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Who is Trump's nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos?

By Erik Peterson

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Last week, President-elect Donald Trump announced the selection of Michigan philanthropist and education activist Betsy DeVos as his nominee for education secretary. DeVos is an advocate for school choice, including private school voucher programs, and is a past chairwoman of the Republican Party of Michigan.

DeVos is expected to go through the confirmation process in the Senate early next year. Little is known about her position on education issues; however, she has reportedly kept quiet about Common Core, which President-elect Trump heavily criticized during the campaign. She has served as chairwoman of the board of the Alliance for School Choice and heads the All Children Matter Political Action Committee, which she and her husband founded in 2003 to promote school vouchers, tax credits to businesses that give private school scholarships, and candidates who support these causes.

Her other activities on behalf of public-school reform have included membership on the boards of directors of  Advocates for School Choice, the American Education Reform Council, and the Education Freedom Fund. She has chaired the boards of Choices for Children and Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), and is chair of the American Federation for Children (AFC), which describes itself as "a leading national advocacy organization promoting school choice, with a specific focus on advocating for school vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs."

DeVos also serves on the board the Foundation for Excellence in Education, an organization connected with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush that envisions an education system capable of maximizing every student's potential for learning and preparing them for success in the 21st century. 



Guest blog: How the election played out at the state level

By Guest Blogger

Written by Ashley Wallace, Program Manager at the National Conference of State Legislatures

The Minnesota State Capitol. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

In the past week since Election Day, the top of the ticket has certainly garnered a lot of attention and discussion. However, state legislative races and state ballot initiatives also made their mark, as voters in 35 states decided 154 statewide ballot measures and chose from among more than 10,000 candidates seeking state legislative seats.

Republicans will control 66 of the 98 partisan state legislative chambers. Democrats will control 30 chambers and one chamber will be tied. The New York Senate is still undecided. This means Republicans will control both chambers in 32 states, which is an all-time high for the party. Democrats will control both chambers in 13 states and three states will split control or be tied. Overall, turnover in the state legislatures this election was about 25 percent, which is about average.

Here are the chambers that changed hands

Three chambers switched from Democratic to Republican control:

  • Kentucky House
  • Iowa Senate
  • Minnesota Senate

Four chambers switched from Republican to Democratic control:

  • New Mexico House
  • Nevada Assembly
  • Nevada Senate
  • Washington Senate (Republicans, however, will have functional control as one Democrat will caucus with the Republicans.)

And one chamber, the Connecticut Senate, will be tied.

There are also a few chambers across the country who have a more complicated future. The Alaska House will be governed by a coalition that gives Democrats functional control of the chamber, despite Republicans leading the chamber numerically. And Democrats now control every seat in the Hawaii Senate, the first time one party has completely controlled a chamber since 1980. However, the big takeaway of the legislative races is that Republicans exceeded expectations in a year when many expected Democrats to net seats and chambers.

Republicans entered the elections having 31 governors and managed to pick up three by winning in Missouri, New Hampshire and Vermont. This will mean the most Republican Governors since 1998. Republican pickups in governor’s races means fewer states under split control. Republicans will have full control of state government in 24 states, Democrats will have full control in six and only 17 states will split control.

The outlook on education and afterschool

There are a few education-related approved ballot initiatives that may be of note to the afterschool field. Oregon passed Measure 98, requiring the legislature to fund dropout prevention and career and college readiness programs in Oregon high schools, and Measure 99, creating a fund to provide outdoor school programs statewide through the Oregon Lottery Economic Development. Meanwhile, Mainers approved a new 3 percent income tax for incomes of more than $200,000, with revenues going to K-12 education.

Finally, those in the afterschool field may recognize Nebraska’s newly elected state senator, Anna Wishart. Ms. Wishart is a former White-Riley-Peterson fellow.

For more state-focused election analysis, visit the National Conference of State Legislatures. To read more on how the 2016 election will affect education policy and afterschool, see the Afterschool Snack's breakdown of Donald Trump's record on education, and what to expect from his administration and the 115th Congress.

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learn more about: Election Guest Blog State Policy


Looking toward a new year, administration and Congress

By Erik Peterson

The results of the 2016 presidential race, as of November 11, 2016. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

With the election behind us, many are asking what's next with regard to the next administration and Congress. While it's too soon to answer all the questions, it is a good time to think through timelines and strategies for working with the transition team for the new administration as well as the new 115th Congress.

