When young people step into their power, we can ignite a movement to fully fund public education.
Sept. 27, 2021
Stupski Foundation is proud to support our grantee partners at the Evolve Education Fund, an organization building a grassroots movement to fully fund public schools in California by making education a priority and advocating for new sources of stable revenue. We’re happy to share the below reflections from Evolve’s Campaign Director Ben Grieff and Campaign Manager Maddie Cook about young people stepping into their power and why now is the time to fully fund public education.
“Although I enjoyed learning about government, I grew up largely believing that my voice could have no real impact on the political landscape around me. I conceptualized politics on the national scale, and felt entirely hopeless.”
Reva Kale, one of our Evolve interns, said that to our team during a discussion about civic engagement. The feeling of hopelessness she described was not unfamiliar. From wildfires induced by climate change to the misinformation fueling a new wave of COVID-19 cases—we are living in an age of uncertainty and anxiety that has paralyzed many into inaction.
As a grassroots organization working to fully fund California public schools, we know all too well how structural problems can feel intractable, and yet the resilience of our community and the passion of our interns give us hope and keep us fighting. As research scientist Jacqueline S. Mattis who studies positive psychology says, “… a future that is uncertain holds lots of possibilities. As such, uncertainty is not reason for paralysis—it is a reason to hope.”
Reva’s story didn’t end with that feeling of hopelessness—it just started there. Reva shared:
“In my senior year of high school, I made a public comment at a board of education meeting. I remember how nervous I was, how my voice shook when I first addressed the room, but I also remember how proud I felt to be speaking up for something that mattered. And after I did speak up, I watched many community members step up and support me in turn, creating political pressure that eventually led to positive change.”
Evolve is committed to working with young people like Reva because they are our future. We train young organizers in grassroots strategies and tactics so they can call attention to issues they feel passionate about and spark meaningful change. That includes everything from door knocking to digital organizing. It’s their commitment to this work that inspires us to seize the opportunity before us.
We are living in the age of opportunity.
Reva’s story is a reminder that when young people step into their power, they can ignite a movement and disrupt the status quo. Across the country, young activists have seized that opportunity to raise their voices and lead community movements toward justice. As our intern Hafsah said: “Younger generations of voters have the potential to change policies and reimagine the political sphere. By getting politically involved, we can steer the future to a brighter one. After all, we ARE the future.”
Events of the past year have made us take a hard look at the deep inequities that exist across multiple systems, from education to health care and everything in between. That introspection and recognition has created the opportunity to do things differently.
We believe young organizers are critical to the movement to fully fund education because they’ve experienced firsthand the impacts of disinvestment—including the disparate impact that has on students of color. As our intern Davina said:
“If we are truly committed to supporting and uplifting our most marginalized communities, it starts with funding our public education systems and ensuring that all students, no matter their origin or background, have the opportunity to succeed and thrive in an environment that encourages their growth and power.”
For Davina, education represents an opportunity to leave a transformative impact on her community and family, “and yet, it speaks volumes about our education system that first generation students and communities of color are so unsupported,” Davina said.
We need to invest in structural, long-term change.
California’s public school system has been underfunded and inequitable for years—the pandemic has simply laid those truths bare and forced us to look. In response, California political leaders gave public education a temporary infusion of cash—a historic $123.9 billion TK–12 budget. We are already seeing the returns of this investment: Nearly 100% of school districts have expanded educational opportunities, including much needed investments in mental health. But it shouldn’t take a global pandemic to fully invest in education, and we can’t let these investments become one-offs.
We now have an opportunity to make California public schools a priority and grow the movement to fully fund education with smart budget choices and stable revenue solutions. At Evolve, we do that by engaging in grassroots outreach and education around the need to fully fund education. That includes coalition building, training in civic engagement, public education, and mentoring young organizers.
The time to act is now.
Educational equity doesn’t just have impacts in the classroom—its impacts branch out and extend into all aspects of our lives. As Hafsah said:
“A well-functioning democracy requires educated voters. Education is integral to fighting misinformation, solving complicated domestic and international issues, and cultivating a more inclusive America. Education is how we progress to a brighter future, one where we see people—American and non-American—beyond stereotypes and prejudices. That’s why I joined Evolve California.”
Reva, Hafsah, and Davina have wrapped up their Evolve summer internships and, like many students across the country, are back in school this fall. As our students continue to endure the circumstances of this pandemic and fight back against the inequities that existed long before it, we owe it to them and to our future to keep working toward change. Now is not the time for inaction and hopelessness—it’s time to support grassroots organizing that unites people around making education funding a priority. As Reva said, “I remain politically engaged because I know that so long as I remain active in local government I can help create the community that I want to live in.” Together, we’ll continue advocating for new sources of stable revenue and help create the public education system our students need to build a better future.
Meet the authors
Ben Grieff is Evolve’s campaign director and helped found the organization in 2011. He has spent his career organizing and fundraising for various nonprofit organizations, directing canvass operations, and conducting electoral field organizing.
Maddie Cook is Evolve’s campaign manager and first joined Evolve as a summer intern. A year and a half later, Maddie remained passionate about fully funding California public schools and returned to Evolve as staff.