September 6, 2013 Since 2005, the California Charter School Association has welcomed graduate students each summer from the Education Pioneers Fellowship program to provide their expertise, perspectives and elbow grease to some of the pressing challenges that charter schools face. The mission of Education Pioneers is to identify, train, connect, and inspire a new generation of leaders dedicated to transforming the educational system so that all students receive a quality education.Emily Scheines is an Education Pioneers fellow working with CCSA Advocates this summer. She is currently a UCLA masters student in the Public Policy Department, concentrating in Education Policy, Social Welfare Policy, and Urban Poverty Programming. After graduating from Cornell University with a degree in History, Emily joined Teach For America, and was a high school social studies teacher for four years in Connecticut.
Two of these years were spent as the 10th grade level chair at Amistad High School, a charter academy in the Achievement First Network. While teaching, Emily also volunteered with the high school choir, Gay-Straight Alliance, and Community Clean-up. Since moving to California, Emily has been embracing the Southern California lifestyle with lots of yoga, farmer's market cooking, and beach hiking. This summer, Emily will be conducting research on voting patterns across the state to aid in our local-elections efforts.
Describe the project you worked on this summer.
I've been conducting in-depth research on local and county school board elections and exploring the voting behavior, campaign expenditures, and the electorate demographics in districts and areas important to our work in the upcoming election season. I hope this information will help CCSA Advocates maximize their resources during various election cycles and cultivate some strong charter supporters on key school boards.
Why did you want to be a part of the Education Pioneers Program?
I was excited to join Ed Pioneers because they had so many relationships with well-respected organizations. I knew I wanted my summer to be impactful and help me build my network of education reformers in Los Angeles.
What has been the most surprising thing you've learned in the course of your work this summer?
I've learned a lot about the variety of landscapes in local school board elections. In less densely populated parts of California, school board members spend almost no money, often run unopposed, and win with just a few thousand votes. This is really different from places like Oakland, where school board seats are hotly contested and expensive. I think about this a lot in terms of choices for parents, development of candidates, and entrenchment of educational vision.
What was your familiarity with charter schools before working at CCSA? How has your view of charter schools changed?
I taught U.S. History for two years at Amistad Academy in New Haven, Connecticut where I also served as 10th grade chair. I believe very deeply in the success that can be achieved by a great leader and hard-working staff given the autonomy that charter schools enjoy. Since then, I've learned a lot about the macro-level battle for charter rights in terms of space, equipment, supplies, and due process.
What changes would you like to see in our public education system?
I want every child in the U.S. to be valued with equity in the educational system. This means that the funding follows them, and the quality of their schools, administrators, teachers, and services available to them should be directly related to what they need and not pre-determined by where they were born. To this end, I think we need to work on funding formulas on every level. We need to overhaul teacher recruitment, training, and retention and we need to allow the government to serve as oversight and authorizer as opposed to sole creator and distributor of free public education.
What are you interested in doing in the after grad school?
I want to stay in the Education Policy Sector once I graduate from UCLA, but I am open to working in a department of education, for an elected official, or at a non-profit as awesome as CCSA!