This early video shows why we are here -- and how you can make a difference!
Like you, we are parents with busy jobs and busy lives who still find time to help out, pitch in and stand up for what we believe in. In addition to our other responsibilities, we take turns writing press releases, running email campaigns, finding strategic partners, and meeting with our legislators, allies and supporters.
Educate Our State was founded by seven moms who with kids in the California K-12 public education system. In late 2009, six moms with elementary-age children in San Francisco were frustrated by the budget crisis facing their school. Recognizing that this problem was faced by schools across the state, the “Sherman Six” were inspired by a teacher to hold a Town Hall. Filling an auditorium with more than 1,000 concerned parents, political groups and non-profit organizations, they listened to and exchanged ideas with a distinguished panel that included State Senators, Assemblymen, the Mayor of San Francisco, San Francisco’s Superintendent of Schools and heads of the local Board of Supervisors and the San Francisco board of education. The Town Hall exposed the urgent need for a larger, statewide effort to harness the power of parents and direct energy at the state-centered sources of the problem. What started as a simple Town Hall turned into a parent movement, connecting localized groups of frustrated parents into one, larger organization with the goal of transforming public education funding at the state level. Parents from across the state joined the movement. In Los Angeles, Teri Levy was spreading the message “Say No to Cuts” with a very successful public education awareness effort using a viral video, "Hot For Teachers" starring Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green, which was seen by over a million people in just a few days.
In Redwood City, Susie Peyton was working with the Redwood City Education Foundation on community education outreach on the state’s education budget. In Sacramento, Catherine Goddard had formed Support California Kids, which had initiated a letter-writing campaign regarding education funding mandates. These three moms joined forces with Crystal Brown, Annie Bauccio Moore, Cece Kaufman, and Linda Shaffer, four of the original “Sherman Six,” to found Educate Our State in August 2010.
It soon became apparent that more funding for education was not the only issue. Other fundamental changes were necessary to transform the K-12 education system into something that really worked for kids. Educate Our State soon formed a comprehensive but simple platform. Initially, we spread the word of our movement through house parties and town hall meetings.
In 2011, we launched the “Let Us Vote” campaign to give voters the opportunity to extend expiring, temporary taxes to support education, generating 60,000 letters to legislators in every district in the state. This was followed by the “Wake Up California” campaign, a one-day event across the state to spread the word about how the cuts at school sites were being driven by the reduction in education funding by the state. “Camp Educate” followed in the fall, where we gathered parent leaders from around the state for training in grassroots engagement and organizing skills.
In 2012 we sent 15,000 letters and held 58 bubble blowing rallies up and down the state for our "This Budget Blows" campaign to protest the huge cut to education in the proposed budget. We then launched our "YES YES for Education" campaign encouraging voters to vote YES on both education propositions 30 and 38. We divided into two groups -- Educate Our State, our 'c-4' organization that could get more involved in initiatives, and Educate Our State Leadership Center, to focus on education of issues impacting our system.
In 2013 we began a deep dive into the mechanisms that generate -- and divert -- school funding in California. We stumbled across the Vehicle License Fee Swap, which was diverting $6 billion a year of education-allocated property tax. By forcing our schools to pay California’s Vehicle License Fee obligation to cities and counties, the VLF Swap created the need for deferrals. We crafted an initiative to stop it (that situation still exists and is described on our related site here) -- an uphill battle that we put on hold when the state announced, in early 2014, that it would fully pay districts what they were owed each year. (By 2018, the Swap had grown to $8.5 billion.)
In 2014, we learned that a School Reserves Cap had been introduced at the last minute into the State Budget, to be enabled by a proposition on the November ballot -- The Rainy Day Fund. Again, our PAC arm sprang into action -- as official opponents to the Rainy Day Fund’s assault on school financial stability. While we didn’t prevail, the School Reserves Cap was dramatically scaled back by Legislative action (SB 751 [Hill], 2017).
In 2015, we extended our understanding of the underpinnings of state school finance, and were invited to speak to the Assembly Revenue & Taxation Committee, among other events. Many of us were back to serving on our middle and high school PTAs, and running for school board.
In 2016 and 2017, we shifted our focus onto local campaigns -- encouraging school-focused candidates to run for county and statewide office. Many of us were by now serving on school boards. Our chair, former State Superintendent Delaine Eastin, ran for governor and really drove the conversation around education and focusing on our children. But, in a way, California education was holding its breath. When would we achieve 100% LCFF funding -- and would life be better then?
In 2018, we achieved it. And realized that we were still languishing. West-Ed’s description of the Silent Recession captured the issues best. But something else was going on. Property taxes allocated to education -- $600 million of them! -- were turned away as “excess” to schools’ needs. And, while all districts were challenged, those in the wealthiest counties in the state were shuttering schools, closing programs, and cutting staff. This was not sustainable.
In 2019, we connected the dots. The original LCFF blueprint called for district funding recognizing student disadvantage and regional costs. By omitting regional costs, LCFF was penalizing students in the poorest districts in the most advantaged counties. While also failing to claim education’s fair share of local property tax. We began the PACT Campaign -- a Parity and Cost Transparency Supplement in the Local Control Funding Formula for areas with the highest regional costs. You can learn more about our campaign for regional costs here
In addition, in 2019 the legislature once again tried, with Senate Bill 5, to take local property taxes allocated to schools. Educate Our State fought back.
In the end, on October 13 Governor Newsom vetoed this latest attempt to redirect schools’ most reliable revenue source, their designated property taxes. We did a call in/email campaign to the governor, testified twice in Sacramento, set up a web page and our chair, former State Superintendent Delaine Eastin, wrote an opinion piece asking the governor to veto the bill.
We were grateful that our statewide outreach and efforts paid off. Our Research Director Jennifer Bestor followed up with a letter to the editor because we know the attempts to take the schools’ property taxes are not over. We will continue to work to protect what remains of local school property taxes -- and the integrity of our local property tax dollars. We also got a shout out for our leadership to oppose SB-5 from EdSource and will continue educate communities to help stop ongoing efforts to take existing, stable, local funding out of the hands of our schools.
In just ten years, Educate Our State has expanded to 30,000 supporters across the state.