President-elect Donald Trump's transition transition team has been quietly working in Washington for the past several months (as had Hillary Clinton's transition team), reviewing potential cabinet position nominees and developing plans for the first 100 days of Trump's presidency. While some potential cabinet members have been discussed in the media, there has been little speculation about a possible Secretary of Education, though former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson has been floated as a possibility. President-elect Trump has also suggested that he might pick someone from business for the post. Williamson M. Evers and Gerard Robinson are on the Trump transition team, and have been developing possible education policy positions. Evers is a research fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution, and Robinson, who was Florida’s commissioner of education for a year, is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Robinson also served as principal investigator on the 2007 Mott-funded study “More than homework, a snack, and basketball: Afterschool Programs as an Oasis of Hope for Black Parents in Four Cities,” published by the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

The Afterschool Alliance submitted a memo to the Trump transition team calling for continued support of children and working parents through leveraging federal funds used by local school and community based-afterschool and summer learning programs. Additionally, the memo calls for the following:

  • Set a date and agenda for a White House summit on the role community programs, faith-based organizations and supports beyond the school day can have in keeping young people safe and secure from crime and preparing young people for jobs and careers.
  • Participate in the April 5, 2017 Ready to Work Summit to be hosted by the University of Southern California Schwarzenegger Institute on the role of afterschool in preparing our students for the future, by sending an official representative.
  • Appoint a Secretary of Education that is a champion of school-community partnerships. A good leader understands the importance of partnerships, listens to the voices of young people and communities, and is aware of inequities that must be met head on to close persistent opportunity and achievement gaps. Our next Secretary of Education must focus on opportunities for every American student and lift up school-community partnerships such as those employed in afterschool programs and community schools as vehicles to do so.

During the campaign for the presidency, President-elect Trump put forth federal policy proposals that support afterschool programs for children, as part of his child care plan.



Presidential candidates talk child care

By Erik Peterson

Images by Gage Skidmore and Lorie Shaull.

With less than 50 days left until the election for president, both candidates have now released proposals to address child care issues for America’s families. The proposals largely focus on child care for children from birth to age 8; however, there are some elements of the plans that would support parents with children in afterschool programs or who seek to access afterschool programs for their children.

Trump's child care plan

Earlier this month, Republican nominee Donald Trump released his child care proposal focusing primarily on tax credits and a mandatory minimum of six weeks of paid maternity leave for employers. The Trump plan proposes to change the tax code for working parents, allowing an income tax deduction for care of up to four children for households earning up to $500,000 and individuals earning up to $250,000. The plan offers a rebate of up to $1,200 per year for low-income families. The proposed six weeks of paid maternity leave would be financed through unemployment insurance reforms aimed at reducing fraud and abuse.

With regard to afterschool care, the Trump plan would create new Dependent Care Savings Accounts (DCSAs) for families to set aside extra money to foster their children's development and offset elder care for their parents or adult dependents. The new accounts would be universally available, and allow both tax-deductible contributions and tax-free appreciation year-to-year, unlike current law Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), which are available only if offered by an employer and do not allow balances to accumulate. The plan specifies that when established for children under 18 years old, funds from a DCSA can be applied to traditional child care, but also afterschool enrichment programs and school tuition. The proposal aims to assist lower-income parents by ensuring the government matches half of the first $1,000 deposited per year.

Clinton's child care plan

The Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, released her child care plan during the primaries last year. Clinton’s plan includes 12 weeks of paid family leave for both parents and would be paid for by tax increases on the wealthy. Her plan would also cap child care costs at 10 percent of a family’s income, and would rely on either tax cuts or block grants to help subsidize costs that exceed the cap. Additionally, the Democratic party platform included language on increased public investment in childcare, support for community schools, increased investment in afterschool, summer learning and mentoring programs, as well as funding for STEM (especially for computer science), including in the afterschool space.

For more information on the election and afterschool, visit our Campaign for Afterschool Toolkit.



Guest blog: Spoken word gives youth a voice

By Guest Blogger

Written by Chanelle Ignant, Youth Participation Coordinator at KQED, and Rachel Roberson, who leads the Letters to the Next President project for KQED. Also check out the Celebrate Youth Voices event idea for Lights On Afterschool 2016.

