The Elk Grove Tribune will be interviewing local candidates for the elections. If you haven’t already, please register to vote as your vote counts. Elections will be held on November 3, 2020. The deadline to register to vote is October 19, 2020. The interview with Ms. Banks was conducted on September 11 at Savvy House Coffee Bar.
Let me introduce you to Regina Q. Banks who is running for Elk Grove Unified School District Board of Education, Trustee Area 1. She is currently running against Anthony “Tony” Perez. Her area of jurisdiction involves these schools:
Interviewer: The first question is tell me a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What kind of work do you do as a day job and what are your hobbies?
Banks: So my name is Regina Q. Banks. The Q stands for Queline. People ask me that a lot. Regina from Reginald, who is my dad. My mother’s name is Jacqueline. They were not creative at all. They were just saying, ‘Oh me.’
I have lived in what is now Area 1 of Elk Grove Unified for several years. My family moved there when I was in third grade. So I did go away to college and come back, but I never changed my citizenship. So I say I have lived here for thirty-one years. I went to Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri for undergraduate school. I earned two Bachelor’s degrees there, one in political science, the other in mass communications. But anyway, so then I went from Lincoln University in Jefferson to Valparaiso University School of Law. Much to my parents’ chagrin, I did not want to practice law. They will still cry about that.
Advocacy & Faith
Banks: But I don’t enjoy the practice of law. I love policy and I love advocacy. And so that’s what I’ve done for the last 14 years. I’ve worked for every leftie do-gooder organization. I’m the Director of the Lutheran Office of Public Policy California. And I get to work on things like ending childhood poverty, immigration, migration, justice, water justice, housing security, food security, all from a faith-based perspective. It is all from a genuine and long-standing philosophy of loving your neighbor.
A lot of legislators and just the general public don’t understand why we do what we do. The legislators will say, ‘I understand the ACLA, and I understand the Poverty Law Center. But what does your church get out of it? Your church is not getting any money.’ And my response is, ‘We are taking the gospel literally. We want to feed our neighbors.’ Some people don’t understand it, and some people will realize that is our philosophy.
Following The Gospel
Banks: And we’re a part of the California Interfaith Coalition. And there’s you know, there’s a couple of us that are just there because our faith traditions tell us that we should be doing everything that we can. And one of the things that we can do is lend their voices in statehouses and in city councils and in school boards.
So that is my day job. I love it. If I had known that such a job existed, I probably would have been aiming for it all along. But it just so happened that I just kind of fell backwards into it. No, I’m not Lutheran, but I have no problem working for the church. The work allows me to travel in these worlds with legislators and their staffs and the more progressive side of advocacy in Sacramento and it allowed me a sneak peek at the revised budget.
Cutting Off Funding
Banks: In the revised budget I saw that the State was going to cut 12.6% of K-12 funding. I saw that budget before it was made public three days later. In those two or three days, I decided I was running for the school board.
Interviewer: Oh wow, that is a lot of money to cut!
Banks: It is a whole lot of money. I know where we are meeting right now for this interview is in the heart of Elk Grove, but I wouldn’t represent this area. I would represent Area 1, which is an unincorporated South Sacramento County. It is a tiny 12 square mile chunk that is neither the city of Sacramento nor the city of Elk Grove. It’s just in the county. It is only nine schools. It includes one high school and one continuation school, that’s William Daylor. It has one junior high school, that’s James Rutter, and the six elementary schools that feed into the high school.
Okay, they are all Title One schools. These schools have the most English language learners. They are the brown and black students. They also have the lowest scores in the district. They are the last in the league. And I just know from experience with America that there is going to be a temptation to cut funding from our already marginalized areas.
Looking at who is sitting in the seat, I do not believe that he (Perez) could meet the moment and I said, ‘I can do some good.’
I called a couple of friends because I travel in political circles and I tell them about running for the Board of Education, and they’re like, ‘Yes, how do we make this work?’ I’m a first-time candidate.
Free Time And Hobbies
Interviewer: So aside from work, what are your hobbies?
Banks: I guess if you had to say I have a hobby — I mean, politics is I mean, advocacy is my job and politics is my hobby. It kind of blends in. I was that kid who loved watching debates and keeping up with what was happening in my community.
I also have an ill-tempered Chihuahua named Ender Jay. He loves me but he hates my brother. And my brother hasn’t done anything to him, but when my brother puts my dog down, my dog has to say something mean.
I am also a reader, and I used to read a lot of nonfiction, but I don’t have as much time for that anymore. What I normally read now is non-fiction.
Interviewer: That’s also happening to me as well. I’m slowly transitioning to non-fiction.
Banks: I mean, I haven’t had the patience for a good fiction book because television is getting so good!
I just turned 40 in December, but I remember when TV was just a thing you turn on, and you might get a good show. But I specifically remember when people asked me, ‘Have you seen The Sopranos?’ That’s when I felt like television was getting good. And now I can have a really good story without having to open a book.
So yeah, I think that’s all of my hobbies.
Interviewer: Awesome! We got your day job down and you said where you’re from. Okay, so elaborate on your reason for running for your position.
