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Share Your Story

My Education Story

We want to hear your story! Our campaign is working to restore funding to California’s public education system. Of course, we believe that the best way to do this is by reforming Proposition 13 and making corporations pay their fair share. However, we also know that personal narratives are a key aspect of every movement. 
We want to hear stories from our supporters about their experience with California’s underfunded public education system. Sharing your personal story allows us to show that the lack of education funding in California has real consequences for real people. Some of our most powerful stories have included: 

  • How increasing college tuition has impacted you
  • How a lack of funding has caused cuts to programs at your school
  • How have you have had to tap into your own pocket to buy supplies for your classroom 

Guide to Submitting Your Story

Please limit your submission to 100 words or less per question. We ask that you answer all questions relevant to your experience to the best of your ability. Finally, don’t forget to upload your best selfie! If you have any questions, please email Daniel Hagen at daniel@evolve-ca.org, or by phone at 415-800-1155

You can share your story by clicking here. Thank you for helping to grow our movement! 

What Our Project is About

The Evolve California team created the “Our Story” Project for one simple reason; to show the personal side of our movement. While discussing things we can do to further our campaign, it came to our attention that every movement needs a face and a story to get behind. We know that our campaign has many faces, as well as many stories, and we want to show them all. This project is meant to show that education is something that affects everyone. Every person has a personal experience with education that has touched them in one way or another. By starting this project, we demonstrate that education is something that everyone can fight for. 

Our Stories

Emily Cagape

Emily Cagape is a student at the University of San Francisco and a current Evolve campaign intern.

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Why is education important to you?

Education is one of the most important social institutions because it gives us not only the knowledge, values, skills and opportunities needed to succeed, but also the ability to recognize inequalities and to be critical of them. Every person deserves equal access to a quality education, regardless of their socioeconomic background. Unfortunately, not everybody has access to this.

How has California's lack of education funding negatively impacted you?

I was fortunate enough to attend private school from preschool through 8th grade and then a charter school for my freshmen year in high school. At those schools, I had several resources such as tutoring and college preparation as well as passionate teachers who continuously challenged me to think critically of the world. The next year, I transferred to my home public school—one of the lowest funded public high schools in San Jose. Classes were overcrowded, teachers were overwhelmed, and resources were severely limited. I was lucky enough to transfer to a different public school that had enough funding to provide programs such as Middle College. In Middle College I took college classes nearly full time as a high schooler. I feel so grateful to have been given such an amazing opportunity through my home public school.

However, kids shouldn’t have to transfer to schools or go to private schools to have a quality education. Lack of education funding amongst schools leads to more inequality. We deserve to have equal education opportunities regardless of where we live or whether we can afford it or not.

How has the increasing cost of college impacted you?

I go to a private university and while I really love it here, the tuition is extremely high. University would have been absolutely unaffordable for me if I did not have the numerous amount of scholarships and grants funding my education. When applying for universities in high school, I had to take into account my financial barriers. I got into one of my dream schools but because the tuition there was too high and my scholarships did not count in other states, I had to turn down my acceptance there or else face crushing student debts. In the end, I chose the college that gave me the most funding. I am extremely fortunate to have gotten nearly a full scholarship but even so, I struggle financially. Instead of focusing full time on my studies, I have had to have a job throughout all of my university years—sometimes multiple jobs at a time. After leaving the dorms, I have had to pay my own rent, utilities, and groceries by myself without other financial support. Even after I graduate, I will have small loans to pay back. Education should not be unaffordable for students.


Joshua Bolger

Joshua Bolger is a student at the University of San Francisco and a current Evolve campaign intern.

Why is education important to you?

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Education is important because it is what develops the youth of our society, so that they can be functioning members within our society. Receiving an adequate education opens so many different opportunities for individuals, and it is unacceptable that some people cannot have the same opportunities because their school was not funded properly. Receiving an education teaches individuals skills for jobs in the future along with social skills. Every child should be given access to adequate schooling that allows them to fully develop their skills for the future.

How has California's lack of education funding negatively impacted you?

I have been fortunate enough to go to private school for both elementary and high school, however through coaching youth soccer teams in my hometown I have seen the effects lack of funding has had on the children. Many parents would tell me about the lack of programs at the local schools, and how several extracurricular activities were cut due to funding. Listening to their complaints seemed surreal to me, because simple programs that I had at my school were not being provided. Seeing this I knew something was not right with the school funding in California.

How has the increasing cost of college impacted you?

