Breakthrough Takes Action: Launches Policy Advocacy Practice to Advance Educational Equity

Breakthrough’s mission is to support first-generation college aspirants to achieve postsecondary success. We understand this mission to be rooted in commitments to educational equity, and in the intertwined issues of health, economic, and racial justice, as the ability to go to school and realize one’s educational dreams is connected to many other factors in our society. At Breakthrough we are compelled to engage with our students and families, and with community partners, to advocate for public policymaking that helps all young people and their communities thrive. While the current moment presents unprecedented challenges, it also offers opportunities for Breakthrough students, staff members, volunteers, partner educators, and community members to take action for transformative change. We have a core belief that drives our policy advocacy practice at Breakthrough: students, the individuals who are navigating and are being personally impacted by educational policies, should be the leading voices in the construction and reform of those very policies. We also know that it will take the collective effort of everyone who cares about our region’s students to ensure that the best ideas are heard and valued by institutions of education and government.  Our commitment to the inclusion of diverse voices and to collaboration inspires this call to action for advocacy alongside our Breakthrough family.

Advancing Educational Equity in Upcoming Texas Legislative Session

In high-stakes policy arenas like the Texas Legislature in the upcoming 2021 session, Texas must remain focused on improving equity in college access, affordability, completion, and student support. These imperatives have never been more clear as our nation and our state face a rapid decline in postsecondary enrollment, impacting some students and communities more than others. Breakthrough Central Texas is proud to engage with the Austin College Attainment Network (ACAN), the Texas PACE (Postsecondary Advocates Coalition for Equity), and the Texas Legislative Education Equity Coalition (TLEEC) in the development of an equity-focused policy agenda for the Texas 87th legislative session in January. Through participation in coalitions and networks, we are looking to use our voice to urge state leaders to collaborate on policies that will ensure Texas postsecondary students move through the COVID-19 pandemic into a future of shared prosperity. Please refer to our social media feeds and upcoming newsletters for information about our policy agenda and how to become involved in advocacy as a member of the Breakthrough community at the Capitol during the session from January to May. Check here for a primer on equity-related issues that must be tackled this session, or please see TLEEC’s already released policy agenda for 2021.

Restoring DACA

In addition to the upcoming Texas legislature, we know that decisions made around the country impact our communities and students. Breakthrough Central Texas is applauding the recent decision to fully restore the DACA program. The decision is proof of the courage and leadership that generations of undocumented youth and their advocates have shown in initiating and defending immigrant communities. We continue to affirm the humanity and dignity of all our community members, DACA recipients and others, who have a right to safety and to access opportunities in education that allow them to thrive in our society. While this decision is a much needed reprieve, especially for the more than100,000 DACA recipients in Texas, it may only be a temporary one and undocumented students, teachers, and families face real and ongoing challenges when pursuing their postsecondary educational goals. Breakthrough remains committed to supporting all of our students and communities by advocating alongside them for the protection of DACA and supporting their navigation of their educational paths. We are also proud to continue our relationship with Catholic Charities Central Texas to offer immigration legal aid to our students. In the coming year, Breakthrough plans to create a public landing page for immigrant students, families, and their allies to seek out resources and advocacy opportunities.

Raising Student Voices at the Federal Level

Breakthrough is also proud to announce our participation in a national student advocacy program: National College Attainment Network’s (NCAN’s) Student Advocacy Fellows. The fellowship, spearheaded by a pair of current Breakthrough college students, focuses on NCAN’s Federal Policy Priorities and advocacy in Washington, DC and kicked off with a #Thankful4Pell #DoublePell 2020 Campaign that elevated the crucial importance of the Pell Grant for our students. Additional federal updates and actions from a youth-voice and equity perspective are regularly shared by our friends at Young Invincibles. Finally, as we transition to a new administration, please check out Opportunities to Advance Educational Equity During the Next Administration or IDRA Recommendations to Ensure Excellent and Equitable Public Schooling for All Students.

Change Starts Right Here

The work we are most urgently attending to is right here in Central Texas, in our organization, communities, schools, offices, and homes. We urge our community members to engage directly with the educational communities in which they participate or reside. Helpful guides for school and district-level equity work include: Anti-Racist Work in Schools: Are You in it for the Long Haul; Bigger Inequities, Bolder Solutions: An Advocates Guide to District-Level Equity Actions, and Equity in Pandemic Schooling: An Action Guide.  If you prefer listening or talking to reading, we recommend the following podcasts and conversations for Austin-area K-12 educational content with a race-equity lens: Black Lives Texas; Austin ISD X Podcast; Race Talks ATX. Throughout this pandemic, Breakthrough will continue to emphasize advising, increasing our mental health resources, providing access to technology and the internet, and supporting financial and basic needs so that families can continue to support their collective vision of a college degree for their student. Breakthrough’s approach to advocacy, and all its work, will continue to be done through collaboration and the incredible commitment of our staff, partners, and other community members and organizations. Thank you for your continued support.