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Update: this post was updated on 1/17 with the first official poll for Schools & Communities First. 

Three years deep into a Trump presidency, we are ready for change. Without a doubt, November 2020 will be our most significant election in two decades. It will be a Democracy lesson we will never forget. It’s up to us to become megaphones for equity and racial justice in our schools and communities. For Californians, it’s also a year of seismic change for our schools and communities. From the perpetual school funding crisis to a depleted teacher workforce, and underfunded local city infrastructures like housing and transportation, there is no scarcity of issues. In spite of the challenges, there are encouraging happenings for our schools and communities.

From our perspective, these are the four things that will shift California’s education landscape in 2020 and begin to break down the structural barriers that have held students and families back for 40 plus years from living the California dream.

 

1. Schools and Communities First – will reclaim $12 billion for schools and communities — annually

It’s been 40+ years since high-profile corporations like Chevron and the beloved Disney corporation have defaulted on their social responsibility to schools and communities. From NorCal to SoCal, beach towns to rural hillside communities, and the farmland between, there is likely a corporation benefiting from a property tax loophole and withholding hundreds of billions of dollars from your schools and local community infrastructures. The Schools and Communities First initiative will bring the resources owed for programs like housing, public transportation, and parks are all impacted.

What you need to know:

  • Schools & Communities First ballot language registered 58% support right off the bat. After top messages from both sides (the coalition & the opposition), the Schools & Communities First initiative garnered 60% support! Schools and Communities First will be on the November ballot. It’s polling best and backed by one of the largest and most diverse coalitions of Education, Housing, Health, and Worker Unions in California’s recent history. It’s a historic opportunity to change the game and put billions back into our classrooms and neighborhoods.

 

2. When it comes to the California Teacher Shortage, Governor Newsom isn’t playing

$900 million of his proposed budget will go to addressing the California Teacher Shortage. This shortage disproportionately impacts cash-strapped schools, and communities with majority Black, Brown, and immigrant folk. Research shows that young people do better in school when their teachers look like them and reflect their cultural identities. Schools that have educators who reflect the student population are more relationship-centered and empower our youth to develop the skills they need to succeed in the classroom, college and career.

What you need to know:

  • Newsom doubled down the effort to recruit the best teachers to teach in schools and communities with the highest-need. These are neighborhoods where families are often one paycheck away from skipping a meal, or a bill, and in many cases homelessness. Additionally, Newsom will also provide $100 million to fund 5,000 new teachers across the state. All that said, it’s a good start, but it remains to be seen how much Newsom and elected leaders will contribute to current teacher’s cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) to help retain our educators.

 

3. The Revitalization of Community Schools – Newsom proposes $300 million to expand Community Schools 

Community schools aren’t new, and neither are the single-policy-issue approaches to addressing racial disparities in our schools. Newsom putting more money towards community engagement, after school programs, mental health services  shows he’s prioritizing a holistic approach to our education system — one that places schools at the heart of our communities. When we value the experiences of young people, families and caretakers inside and out of the education system, our approach becomes systemic and much more adaptive to the unique needs of a school and its community. It affirms what we know about our personal experiences: As mothers, daughters, children, fathers, Babas, educators, policy advocates and young people “there is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we don’t live single issue lives.”

What you need to know:

  • Newsom’s one time $300-million decision to expand community schools has us thinking that he too, might understand the struggles of California’s students aren’t tied to a single issue. While his expansion is only a one-time budget decision, it’s enough to revitalize the movement for Community Schools in the wake of an anticipated Schools and Communities First victory.

 

4. The Youth Vote, The New Swing Vote

A reported 82 percent of California’s population under the age of 34 are people of color. Furthermore, California has the fifth largest Black population in the United States. Of that number, 900,000 people are under the age of 25. In 2016 and 2018, due to the concerted efforts of Power California — a network of grassroots youth organizations where Californians for Justice is a steering committee member — we built powerful bases of young people of color across the state. This has been years in the making and the November 2020 election is our time to shine. Youth are stepping into their power in 2020 and this election will be a Democracy lesson we’ll never forget.

What you need to know:

  • In the 2018 California midterms, turnout for Latino and Black voters increased more than any other racial group in California. The 25-34 group saw a 26 percent upswing in participation. Young leader powered organizations like Resilience Orange County, Act for Women and Girls, 99 Rootz in the Central Valley, and Californians for Justice are building powerful  bases of young voters, that don’t just vote, but serve as leaders in their communities. We are lowering the voting age to 16 in the Central Valley and Oakland, seizing roles in local commissions and so much more! We here, and 2020 is our year! Expect another historic turnout year for young people of color in California, and the United States.

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