July 12, 2021
At the Stuart Foundation, we are taking tremendous heart in watching California schools re-open their doors again for students and families to reconnect with each other in person over the summer and into the fall. As schools re-establish shared and safe physical learning spaces, many are prioritizing creative learning and support for students’ mental health and social-emotional development that suffered during the pandemic.
Coming on the heels of a painful year of disruption and uncertainty, I’m also buoyed by the major new investments in public education represented in a just-signed, historic state budget. It includes once-in-a-generation resources for proven, equity-driven, and learner-centered education approaches – such as community schools – which address both learning and well-being through seamless delivery of essential physical and mental health supports to students and families. They also frame teaching and learning within a collaborative school culture and, in a state as diverse as California, draw in the unique assets of each community to make schooling more relevant, engaged and culturally affirming. Additionally, this budget furthers California’s equity-based approach to school funding by putting more adults – teachers, nurses, counselors – on campuses where there have been too few and where they are needed most.
Let us give credit where it is due: These are investments for which many of our partners have fought for decades and, over the past few months, their calls for action have only intensified. This is just a short sample of the incredible work done by so many:
- A coalition of California-based family and student engagement organizations, educators and system leaders, research institutions and civil rights and equity groups – including 21 Foundation grantees such as Learning Policy Institute and PACE – issued Reimagine and Rebuild: Restarting School with Equity at the Center, a brief urging schools and districts to prioritize supports and opportunities for students most affected by the pandemic, systemic racism and other injustices.
- The California Partnership for the Future of Learning, including Californians for Justice, Advancement Project California, Community Coalition, Public Advocates, PICO California and InnerCity Struggle, released Every School, Every Community: Policy Platform for the Future of Learning, outlining urgent actions needed from elected officials and educational leaders to build a transformational, racially just education system.
- The California Community Foundation has been a strong advocate for increased resources for extended learning programs with its Los Angeles County Summer Learning Initiative which recently awarded $7.4 million in grants to 123 summer programs, including 52 Dwight Stuart Youth Fund grantees.
- John Burton Advocates for Youth recently released Hanging on by a Thread: The Cumulative Impact of the Pandemic on Youth Who Have Been in Foster Care or Homeless, which shows how these two groups of young people in California have been affected and to advance the organization’s policy agenda.
- The Campaign for College Opportunity issued The State of Higher Education for Black Californians, a landmark report that details the current state of college preparation, access and success and offers a series of concrete action steps to increase college opportunity.
We salute our partners for not just persisting but insisting that the state do better by the millions of young people in public education with significant new resources. The return to school is a chance to start anew. For school systems, the return offers an opening to dismantle structures that have disserved students of color, to address COVID-related trauma that students will carry with them when they return, and to establish schools that are more just, welcoming and connected to the real world.
As we and our partners consider new ways to work that fit this moment of tremendous opportunity, the Foundation’s commitment to holistic and equitable learning and our belief that school systems must deliver it at scale has only grown stronger. We are deepening our focus on the educational and developmental needs of youth in the always promising but sometimes precarious years as they approach adulthood. As our adolescent and systems-focused strategy develops over the coming months, we will share more details.
In the meantime, stay healthy and well.