Name: Crystal Brown
Hometown: San Francisco
Profession: Co-founder, Educate Our State
“Hello, my name is Crystal Brown, and my vision for California is for prosperity and lifting each other up - working in concert with each other, rather than having winners and losers … and having a equity for all in accessing services and programs and the innovations that we're known for.”
As a mother of three young girls, Crystal Brown has always been deeply involved in their education. She joined the PTA at their San Francisco elementary school and volunteered her time and energy. But, in 2009, the school faced drastic cuts as California dealt with a severe budget crisis.
Brown and five other parents began digging for information to find possible solutions. They organized a town hall that drew 1,200 people, including local and state elected officials, the San Francisco schools superintendent and the board of education. But Brown and the other parents knew they needed to do more. They ultimately formed Educate Our State, a parent-led grassroots campaign seeking reforms to public education. It currently has 40,000 supporters throughout California.
Brown, who has worked in technology and management consulting, said the state has its obvious strengths, such as innovation, wonderful landscapes and amazing cities: “It's been the land of opportunity for so many people.”
But she also believes California must take a pivotal reality check. The fact that a group like Educate Our State exists “is telling. We're at a tipping point in education.”
“Californians have to be honest about our reality,” she says. “Who lives in the state? ... What can we provide? What are our needs? How are we going to pay for them? Are we willing to pay for them?"
Brown says one obstacle to change is the “disconnect” between what people want and how they see government providing it, and she hopes to see a more trusting and transparent relationship between citizens and government.
But she is also optimistic about the future. Through her interactions, people are excited to see more folks with good ideas, such as parents, uniting their efforts.
“There are a lot of people who really, really care,” Brown says. “People are looking for leadership.”