I attend a private university with a high tuition cost, and when I graduate at the end of this semester I will have to start paying off my loans soon after. I will likely be in debt paying off my school loans for a good portion of my life, and knowing and thinking about this gives any college student anxiety. The pressure to find a good paying job with your degree so that you can start paying off your loans weighs so heavy on students. This is the reality for students going to any university currently, and will burden us for many years after graduation.


Alexis Arellanes

Alexis Arellanes is a student at the University of San Francisco and a current Evolve campaign intern.

Why is education important to you?

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Education is not only central to a progressive society but is a basic human right promised by the American dream. A strong educational background is imperative to an individual's pursuit of higher education and employment. I was fortunate enough to be raised by a single mother who instilled the importance of having access to a strong educational background. Due to the underfunded and heavily impacted public schools in my neighborhood, my mother chose to send me to private schools until the 10th grade. Due to change of financial status my junior year, I had to relocate to a public high school. During the stressful process of uprooting and relocating to a new city/county, I realized that there was a substantial difference between private and public education and that resource allocation in public institutions throughout California is not properly dispersed. Access to equal resources and education are imperative to the functionality and progression of society and should not be at the backburner of local or federal politics. 

How has California's lack of education funding negatively impacted you?

Throughout my college career, I have centered my work experience around education policy and served as a literacy tutor for underserved districts in San Francisco as well as a lobbyist selected on behalf of my university to seek Cal-grant refunding for newly admitted low-income students. If the state continues to eliminate educational programs and access to monetary resources, our state will continue to impede on future generations' success. Access to a quality education should not be a luxury but a basic right.

How has the increasing cost of college impacted you?

The financial burden during the college application process as well as the selection of which university to attend was solely dependent on the amount of financial aid/ scholarship I received. With graduation approaching, the daunting task of paying off my accumulated student debt once acquiring a fulltime position is disheartening. Rather than saving money earned and investing it towards my future, I will have to retroactively pay off my student loans.


Carly Schaaf

Carly Schaaf is a Campaign Organizer at Evolve California and a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley.

Why is education important to you?

Education is the bedrock of any well-functioning and desirable society. Regardless of one’s values or ideology, it’s likely that high-quality education constitutes an indispensable part of what one’s ideal society should guarantee access to. Education can instill the values, interests, and cognitive tools that allow people to make meaning of their lives, navigate important and complex decisions, and learn to live cooperatively with and around others.

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These benefits not only make for a well-functioning democracy, but are what make education a major determinant of important life outcomes such as an health, happiness, and socioeconomic status. Given these important correlations, education should be treated with the kind of sanctity and care reserved for things that directly affect people’s health and safety. 

How has California's lack of education funding negatively impacted you?

The educational part of my high school experience was lackluster. With around 45+ students per class, my teachers struggled to provide an educational experience that resembled the engaging, supportive, and warm environment an educational setting should be. Rather, the classroom felt like a holding cell and the teacher like a disciplinarian. With authority figures surrounding me, and little understanding of the importance of the content they were delivering, I responded poorly. I was directionless, insubordinate, and cared little for my longterm plans. It wasn’t until I began working in a service job the following year that I realized education is a gift, one that I should consider myself fortunate to have access to. Thanks to California’s community college system, I was able to act on my newfound appreciation for school, eventually transferring to UC Berkeley and graduating with a set of values and motivations that currently allow me to lead a life full of meaning that is driven by curiosity.

Unfortunately, these kinds of stories are too often hampered by the mountains of debt students face in seeking to get an education. I know firsthand the anxiety that student debt causes, and many would-be students find the prospect of debt altogether prohibitive. With the UC regents currently planning to raise tuition yet again, education is slated to become a luxury good, not a public one.

What made you want to pursue this career?

Given the transformative effects that a high quality education can have, the pervasive lack of access to it is disgraceful. I work on this issue because reforming Prop. 13 is the single best option California has in order to restore its public education system and fundamentally change the future of our society for the better.


Rachita Rawal

Rachita Rawal is a Campaign Organizer at Evolve California and a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley.

Why is education important to you?

I see respect for each other and equality as fundamental to happiness within a society. However, such a society is unattainable unless we are all well educated. Obviously, there are a lot of systematic inequities–but a better education would allow us to become more aware of these injustices, and have more courage to fight them. By addressing systemic issues through additional funding to poorer areas, I do strongly believe that education is the one thing that can begin to end poverty and make our society fairer. This way, we can be a society that looks to find real solutions for our causes of unhappiness.

