In honor of #GivingTuesday on November 29th, the Schott Foundation has reached out to some of our grantee partners to get the low-down on what they do, who they’re doing it for, and the challenges that they handle like rockstars every day.
In 2006, as a part of the Schott Foundation’s Opportunity to Learn Campaign, Education Voters of Pennsylvania was formed to mobilize the public will necessary to ensure that all children have the opportunity to learn and can benefit from and contribute to our country’s vast social, economic and civic opportunities.
Today, we’re catching up with Susan Spicka, Executive Director.
WHO: Education Voters of Pennsylvania (EVPA)
WHAT: Pro-public education
THEIR FICTIONAL CHARACTER OF CHOICE: The Little Engine That Could
SF: Tell us about the organization – how did it get started, and why?
SS: Education Voters of Pennsylvania is an affiliate of The Schott Foundation for Public Education, and a non-profit, non-partisan organization. We were established in 2007 to promote a pro-public education agenda with elected leaders, state lawmakers and the public.
What’s the mission of EVPA?
Our mission is to build public demand and pressure for quality schools and an opportunity to learn for all students, regardless of their ZIP code. We make sure that public conversation is focused on the need for adequate funding for public schools and equal opportunities for all students in Pennsylvania.
What are the core activities that you engage in?
EVPA engages parents and community members throughout Pennsylvania through public events, social and print media and advocacy trainings. We then educate and train supporters and create opportunities for action. We play a unique role in bringing together and raising up diverse voices that support great public schools for all children.
What challenges do you face?
We have a polarized state government and a legislature that has failed for decades to prioritize adequate state funding for public schools, most specifically for schools that educate the most vulnerable children in the Commonwealth. In addition, Pennsylvania’s schools are among the most segregated in the nation, and Black and Hispanic students are far less likely than their white peers to have access to essential and critical resources and learning opportunities.
Our advocates throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania play a critical role in advocating for sound education policies and holding lawmakers accountable for their votes. Our work is time and labor intensive, and we need additional resources in order to reach more communities, train more citizen leaders and keep the heat on more policymakers.
How would you describe the people you advocate for?
We advocate for young children in Pennsylvania who lack access to quality Pre-K programs and for poor and minority students who face a deep deprivation of resources in their underfunded public K-12 schools.
What’s the most fulfilling part of your work with EVPA?
Seeing the impact of our policy wins on Pennsylvania’s children is the most fulfilling part of our work.
Statewide, we were leading advocates for a new and fair funding formula that has directed more than $400 million in increased state funding to public schools over the past two years. This formula prioritizes funding for schools that educate Pennsylvania’s most educationally vulnerable students and has increased resources available to students in our most underfunded schools.
We also contributed significantly to achieving the implementation of a soda tax in Philadelphia, which will enable 2,000 additional children in Philadelphia to attend Pre-K programs this year. Over the next five years more than 4,500 additional Pre-K seats will be added. This funding will also be used to implement 25 community schools in the School District of Philadelphia.
So – compare EVPA to a fictional character.
Education Voters of PA is like the Little Engine That Could. We are a small organization that knows its mission and is doggedly determined to achieve our goal. We are not daunted by challenges and have the courage and strength to do whatever it will take to ensure that all of Pennsylvania’s public school students will have the opportunity to attend a quality public school that provides them with an opportunity to learn.
#GivingTuesday is a chance for all to support incredible work happening around the country.
Don’t forget to keep EVPA in mind on November 29th!