Sign up for the upcoming Lights On Afterschool webinar "Engaging Youth Voice & Letters to the Next President" next Thursday, August 25 at 1 PM ET.

Youth tap a deep vein of self-expression with spoken word performance. Whether they are speaking out against injustice or asserting an opinion, spoken word helps young people make their voices heard. 

With the election fast approaching, spoken word is one of many ways youth can express their views on issues that mean most to them. Teens can then publish their views on national platforms like Letters to the Next President 2.0, which launched in August.

But it takes time, patience and an open mind on the part of a mentor to help make spoken word happen.

“You can’t start with your own assumptions or preconceptions about what young people are interested in, what they’re into, what their cultural orientation is based on their appearance or on any demographic data that you have,” says M.C. K~Swift, a senior poet mentor with Youth Speaks Bay Area.  “You have to start really with who they are, and find out who they are from them not from anyone else.”

Once mentors discover what youth are interested in, it’s time to write. And write. And write some more. M.C. K~Swift recommends building trust by asking questions and keeping an open mind.

“When I’m talking to young people I find myself saying, “I don’t know about that, can you tell me more,” M.C. K~Swift says.

Mentors who are writers themselves can provide guidance. But it’s hard to teach what you don’t know.

“If you don’t love writing you can’t convince anyone else to. So be honest with yourself. If you don’t practice writing then you can’t be a guide in that practice,” M.C. K~Swift says. He recommends bringing in a writing instructor, creative artist or expert within your organization, if needed. 

M.C. K~Swift recently led a spoken word workshop at The Mix, San Francisco Public Library’s innovative teen space. The month-long series drew group of 12 young people interested in exploring the spoken word format.



Register for National Voter Registration Day on September 27!

By Elizabeth Tish

photo by Amanda Nelson

In 2008, 6 million Americans didn’t vote because they missed a registration deadline or didn’t know how to register. In 2016, National Voter Registration Day is aiming to make sure more Americans are ready to vote on Election Day this November, and Nonprofit Vote is asking America’s nonprofit organizations to play a part. A coalition of organizations, community leaders and celebrities have already pledged to get out and register voters who might otherwise not have the opportunity to do so when National Voter Registration Day starts on September 27, 2016.

Sign up to become a partner today! When you sign up, you’ll receive a packet of posters, stickers, and a toolkit explaining how you can participate in more detail.

If you’re unsure of how to get involved with the election as a nonprofit, check out the Afterschool Alliance's Campaign for Afterschool Toolkit. It offers information about what an organization can and cannot do as a 501(c)(3), as well as advice about how to make the case for afterschool funding and support to candidates for public office at all levels of government.

After registering for National Voter Registration Day, consider sharing with your networks to get even more people involved:

Sample Tweets:

Celebrate our democracy on Sept 27 by signing up now for National Voter Registration Day at #CelebrateNVRD

Sample Facebook or Google+ Post:

National Voter Registration Day 2016 is around the corner! Just It's never too early to start thinking about how your nonprofit will participate. Sign up now and NVRD will mail you posters, stickers, and a toolkit explaining how to participate. Use this link to sign up: #CelebrateNVRD #BeReady2016 #NPVotesCount #VoterRegistrationDay

You can also share the National Voter Registration Day Facebook event.

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learn more about: Advocacy Election Community Partners


Guest Blog: 10 ways to engage youth in the election

By Guest Blogger

Written by Rachel Roberson, who leads the Letters to the Next President project for KQED

With the 2016 election prominent in the minds of voting-age Americans, one might wonder how young people can participate in the conversation about our country’s political future. Even if they are not old enough to cast their votes in November, youth have an undeniable stake in the outcome of this year’s presidential election. So how do we engage them in a meaningful way?

Letters to the Next President is a project that invites young people ages 13 to 18 to make their voices heard by writing letters or creating multimedia projects about election issues that matter to them. The initiative, organized by the National Writing Project, KQED Public Media and a coalition of partners including the Afterschool Alliance, has assembled a robust collection of resources for educators to help youth create letters.