Banks: Yeah, we kind of talked about this. My current position has me as a spectator. As an advocator, we will walk into a legislator’s office and tell them what they are doing wrong and how they should fix it. And again, it makes me think of that 12.6% budget cut.
I know I can do better. And I know I am that person.
Tony ran unopposed last time. I have my own opinion about him, but it was fairly clear that nobody was going to run against him again. And this thing, this pandemic, we never saw it coming and it’s killing people. I think about everything that has happened since March — the pandemic, the school closures, the protests, and now these wildfires. I’m looking outside the window wondering where the Four Horsemen are because there’s smoke in the air and the sun is orange. It’s bad for us adults but think about the kids. It’s traumatizing for them!
But for me, it’s not just if I could do better than the other person that has the job. It’s the thought of being complicit in what could go wrong with these kids when I know that I could do better. I wonder if say, two years from now something does go wrong, but it was something I could have fixed or prevented. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. It’s about conviction and I know I have it.
Looking Out For The Kids
Banks: I think about all of that money being taken away from our schools and wonder what would happen if schools were to reopen now. What would schools look like without that funding? And there are other things about public education we could talk about.
Somebody needs to be looking out for the equity of our kids.
I did a site visit yesterday with Kennedy Elementary. So the distribution site for the tech support site for the entire district was at Florin High School. And so they were telling everybody go to the high school, get your Chromebook and get the rest of your school materials at Florin. But Kennedy Elementary, the kids are on the outskirts of the area. They are 12 miles away from Florin. How are these kids going to get to the high school? They don’t have a car, they don’t have an Uber, they certainly don’t have a credit card, so how are they going to get there? The kids could have taken buses, but that has been impacted by the pandemic too. And the pickup hours for these supplies were during working hours, when most parents are working and wouldn’t be able to take the kids there anyway.
Luckily, that school [Kennedy] has a great advocate principal and they were able to fix the problem. Now, every school is a distribution center so kids don’t have to drive really far.
The Tiara With The Rep Of A Beanie
Interviewer: I know that Florin High School gets a bad rep. What are your thoughts about it?
Banks: My class was the first class to go from Freshmen to Seniors in Florin High School. Everything was so new, and all of the teachers that had any seniority wanted to go there. I graduate and go off to college. I come back, and everyone is talking bad about my high school. I tell people I went to Florin and everyone looks appalled. People start asking me how did I survive Florin, what gang was I in, and all these questions. When I first went to Florin, there weren’t bars or fencing around the school.
I had a revelation about this and I spoke about this on my Facebook page. I was totally complicit in this narrative about Florin High School being a bad school. And I was talking to the Florin High School Principal, and he’s telling me all about these new innovative programs. Did you know that Florin High School was the only high school that sent a student to Harvard in the entire district last year?
Interviewer: No, I did not.
Banks: There is so much potential and so much good about Florin. And I went there in the past, so I am those kids. I graduated from there and look at me —
Interviewer: Yeah, you’re doing fine, you’re running for the Board of Education!
Banks: Exactly! And people who graduated from my class are doctors, lawyers, CEO’s, musicians. I know the best bus drivers in town, and some of the best citizens. Florin, and the area I am representing is not a diamond in the rough. It is a tiara that has the reputation of a beanie. This place needs to be thought of as a tiara!
Helping Area 1
Banks: But I’ve done many site visits of those schools. I’ve spoken to principals and teachers, especially the ones who have been around for a while. I’ve asked how these teachers are handling distance learning. If I can work with those teachers, those principals, along with our superintendent and the board members — I can see greatness happening in Area 1. We have been content to be quiet, content to being asked to stay out of the news.
You look at the statistics, and Elk Grove Unified School District does wonderful compared to the rest of the state. But the district has decided to forsake Areas 1 and 3. And it just happens that Florin and Valley High Schools are the lowest ones in the district. Somehow we have decided to forsake these areas for the betterment of the rest of the schools. And that decision doesn’t sit right with me.
Challenges For The City And The District
Interviewer: Alright, so what do you think are the biggest challenges facing the city of Elk Grove and the district?
Banks: It’s funny how that question is framed. The area that I am hoping to represent is not part of Sacramento or Elk Grove. It is unincorporated, we are in the unincorporated part of Sacramento County. Because first you have a city, and then you have a county. Somehow Area 1 is part of EGUSD, but we are not part of the city. We are part of Sacramento County, but there is no aid being sent by the city. Area 1 needs a lot of help.
But aside from that, the biggest challenge is distance learning, which we have talked about. We want to make sure these kids are getting the equipment that they need to do distance learning. Unfortunately, some of these kids — and adults as well — are being sheltered with their abusers. Some of these kids only eat when they go to school. EGUSD has done a great job in making sure students do not go hungry, and I applaud the district for doing that.
In my mind, I am hoping a year from now schools will be able to reopen, but I do not think that is going to happen. But come January or even May, these kids will come to school and they will be completely different kids. And we need to be prepared for that. We will also have kids that will not be coming back to school, and instead will do distance learning or even homeschooling. So the district needs to be prepared for that as well.