The Robyn Hood Project’s ultimate goal is to help close the higher education funding deficit in California by educating students on how to advocate for sustainable solutions. The Robyn Hood Project will include an education campaign, lobbying to legislators, and creating alliances with faculty unions, statewide student governments, and non-profit organizations. The team will also launch an online campaign, focus on networking opportunities, and participate in campus budget and student equity hearings, and its campus’ shared governance system.
Mobilize: What exactly is the higher education funding deficit in California today?
Lena of Robyn Hood: The funding deficit as I understand it is more than 24 billion dollars, annually. The situation is a bit more complex, as the deficit could change should Governor Brown’s tax proposal pass in november.
Mobilize: 24 billion dollars. That’s crazy. How does the Robyn Hood Project aim to close this gap?
Lena: This is the challenge, of course! The campaign aims to support legislation that will restore funding — when we first developed the project, there was an oil severance tax proposal and a tax the rich proposal on the table. The oil severance tax was squashed by oil companies (no surprise!) and the tax the rich proposal has transformed from the high-income tax to a compromised bill initiative proposed by Governor Brown.
Mobilize: So how will the Robyn Hood Project determine which tax proposals/bills to support (I saw AB 1239 and AB 656 in your video, respectively)? Is there any specific criteria or agenda you’re after?
Lena: Absolutely. What’s important for the campaign is to support progressive taxation that restores funds back to higher education, which not all proposed bills do. The trouble with the Governor’s proposal is that it imposes a regressive tax; on the other hand, it will restore much needed funding to public education.
Mobilize: The whole basis of your project is based on restoring funding to education. How important do you consider funding in this day and age (does technology have anything to do with it, learning trends, etc.)?
Lena: We believe funding is critical to the livelihood of public education. Our student organization focuses on other critical aspects of education (including access and equity), but at the end of the day, if we cannot afford to keep our doors open, issues of equity and education attainment (particularly by those most marginalized) will be completely devastating.
Mobilize: : In the Robyn Hood Project video, you mention an education campaign. Can you expand on this?
Lena: When we first developed the campaign, we realized (through our local experience) that there was a basic lack of awareness around how CC’s are funded. So we charged to develop an awareness campaign to arm students with the expertise they’d need to charge forward. Raising awareness helps particularly with buy-in, which is critical to mobilizing 2.7 million community college students who do not typically vote in large numbers.
Mobilize: There was mention of an online campaign as well. The advantages of the Internet for Millennials are widely discussed on Mobilize.org. How do you plan to utilize this?
Lena: Developing a large social network is imperative. Effective use of social media will be the most efficient and impactful way to connect with the community college student-base. We will use Facebook and Twitter to spread awareness of the campaign. We’re also planning to launch a site, as well as online tools with a grassroots organizing campaign.
Mobilize: Are there any difficulties you perceive, and if so, how do you plan to get past them? If applicable, has the program already changed as a result of difficulties?
Lena: There are many difficulties with launching such an ambitious campaign.
First, how to engage the masses? The real challenge is providing a space for them to contribute and become active in. We initially thought to support specific legislation. But as time moved on, legislation changed, and it became very difficult to maintain a clear message. Since the start of our project, we have shifted away from supporting specific bills and started focusing on launching an education campaign. The goal of this is so students know what the problems are and possible solutions to fix them, so their support for legislation can adapt as necessary.
This may be a bit premature, but I want to mention that we’ve reached out to Tramutola Advisors to help shape our campaign. I’m really excited for the opportunity to work with them – they will bring us the tools we need to launch a statewide effort.
Nathan Chen is a Featured Blogger for Mobilize.org’s The Millennial Report. He lives in Seattle, Washington and thoroughly enjoys the activism-infused setting he lives in. His personal goal is to, in any way possible, gain recognition for The Millennial Generation while also helping it realize its full potential. In the future he wishes to pursue a career in law or journalism, with an intent to serve others.