Regina Banks found her voice 26 years ago when she was a sophomore at Florin High School. She recalled that happened when she joined a walk-out, student protest to demand policy changes at their school.
In September 1994, senior Tomek Orman was fatally shot a mile from their campus after he was suspended from school that day. The Citizen reported that a school administrator did not notify his parents about his suspension since he was a 19-year-old adult. The school staff, not Sacramento County authorities, also informed the parents about his death later that day.
“He was shot and killed at an intersection when he should not have been off campus,” Banks said.
She recalled that many students protested by walking out, despite the penalties for losing class time. Banks said that the public outrage ultimately led the removal of an administrator and policy changes at Florin High.
“When things changed at the administration - that was proof of people power,” she said.
Banks is now running for the Elk Grove Unified School District board’s Trustee Area 1 seat, which represents the Florin community where she grew up. She is challenging incumbent Tony Perez who is seeking a third term.
The first-time Elk Grove school board candidate gained endorsements from several Elk Grove school trustees, such as Bobbie Singh-Allen, Nancy Chaires Espinoza, and Chet Madison.
“I support Regina because she’s thoughtful and understands how the decisions we make affect the lives of our students and their families,” Espinoza told the Citizen.
When asked about her opponent, Banks said that she wants to run a positive campaign.
“There are too many problems in the area I’m trying to represent for (me) to go low,” she said.
Banks mentioned that just one trustee’s vote is not enough for effective action in a seven-member school board.
“You got nothing until you get to four (votes),” she said. “Being provocative toward your fellow board members does precisely zero good.”
Banks grew up in Trustee Area 1 where she attended Reese Elementary School and Rutter Middle School before moving on to Florin High. She studied at Lincoln University, a historically black college in Jefferson City, Missouri, and she later earned her juris doctorate from the Valparaiso University School of Law in Indiana.
Banks returned to California where she worked as a legislative director for Democratic Assemblyman Mike Davis. She is now the director at the Lutheran Office of Public Policy-California where she works with Lutheran Church members in their advocacy on issues such as childhood poverty, affordable housing, and water justice.
During her interview, Banks said she is focusing on student equity in her school board campaign, or making sure that underserved students get the resources they need in school.
She described the Elk Grove school district’s Trustee Area 1 in unincorporated south Sacramento as a “12-square-mile chunk of forgotten humanity,” where there is a high concentration of poverty.
Banks noted that every school in that trustee area belongs to the federal Title I program that provides extra funding to schools that have high populations of students from low-income families.
“There’s just no investment here, no transportation here, no infrastructure here – we are just the forgotten stepchild of the major, economic powerhouses of the cities of Sacramento and Elk Grove,” she said. “I’m running for the families in this area where it requires two jobs to afford to live here.”
Banks also mentioned the “brain drain” in her trustee area where she saw classmates move on to have successful careers in law and medicine, but they did not return to their community. She noted that a dozen high school classmates became teachers, but only one teaches in Trustee Area 1.
“Our best and brightest have found somewhere else to be best and brightest,” Banks said.
Regarding her campaign’s focus, she is emphasizing the importance of equity, whether it be providing Chromebook computers to kindergarteners to use for online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, directing funds from campus law enforcement and instead investing that money into student counseling, and recruiting more black and brown teachers.
“At one time, I could memorize all of the names of every black male teacher in Elk Grove Unified,” Banks said about the importance of diversifying the district’s teaching staff.
As for her future campaign events, Banks said that she plans to have an online event on Sept. 12 where voters can learn more about her by using the Zoom application. She said that the conventional campaigning of meeting voters in-person is over.
“The (COVID-19) pandemic means that everybody’s campaign playbook is out the window,” Banks said.