Here are ten resources to help you engage youth this election year:

  1. Election Central 2016 from PBS LearningMedia
    At Election Central 2016, teachers will find tools, resources and creative solutions to educate students on the various facets of the political process. With content about the process and history of elections, these tools help turn news coverage into learning opportunities.
  2. Election Collection from NYTimes Learning Network
    Election news will dominate the headlines all summer long. Here are a few ways students can keep up with the candidates, campaigns, conventions and controversies — and make their own opinions heard.
  3. Letters to the Next President 2.0 Kick-off Webinar
    In this hangout educators described the power of participating in the previous iteration of L2P and highlighted the growing set of opportunities and resources available to educators supporting youth engagement for the 2016 Presidential Election.
  4. A Teacher’s Perspective from Edutopia
    Ellen Shelton, Site Director at the University of Mississippi Writing Project and former high school teacher in Tupelo, Mississippi, explains why she believes supporting this kind of political discussion in the classroom can have a deep impact on students now and in the future.
  5. Teaching the Art of Civil Dialogue
    Educator Chris Sloan reflects on using resources from Do Now, a weekly activity for students to engage and respond to current issues using social media tools.
  6. Developing and Discussing Political Views In the Classroom
    Educator Janelle Bence discusses some of her strategies for supporting students in discussing a wide range of political opinions in the classroom.
  7. Election Activities Outside the Classroom
    This blog post provides educators with a guide for developing L2P 2.0 letter-writing into a focused, whole-class civic action effort.
  8. NWP’s College-Ready Writers Program
    The goal of this mini-unit is to support students as they explore the purpose and format of Letters to the Next President 2.0, choose an issue worth writing about, gather information from multiple sources, develop a claim and write a complete argument draft.
  9. Argumentative Writing from Teaching Channel
    This video contains an in-depth conversation on lesson planning for reading and writing, identifying main ideas and developing arguments.
  10. Dear Next President from PBS NewsHour Extra
    Encourage youth to talk about election issues that matter to them by producing a video letter to our next president.  Find key steps to creating a video for Letters to the Next President along with examples and tutorials to help young media makers get started.

To explore this initiative in more detail, we encourage you to check out the youth letters from the first iteration of Letters to the Next President in 2008. You can also find more resources at, and sign up to receive monthly bulletins about new ways to participate.



New poll: Americans want to invest in youth and afterschool

By Erik Peterson

With election day just four months away, most adults say they are more likely to vote for a candidate committed to investing in effective child and youth well-being policies, according to a new national poll conducted by Hart Research on behalf of the Children’s Leadership Council. More than three in five adults—representing every age, race, income and education level across the country—want the next president and Congress to invest more federal funds in afterschool, child nutrition, child health and education programs for children, according to the poll findings.

By overwhelming margins, the poll found that Americans say the nation’s children would be better off if government did more to support parents and families, and that they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who would commit to policies that advance children’s well-being. In particular, the poll found the highest support among millennials, regardless of party.

Here are the specifics of Americans' widespread support for investing in our future

  • 70 percent of Americans believe children would be better off if government did more to support parents and families.
  • 63 percent of Americans favor increasing funding for programs and services to meet children’s needs.
  • A majority of Americans say they are more likely to support someone who commits to making child well-being policies a priority, especially in the areas of: child abuse and family violence (75 percent); child poverty and hunger (71 percent); child health care coverage (67 percent); college affordability (66 percent), and child care and early education (58 percent).

With regard to afterschool programs, the poll echoed previous election year polls on the value that the public places on afterschool programs:

  • 63 percent of parents said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who commits to making expanding afterschool programs and summer learning opportunities priorities if elected.
  • 67 percent of mothers said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who commits to making expanding afterschool programs and summer learning opportunities priorities if elected.
  • 67 percent of millennials said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who commits to making expanding afterschool programs and summer learning opportunities priorities if elected.
  • 77 percent of African Americans said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who commits to making expanding afterschool programs and summer learning opportunities priorities if elected.

The Children’s Leadership Council, a coalition of nearly 60 of the nation’s leading child and youth advocacy organizations, including the Afterschool Alliance, commissioned Hart Research Associates to conduct the poll. The poll used telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of over 2,000 Americans age 18 and older across the country, including 595 parents of children under age 18. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percent.

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learn more about: Advocacy Congress Election Federal Funding