Once again, a record number of Asian Americans and a growing number of Pacific Islanders are running for public office at the local, state, and national level.
Every week, Reappropriate will profile progressive AAPI candidates for higher office. Check back at Reappropriate throughout 2020 to learn more about these candidates and find out how you can get more involved in their campaigns.
Ravi Grivois-Shah is endorsed by Run for Something, a group that recruits and supports talented, passionate young people who advocate for progressive values now and for the next 30 years, with the ultimate goal of building a progressive bench. Since its launch on inauguration day 2017, they’ve recruited 16,000 young people to run for office.
What is your full name?
What office are you seeking?
Tucson Unified School District Governing Board
When is the election date?
It is a non-partisan election and will be on the General Election ballot this November 3, 2020.
What is your party registration (if any)?
Tell me a little bit about your background in general, as well as your relationship to your identity as an Asian American and/or Pacific Islander?
I am the son of immigrant parents from India, and grew up in Chicago surrounding by a robust community of first generation Indian Americans navigating our dual cultural identities. As a family physician, I have focused my career on serving marginalized communities, including Latinx and African American patients in Chicago. My family moved to Tucson, AZ and we have appreciated both the warmth of the climate as well as the warmth of the people here.
I became more involved in improving our schools a few years ago. My husband was an elementary school teacher and spent 4 years as a principal in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). I was able to learn much from his experiences about how to meet students’ needs and the challenges in our district. We have three children, and our oldest will enter 3rd grade this fall, and I have been an active TUSD parent. I served on my daughter’s PTA as its treasurer, learning about classroom finances and was surprised when the PTA was asked to fund basic necessities like toilet paper. I am a member of the TUSD Audit Committee, helping our district ensure financial accountability. Last year, I became the physician member of TUSD’s Family Life (“sex ed”) Curriculum committee, and helped ensure that it was medically accurate, comprehensive, and inclusive for LGBTQ+ students.
I am excited to run for the TUSD Governing Board as a father, spouse of an educator, and community physician. I am also excited to run as the first Indian American elected in this region. It will be a great opportunity to represent my community and bring voice to those who are immigrants and first generation Americans. In Tucson, there are many AAPI parents who teach at the University of Arizona and work in other industries in the area. Many of them send their children to local charter schools. I hope that having an Indian American and physician on the school board will help these parents better trust that our public schools will provide an academically rigorous education in a diverse classroom setting for their children.
How did you become inspired to seek elected office?
After my mother because a US citizen during my childhood, she became engaged in local community groups, including the Friends of the Public Library in the Chicago suburbs where I grew up. She brought me to meetings and I volunteered with her to improve our local institutions. This helped me better understand the important of being involved with one’s community and inspired me to become a physician advocate for my patients. Throughout my career, I’ve led efforts fighting for clean air with communities of color, reproductive health needs, and safety for LGBTQ+ youth.
More recently, I’ve increasingly heard from my patients and their parents about the struggles our youth are having in our public schools: lost in class sizes too large; disengaged with curriculum that teaches to the test; behavioral health needs not met due to lack of resources. After seeing my husband, who was a principal of our school district, struggling with resources for his school, and getting more involved with my daughter’s school and our district, I knew I had to run to help ensure we had healthy schools for a brighter future for all Tucson families.
What three issues do you think are most important to your constituents, and what step(s) do you plan to take to address them if elected?
At the forefront of every parents’ mind right now is how we can safely open our schools in the middle of a pandemic. As a family physician and leader in my department, I have been part of our system’s response to Covid-19 and ensuring we provide safe care for our patients and staff. On the school board, I will ensure that our district takes a medically-accurate and evidence-based response to health and safety in our schools so our students and our staff stay safe.
In addition to this, a major priority will be to work with our district leadership so that our finances are more transparent. The financial reports and budget need to be available in a format that not only the Governing Board can use and understand to set priorities, but that the public and use and understand to hold the Governing Board accountable. This will help improve trust in our school system and will, hopefully, lead to approval by voters of the bonds and overrides we need to properly fund our schools as state funding is still below pre-recession levels from over a decade ago.
What impact has the current political climate had on you as an Asian American and/or Pacific Islander progressive seeking elected office?
In Tucson, where a plurality of voters identify as Democrats, I think the currant political climate helps me as a progressive AAPI of Indian decent running for office. People are not only open to something different, they are actively seeking change and diversity. I’m able to provide this change and diversity running as a son of Indian immigrants, the first Indian American elected in Southern Arizona; as a family physician connected with his community; and as an openly gay candidate and father of three.
What advice would you have for other young Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders currently considering a career in politics and/or public service?
I would advise other young AAPI individuals to get involved with their community early. Taking the time to go to meetings, especially when you may be the only person from your background present, can be time consuming and challenging. But you learn so much about what your community needs to succeed. You become engaged and start truly making a difference for your community.
I would also advice those from the AAPI community to be allies for other communities that may be marginalized in our society. Some of the work I’ve done that I’m most proud of is working with community groups in mostly Latinx neighborhoods in SW Chicago to fight for clean air. Look to our brothers and sisters in communities of color on how you can be an ally. Join LGBTQ+ communities to continue the fight for equality. Seek out how you can be an ally and amplify your voice to better our society as a whole.
Where can readers go to learn more about you and your campaign?
You can learn more about our campaign at DrRaviForTUSD.com and follow us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) at @DrRaviForTUSD.
How can readers get involved to help your campaign? Are there any upcoming events you’d like for us to know about?
TUSD is the 2nd largest school district in Arizona, with over 250,000 potential voters. Any amount you can contribute will help us get our positive message out to voters this fall!
We are scheduling events this summer, including a forum to discuss opening our schools safely this fall. Sign up for our mailing list to stay in touch and informed about events and our campaign’s progress!
Run for Something recruits and supports talented, passionate young people who advocate for progressive values now and for the next 30 years, with the ultimate goal of building a progressive bench. Since its launch on inauguration day 2017, they’ve recruited 16,000 young people to run for office.
If you are a progressive Asian American or Pacific Islander running for elected office in 2020, and would like to be profiled in this series, please contact me for more information.