Last week the Michelson 20MM Foundation was able to attend The Education Trust-West’s 2019 Education Equity Forum. Our organization partnered with The Education Trust-West earlier this year when we awarded them one of our four inaugural Spark Grants

The Forum was a fantastic convening of over 500 education advocates. Sessions were all centered around  the theme “Accelerating the movement for educational justice: Racial equity in California schools and colleges”. The event kicked off with a welcome from Dr. John B King, President and CEO of The Education Trust and former U.S. Secretary of Education under President Barack Obama. Dr King then introduced Dr Elisha Smith Arrillaga, Executive Director of The Education Trust-West, who spoke about her own journey in fighting for equity in schools. She also gave an overview of the future work The Education Trust-West will be embarking on over the course of the next year. One message that truly resonated was when Dr. Smith Arrillaga stated, “Every student is capable of achieving if they have the right supports.”

During breakout sessions we heard from advocates for financial aid reform in California higher education. The current Cal State Student Association President Michael Wiafe and the former University of California Student Association President Caroline Siegel-Singh presented the findings of The Institute for College Access & Success financial aid study. Much of the conversation was around how tuition is just one cost that students incur when they attend higher education institutions and that financial aid often doesn’t take into account other costs such as textbooks and housing. 

During lunch attendees heard from Dr. Bettina Love, author of the recent We Want To Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom and Associate Professor of Educational Theory & Practice at the University of Georgia. She discussed how the educational system needs to view all children, especially those of color, as more than a number. Dr. Love implored the audience to be co-conspirators in the work around equity in education.

Back to back breakout sessions followed lunch. In the first, a panel of experts looked at ways to improve access to college for students from communities of color and living in poverty. With over 80% of black and brown males having aspirations to go to college but the reality falling far short of that this was a much needed conversation. The second afternoon session looked at the ballot initiatives that may impact higher education funding in the future.The biggest takeaway was that full and fair funding is needed to provide an equitable educational experience to students. 

The day wrapped with a closing plenary from Ruben Elias Canedo Sanchez, Director of Strategic Equity Initiatives within the Division of Equity & Inclusion at UC Berkeley. He spoke on the importance of truly listening to others in your work and also ensuring that we are taking care of ourselves and each other as we fight for a more equitable future.

Overall the day was a great way to focus equity advocates on the work that has been done and that which still needs to occur. The Michelson 20MM Foundation is proud to partner with The Education Trust-West. Together we are working to make more equitable educational experience for all California students.