A New Administration Brings Opportunities for Positive Change

November 19, 2020

By Rochelle Davis

Healthy Schools Campaign is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization, but like everyone, we are profoundly impacted by the decisions made by policymakers at the federal, state and local levels. The outcome of elections has a major impact on our ability to effectively advocate for policies and practices that make schools healthier places for all children.

Four years ago, when Donald Trump was elected, we feared that children, families, communities and public schools would be much worse off as a result of his presidency. His campaign rhetoric and stated priorities showed us that he was committed to discounting, ignoring, or actively weakening policies and initiatives that benefit children across the fields of health, education, community and sustainability.

As everyone now knows, it turned out that our collective imagination was nowhere vast enough to anticipate the breadth of harm President Trump would do in just 48 months. In addition to denying science, actively harming vulnerable communities, propping up racists and putting his private interests above all else, President Trump directly undermined our country’s public institutions, including public schools. His administration mismanaged the COVID-19 pandemic to such an extent that we are now facing the highest rates of hospitalization and illness in the world.

The incoming Biden-Harris administration, on the other hand, will begin its term with stated priorities that have the potential to strengthen and expand school health services, school food, sustainable school facilities and equitable funding for public schools. Not only that, but it will make addressing COVID-19 a top priority on day one. The incoming administration has already convened a team of respected experts to address the pandemic and has stressed the importance of ensuring that districts and schools have the resources they need in order for children to safely return to school. Read our assessment of those plans and how they align with our efforts.

We are ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work in a practical and tangible way that will benefit all children, and we have already started this conversation with members of the Biden-Harris transition team.

We also see an opportunity to engage with the Biden-Harris administration to have broader conversations about structural racism and the vast funding inequities that we must confront if we want to create educational and health systems and environmental policies that dismantle, instead of perpetuate, the unequal footing upon which our country was established.

We are excited to engage this new administration and look forward to a constructive partnership at many levels. We are also realistic: President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris collectively have decades of governing and policymaking between them. And those years of experience also include many missed opportunities to address the structural problems that must be confronted in order for real change—change that truly benefits BIPOC children, families and communities—to occur. The new administration must commit to confronting these deeply complex issues in a meaningful way.

This moment will require strong and sustained advocacy on the part of organizations across the country, including Healthy Schools Campaign, to hold the new administration to account while we work together to make our shared goals a reality. We are committed to keeping our shoulder to the wheel to help make schools—and our country—healthier and more just places for all children.