By Rochelle Davis
Last Wednesday morning, we all woke up to a new and uncertain political landscape. Healthy Schools Campaign is and will always be a nonpartisan organization, but it is impossible to deny that a Trump Administration will likely create challenges for us as we strive to address many issues that are central to our mission of making schools healthier places for all students.
We have always prided ourselves on being a nimble organization that opens windows when doors are closed, and this new political climate will require us to be more dogged and creative than ever. I want to share a few initial thoughts on where I think this work might take us and what we will have to do to support students across the country during this time of unsettling transition.
Hold all our public officials accountable and take advantage of opportunities at the state and federal levels
Any new administration means new elected officials as well as new leadership at the federal agencies we interact with the most (the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services and Agriculture and the EPA). We will have to redouble our efforts to inform and educate these newly elected and appointed officials so they know how their decisions impact the health and success of students—especially low-income children of color.
From statements the Trump campaign made during the election, we can assume that a big focus of the administration will be on moving money and decision-making authority from federal agencies to individual states. We have already increased our capacity to focus on state-level work, and we will continue to focus there. The recent passage of the Every School Succeeds Act (ESSA), the education law that replaced No Child Left Behind, shifted significant decision-making authority to states, and we are partnering with other national organizations on these efforts. We will continue helping states create effective state plans and be prepared for other programs that could be shifted to individual states.
Stand firm for what we believe as an organization
It is quite possible that some of the programs we care about the most as an organization will come under threat in the next four years. The National School Lunch Program is just one example of a program that could be partially dismantled and block granted under the new administration. The repeal of the Affordable Care Act would have a highly negative impact on our efforts to increase health services for Medicaid-enrolled students. If the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is shuttered, it will significantly challenge our ability to document and address issues of education inequity. While we are working hard to keep cool heads until we know more—during the campaign there were dozens of contradictory policy proposals put forward by President-elect Trump—we will be vigilant and add our strong voice to the chorus of dissent if proposals like this get traction.
Be proud and vocal about our commitment to equity
The vitriolic campaign that just ended left many of the most vulnerable among us—low-income people of color, immigrants, the undocumented, women and girls, religious minorities, individuals with disabilities and the LGBTQ communities—at risk. Healthy Schools Campaign believes in and stands for equity and has worked intentionally to bring a strong racial equity focus to the organization and all our programs. We will not stand by if the communities and people we stand with are attacked and policies and measures are put in place to marginalize the families, communities and children we are charged with lifting up. We will speak up and live out our organizational values.
I know it is a quote we’ve heard many times, but Martin Luther King Jr.’s words bring me comfort and seem more important than ever at this challenging time:
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
I look forward to your thoughts and questions—let this be the start of a long conversation.