate’s detailed coverage on the topic.