How has California's lack of education funding negatively impacted you?

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I was fortunate enough to go to a private school named Montessori up until 3rd grade, when it became too difficult for my parents to afford any more. So they had to send me to public school after that. From elementary school to the public university I went to, I struggled with the large classrooms, few teachers, and the inability to ask the many questions I had. I definitely missed the personal attention I got at Montessori, which was integral to my learning and growth when I was younger.

What made you want to pursue this career?

I was volunteering at an elementary school in Oakland and witnessed how systematic inequalities between socioeconomic statuses have a big impact on the quality of education that children receive. It just did not seem enough to spend a few hours at the school playing and tutoring these kids. The plain and simple truth to me was that these schools needed more funding to ensure the best future and opportunities for the students. These inequities in accessing a good quality education have really stuck with me, and are what have motivated me to look for a real solution–which is what brought me to Evolve! Reforming Prop. 13 is the best way to restore sustainable revenue to make educational opportunities equal for all!


Alison Wuensch

Alison Wuensch is a student at the University of San Francisco and current Evolve intern.

Why is education important to you?

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My mom is a teacher, and when it was time for me and my brother to begin school, she recognized that the lack of resources in our St. Louis school district would negatively impact our education. She decided to move to another school district just so my brother and I could have a better education. I am deeply indebted to her for that, but I recognize that most people are not able to do that. I was fortunate enough to have an excellent public school education, and I want everyone to have that, regardless of their school district.

How has California's lack of education funding negatively impacted you?

I worked as a literacy tutor in elementary-school programs in the San Francisco Unified School District. I loved working with my students, but I recognized that they were not getting all the resources they needed for a good education. The teachers were doing their best with what resources they had, but educational resources should not have to be an issue. I want every single one of my students to have a good education with adequate resources, and I want every teacher I have worked with to feel they are giving the students a good education with the resources they deserve.

How has the increasing cost of college impacted you?

Increasing costs of college mean that I will have more loans to pay back when I graduate and more time spent paying off those loans. It also means that more of my money goes to tuition and less to textbooks and other educational materials.

 


Dirk Tillotson

Dirk Tillotson is an educator at the non-profit Great School Choices. An excerpt of his blog post on Prop. 13 reform is below.

A Tale of Two Cities and Why We Need to Reform Prop. 13

Proposition 13 has devastated California’s education system.  And it’s worse than you even think.  Like the frog in the slowly boiling pot that doesn’t realize his predicament until it’s too late, I feel like California has become desensitized to its education funding crisis.  And unless we clean up our act quickly, we are going to be cooked.

As a guy who helps start schools in my day job, let me show you what finances in NYC look like versus those in Oakland, and how the formulas either increase equity and quality, or undermine them.  If you only have a vague sense of anger, you should be screaming by the end of this piece

California’s F in school funding

Prop 13 cut California’s state education budget from 9 billion to 6 billion over night. I have written before about California’s status at the bottom of the school funding barrel, but let me make this real for folks.

There are two important ways to think about school funding, (1) is it adequate? Is there enough base money to provide the standard supports for quality education and (2) is it equitable?  Some students will have higher needs and higher costs, and does the funding adjust to meet those higher needs students.

California fails miserably on both accounts, even with the latest improvements in the California’s funding formula that provides more funding to high needs students.  Those funds are vastly inadequate.

For the remainder of this excellent read on the state of education funding in California, see Dirk's full post.


Nicholas Moore

Nicholas Moore is a student at the University of California, Berkeley.

Why is education important to you?

I believe that education represents the greatest investment a society can make. It truly is a rising tide that lifts all boats. We all benefit when education opens up opportunity for our children to realize their fullest potential. Our economy and democracy flourish when the people are well educated.

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How has California's lack of education funding negatively impacted you?

Anyone who has spent anytime in the California public school system knows we are not providing our children with the best possible education. I have seen the ways in which this impacts students at every level from Kindergarten to the UC system.

The library of my elementary school was unused my entire time there, as the school lacked funds to staff it. In high school I remember when a ballooning budget deficit forced my school to completely cancel all after-school activities. At community college, cutbacks of course offerings made it difficult to complete requirements on time. Now at the University of California system, tuition increases are adding to the financial burden of low income students.

How has the increasing cost of college impacted you?

