Pancakes and Policy: Taking a break from  CAP with one of my lovely coworkers

Days in the sun

And nights in the rain

Summer is over;

Simple and Plain

-Summers Over Interlude, Drake

 As much as it pains me to write this, my summer interning at the Center for American Progress has come to a bittersweet end. It’s undeniably been a summer full of new knowledge and old issues. To work at a place like CAP that is such a stalwart in the policy world during such an unconventional election year was certainly interesting. Working at a pragmatic, centrist institution like CAP also challenged me to think more critically about my own political views. Just how far to the left is too far, and at what point have you not gone far enough? It’s a question that I grappled with all summer, but ultimately reconciled. It’s the job of people who are passionate to go into institutions like CAP and demand change. It’s frustrating that the onus is on us to make a difference, but it’s a necessary burden for advancing equity and justice in our fractured system.

Aside from personal ideological conflicts, I was fortunate enough to work on campaigns that I have grown deeply invested in, like #TeachStrong. I have also worked on projects that have piqued my interest and spurred me to engage in new education policy issues. For example, I have learned that fighting for equity in school funding is not enough; a more feasible approach is to work for achieving funding adequacy in all schools. This can mean incorporating policies like Weighted School Funding formulas that take into account the extra resources and support that students from low-income families that attend segregated schools with little socioeconomic diversity need. Before this summer, I advocated for literal financial equity in per-pupil spending, but I now realize there are so many factors that go into how funding is allocated and what is actually necessary to help students have the best possible learning outcomes. I was exposed to that issue working on a paper that argued the adequacy v. equity debate. That project was illustrative of my experience on so many things this summer. By no means is CAP perfect, but there are projects that make the experience totally worthwhile.

Sometimes it was easy to become frustrated with how centrist CAP is: I felt their policies lacked intersectionality and that CAP is so deeply entrenched in the Democratic Establishment it’s unable to levy warranted criticism against Democratic officials. There are many things that could be improved at CAP, but ultimately I found solace in the work that I was doing. I was fortunate enough to have immediate superiors that supported my ambitions and encouraged me to pursue topics in education policy that I was passionate enough. I did research on how transwomen of color would be negatively impacted by House Bill 2 and on the necessity of thorough cultural competency training for teachers. I worked with an incredible team that was full of people that worked diligently and with a brilliance that was obvious but not overwhelming. My co-workers and superiors are people that I admire deeply and I have a new appreciation for those working in large institutions that may not get all the recognition they deserve. Policy is not always the most sensationally exciting or popular topic, especially during election years as wild as this one, but I’m so glad I spent this summer working in that space. The experience was invaluable, and one that I will take with me for the rest of my life. So even though the summer is over, the lessons will last.

Erica Jordan

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