Longtime education advocate calls it quits: ‘I couldn’t take it anymore’

Stephen Owens is a long-time and high-profile education advocate who has decided to leave his position and explains why.

Credit: GBPI

Credit: GBPI

Stephen Owens is a long-time and high-profile education advocate who has decided to leave his position and explains why.

Stephen J. Owens, outgoing education director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, reflects on his last day with the Atlanta-based advocacy organization and what led him to decide to leave. Owens also worked in the past as a research and data analyst at the Georgia Department of Education.

By Stephen J. Owens

It’s time to say goodbye sine die. Today is my last day at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. I’m so proud of the work we have accomplished in the last six sessions that I got to be a part of. Thank you for including me in the effort to shape a better Georgia for everyone.

I’m moving on to a new opportunity that I’ll be able to say more about soon but would like to give a small insight into this decision to move away from the daily goings on of the Georgia General Assembly.

In short: I couldn’t take it anymore.

As a Christian (raised Baptist, now an elder in the PCA) it hurt to watch the very people who purported to speak for the church use that influence almost solely to selectively implement the guardrails God has for his people onto everyone, while ignoring his graciousness.

Watching Christian groups and lawmakers rush to make life crueler for people outside the majority culture hurt almost as much as their silence in the areas that would provide relief.

I became bitter and fearful and began to put my faith in my own ability to change things for the better. When I failed, it was devastating. When we had successes, it was never enough. I’m thankful to be in a position where I can step away to another job.

I am honored to have worked alongside dedicated, intelligent advocates for high quality, inclusive public schools. They will take this work further than I could, and I’ll be cheering y’all on with all my heart.

I truly believe that public education can be a picture of God’s common grace: a truer picture of what is real, offered to everyone regardless of background. I also believe that Georgia can and will improve this institution so that more people prosper.

I also believe that even if you think I and my religion are crazy (real talk, I can’t blame you), that you, too, should enjoy the benefits of our great state. I’d rather be a host than a bouncer here.