After graduating high school, I was unable to the afford to attend the UC school that I had been accepted to. When I found out that the money wasn't there, I was devastated. All the hard work I had put in during those four stressful years of high seemed for naught.

Luckily I was able to find a way to make my dream of a college education a reality. Four years of military service and dozens of night classes at the local community college later, I'm now finally getting my degree from the UC system.

However even though my story has a happy ending, it should not be this difficult for people to get a college education. One unlucky break and it could have ended differently for me. I recognize that there are so many other people who are not able to get over the cost obstacles, and that's why I consider it an obligation to fight for them.


Rafi Sands

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Rafi Sands is a student at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Why is education important to you?

Education is the driver behind upward mobility and equal opportunity. It's at the core of the American dream, and without it societal progress on many fronts will be stalled.

How has California's lack of education funding negatively impacted you?

Lower funding and higher cost of attendance has limited my career opportunities to those that can pay the best, not necessarily what I want to do or what our society needs.


Rigel Robinson

Rigel Robinson is a student at the University of California, Berkeley

Why is education important to you?

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I've been the product of public schools my whole life. I grew up in St. Louis seeing the inequities between my district and less resourced areas. Fighting the exorbitant cost of tuition ought to be the duty of every student like me who had the privilege to be able to pursue higher education.

How has California's lack of education funding negatively impacted you?

It's impossible to truly plan for the cost of attending a UC now. Reliably, at least one set of tuition hikes will be voted on during almost every student's time at a UC. Students succeeded in fighting the hikes in the fall of 2014, but last year even our united efforts weren't enough.

As federal student aid programs come under attack, it's more important now than ever that California lead the way in making higher education more affordable and accessible, without compromising quality.


Parshan Khosravi

Parshan Khosravi is a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Why is education important to you?

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Education is the tool that has allowed me to have a voice in a world that otherwise would not care about my experiences and being.

How has California's lack of education funding negatively impacted you?

Education is the key to the future, and California's lack of funding in our education further shows the lack of insight that our officials have about what our future needs.

How has the increasing cost of college impacted you?

I live in a house with 6 other people, sharing my room with two others. I work two different jobs and barely have food on my table sometimes. I have over $40,000 in loans. So yeah, with every dollar of increase in costs of education, I do have to ask myself the question of whether I could continue or not.


Wendy Morrison

Wendy Morrison is a special education teacher in early childhood education.

Why is education important to you?

I truly believe the quote that education is the great equalizer. I have spent a good deal of volunteer time working with teens from more and impoverished neighborhoods in Oakland. I see that one of the greatest disadvantages working against them is inadequate early education (preschool through elementary). It is really hard to get far in education when you don't even have a stable foundation. Gangs and crime only seem like a great option when you can't imagine a better way. Education broadens minds enough to imagine better ways of living.

As a teacher I work in a pretty unique role. I am a home visiting teacher working with children birth to age three identified with a developmental delay that is likely to impact their educational future. I work directly with the children, and more importantly educate parents and caregivers on the importance of early learning experiences and ways to create them with in every day routines. Our funding is federally mandated largely because of studies showing the cost savings of providing an early intervention model. Kids coming through programs like ours are better prepared academically. That means something different for every child (some of the children I work with have disabling conditions that will require some form of special education), but for every child is does mean a better outcome. I am proud to be part of California's early start program and happy that one exists, but often frustrated when I hear of comparisons to what is happening in other states with better funding. As one of the richest states we should be really ashamed at the state of our educational system.

How has California's lack of education funding negatively impacted you?

My salary is not terrible in comparison to some teachers in other districts and other parts of the educational system. That said, it could be much better. Teachers are woefully underpaid in California. When people just look at actual dollars and compare salaries, we are usually in the top of salary rankings, but when you factor in cost of living we always seem to fall below the bottom half in the spending power of our salaries rankings.

Being underpaid isn't the worst part about teaching in California. Especially for teachers who share a passion for teaching. The hardest part is the lack of resources. Trying to pull together educational resources and opportunities in a falling down school, with a lack of administrative support and budget is exhausting.

How has the increasing cost of college impacted you?

I have two college-aged kids and the cost of their schooling is crippling. My husband and I decided that we didn't want our children to leave college with loan debts totaling any more than 1/2 of what their proposed starting annual salary might be. We knew they would need loans despite the savings accounts we created for them, but we didn't want their loans to be so insurmountable that they negated any financial advance of being college educated. This means we are barely getting by, but it is worth it. It is just sad that this is the American way.

