Last month, I participated in Ride for a Reason, a bike ride organized by Oakland parents to raise money for schools and advocate for more education funding. I had never biked 45 miles straight before, but I’m so glad I did.
Ride for a Reason was started by four parents one night after learning their middle school’s budget was being reduced 15%. Understanding what that meant - even fewer resources for students and teachers at the already under-served school - they channeled their frustration into something positive, biking to the Capitol to deliver petitions to change Prop. 13. Seven years later, that ride has become an annual event with over 200 participants raising over $100,000 for six schools.
This year, the ride got back to its roots by partnering with Evolve to call for Prop. 13 reform. While many of the riders wouldn’t consider themselves especially “political” (see 7 year old Oliver, pictured below), I was constantly reminded of how simple this issue is.
For all of these people, kids included, it is abundantly clear that schools need more money. Most of the older generations have seen the decline of California’s schools since Prop. 13, and everyone can agree that investing in our kids (our future) is more important than adding to the coffers of the wealthiest corporations on the planet. As organizer Paul Vetter says, “We could ride every week and still not raise enough money to properly fund schools in California. We need to change the politics. Reforming Prop. 13 is the way to go to make California a functional, 21st century economy.”
Impressive as this would be anywhere, I was particularly moved because this is my community. Growing up in Oakland, I went to the schools they’re fundraising for. I remember having dances cancelled because they were too expensive, having to share textbooks because there weren’t enough for the whole class, and going to strike school while my mom and other Oakland teachers held out for smaller classes and their first raise in a decade. As Edna Brewer Middle School Assistant Principle Kiernan Rok said at the post-ride rally, “We’re fighting over scraps when we really need to take this message to the Capitol. It’s an issue of priorities.” Hearing words like this and the cheers that followed, I was assured that these people get it. Now, I’m more confident than ever that with communities like mine across the state, we can take on these corporations and stand up for our kids.