Center for Education Opportunity

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Center Vision

For American families and students today, education provides a pathway to the realization of their aspirations and a realization of their dignity. Right now, public education achieves neither end. The key to a better education system, one that serves both America and Americans, is advancing policies that puts American families first, including choice. That’s exactly what the America First Policy Institute (AFPI) is here to achieve. AFPI will formulate educational policies that provide educational opportunity for all American families. This means putting parents and students—not bureaucracies, unions, or politicians—in charge of the education of America’s next generation. AFPI aims to restore our system of public education to its original, legitimate purpose: educating and raising the next generation of Americans, facilitating their dreams—and our prosperity.

AFPI aims to restore our system of public education to its original, legitimate purpose: educating and raising the next generation of Americans, facilitating their dreams, and our prosperity. Providing a high-quality education with opportunities that benefit every student will create greater outcomes for our next generation.


  • Increasing Education Opportunities
  • Increasing Early Literacy
  • Creating Greater Student Outcomes
  • Improving Spending on Education

Joshua Orlaski is from Temecula, California, and serves as a Policy Analyst in the Center for the American Worker and the Center for Education Opportunity at AFPI. Prior to joining AFPI, Orlaski served in the Trump administration as the Confidential Assistant and Briefing Book Coordinator for Secretary Ben Carson at the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. In addition, Orlaski spent several years in the private sector working in sales and business development, and he previously interned on Capitol Hill for Congressman Tom McClintock of California. He is a graduate of Hillsdale College in Michigan, where he majored in Financial Management. Orlaski currently resides in Arlington, Virginia, and he enjoys playing the guitar, baseball, and being involved in his church. 

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

Mark Twain

Laurie Todd-Smith, Ph.D. Director, Center for Education Opportunity

Laurie Todd-Smith, Ph.D. is originally from Phoenix, Arizona, but has lived in Mississippi for over 25 years.  She serves as AFPI’s Senior Fellow for the Center for Education Opportunity and Center for the American Worker. Dr. Todd-Smith was appointed by President Trump to serve as the Director of the Women’s Bureau at the United States Department of Labor. During her tenure at the Women’s Bureau, she focused the agency on issues of childcare, paid family leave, and grants to support women in apprenticeship.  Prior to her work with the United States Department of Labor, Dr. Todd-Smith served as Senior Education and Workforce Policy Advisor to Governor Phil Bryant. She led numerous legislative efforts to help improve public education in Mississippi including: The Literacy Based Promotion Act, Early Childhood Education, Charter Schools, Special Needs Education Scholarship Account, and accountability models for school districts, all of which resulted in improved outcomes for Mississippi’s students. Dr. Todd-Smith is also the former executive director of the Mississippi State Workforce Investment Board (SWIB) and the State Childhood Advisory Council (SECAC). Dr. Todd-Smith is a former elementary school teacher and holds a doctorate in education from Mississippi State University, a master’s degree from Western New Mexico University, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona. Dr. Todd-Smith is a 2-year breast cancer survivor.  She is an avid college football fan and enjoys boating at Lake Caroline, MS with her husband, Ron, and adorable Yorkie, Max.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Nelson Mandela

The Honorable Scott Turner Chair, Center for Education Opportunity

Scott Turner is from Richardson, Texas, and serves as AFPI’s Chair of the Center for Education Opportunity at AFPI. Turner is a businessman, motivational speaker, and former professional football player, who previously served as the executive director of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council. Turner formerly served as a Texas state representative for the 33rd District, which includes part of Collin County and all of Rockwall County. Before entering public service, Turner was an American football cornerback who played in the NFL for nine seasons with the Washington Redskins, San Diego Chargers, and the Denver Broncos. He attended the University of Illinois, where he played as their starting cornerback and graduated with a degree in speech communications.

General Mick Zais Senior Fellow, Center for Education Opportunity

General Mick Zais is from Columbia, South Carolina, and serves as a Senior Fellow in the Center for Education Opportunity at AFPI. Zais most recently served as President Donald J. Trump’s Deputy Secretary of Education and, for a short period, as Acting Secretary. Before that, he ran for and was elected South Carolina’s 17th State Superintendent of Education, the second Republican to hold that office. Zais also served for 10 years as president of Newberry College, a private institution founded before the Civil War. During 31 years as an Army infantryman, paratrooper, and ranger, he served in Vietnam, Korea, Panama, and Kuwait. He was a social aide in the Nixon White House; at West Point, he taught organizational behavior, leadership, and management consulting; and in the Pentagon, he was Chief of War Plans. An ardent philatelist, Zais has been married for 42 years to Susan. They have two adult children. His son is a cyber security professional and sergeant in the South Carolina National Guard. His daughter, the former Miss South Carolina USA, is a full-time mom. Zais and Susan have six grandchildren between the ages of three and 10.

“Do right and bear the consequences.”

Sam Houston

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