My family is British and we have extended family all over the globe. When I compare the cost of college for my kids with my relatives with children in college in Norway, England or New Zealand it is appalling! We really are doing something wrong here. I think anyone would agree that an educated workforce in important for any countries' economy, and yet we haven't created a system that demonstrates this as a priority.

What made you want to pursue a career in education? How have budget cuts impacted your work?

I have always been a "teacher", from a young age I enjoyed "teaching" kids younger than myself. My first career was as a nurse (following in my mother's footsteps). Even as a nurse, I was a nurse educator. I think being a teacher is tapping into all of the things I am best at. That isn't to say about don't struggle, just that I enjoy any struggles.

For our program the financial burden isn't in true "cuts". We just haven't had many increases in state and federal funding for so long that our program operates "in the red". The impact of the lack of funding is evident in every programmatic decision right down to how much printer ink I am allotted.


Anton Krukowski

Anton Krukowski is a teacher at Lick-Wilmerding High School.

Why is education important to you?

I think much of education is about enhancing our sense of empathy. Having a deeper sense of ourselves, of others, and of the world around us allows us to live life more fully.

How has California's lack of education funding negatively impacted you?

I teach at an independent school, so as a teacher I have been protected from the insufficient funding of our public schools. I feel that my school is an example of what is possible with an appropriate level of funding per student - what every child should be able to experience. We have a healthy high school teaching load - with 16 - 20 students in most classes, and four classes per teacher. Students are able to get individual attention, get a wide range of options for elective courses, and our classrooms have all of the materials we might need. The tragedy is that not every student in California - or every teacher in California - gets to experience school in this way. For many years I have felt that one of the most important questions we should ask presidential candidates is what do they think is an appropriate level of funding per student to fully reach each and every student. We don't need to blindly throw money at education. We just need a student/teacher ratio across the country that allows every student to be known and loved, and to support and appreciate teachers like the professionals that we all are.


Inga Davis

Inga Davis is a teacher at San Carlos Charter Learning Center.

Why is education important to you?

Education provides the most important opportunity for students to learn to interact with the world outside of their family. It exposes them to a wide variety of people, adults, responsibilities and choices. It provides a safe place to learn to fail and recover and, most importantly, it allows young people to begin to see themselves as individuals and begin to gather passions, interests and ideas that will sustain them throughout life.

How has California's lack of education funding negatively impacted you?

I was in California's public schools from 1971 - 1984, with one year in a private school in the Netherlands, in 1978-9. I noticed a huge gap in educational opportunities when I returned to California in 1979. In particular my high school was bare bones. We didn't have a full time school librarian or school nurse and besides sports, there were few other extra curricular opportunities. My teachers were often talking about their lack of adequate compensation. I believe that not only myself, but many of my friends, lost opportunities to explore, art, music, and other important elements of education. There was no college counseling and I felt sympathy for all of the caring adults trying to take care of me and my friends with so few resources.

Now, as a public school educator I feel the lack of adequate resources even more acutely. My school is in a relatively wealthy neighborhood with a strong parent educational fund, but even with this financial support we struggle to make ends meet. To provide high quality education a school's greatest investment is in its teachers. Teachers need to be treated like professionals and many educators are willing to work long hours to find new ways to support their students. However, many talented young people are leaving the profession, since their salary does not even match the estimated low income minimum in the Bay Area of $105,000. Educators tend to be people who love community and families and yet most cannot afford to live in the communities where they teach or to even own a home and have children of their own. This impacts who is interested in teaching, turnover in schools, and the willingness of educators to continue to pour themselves into their work.

Our school is only able to offer music and art classes with volunteer support. Children thrive in environments that have multiple ways of learning and expression and California's unrealistic budgeting is harming another generation of young people. I have friends who teach in more impoverished communities and the situation is worse. We are failing this generation and in particular sustaining the long held tradition of marginalizing poorer communities with fewer opportunities to thrive.

How has the increasing cost of college impacted you?

My children feel worried about how much their education is costing us as a family and a wary of student debt. This is limiting where they are choosing to go to school.

What made you want to pursue a career in education? How have budget cuts impacted your work?

I love working with communities in a dynamic and thriving environment. Teaching gives me an opportunity to face new challenges every day and to need to always be learning - about my content, my students, and the world around me to make my instruction relevant. My colleagues are intelligent, passionate people who inspire me and my students to be our best. Hearing their constant worries about budgeting and how the struggle to make ends meet is disheartening.