Launching  COPACS
  
Showing Up for Underserved Students:
A Civil Rights Journey Toward Social Justice
 
WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 10, 2015 (SEND2PRESS NEWSWIRE) -- It has been mentioned by many politicians that everybody has a lobbyist except public school children - which means that when critical decisions are made about public schools the loudest voices tend to be well-paid lobbyists, not parents and community stakeholders. COPACS, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit wants parents and community stakeholders across gender, age, socioeconomic status, racial/ethnic groups, and geographic regions to level this playing field by serving the educational interests of children, first and foremost.  
 
For instance, test results on the NAEP, PISA and TIMSS show that the U.S. no longer holds the title as the world’s top public education system. The U.S has dropped to number 17 when compared to other nations. In fact, the 10% most disadvantaged 15-year-olds in Shanghai have better math skills than the 10% most privileged students in the United States. This data is surprising to citizens who have not kept abreast of educational concerns and issues but who still want to demonstrate the necessity of making an informed “common commitment” --- to public schools with parents and other community members.
 
COPACS mission, therefore, emphasizes the importance of a well informed and aware citizenry whose overall purpose is to deepen and advance transparency and accountability in public school governance, discourse and decision-making tied to student learning. Through the COPACS website and its emphasis on connecting members to the latest research, news, articles, and webinars from a wide range of organizations
as well as  its own workshops, discussion groups, research syntheses, etc., members are asked to build their capacity in order to become knowledgeable public school stakeholders --- and proactive in serving the interests of children.
 
At its core, COPACS is clearly a human-rights based nonprofit that encourages parents and community stakeholders to exercise their right to know and understand how “transparency and accountability are framed within public schools." Moreover, it underscores the importance of stakeholders focusing on school funding concerns, including "what the mechanisms are for ensuring that funds reach their intended beneficiaries” (a goal first mentioned in the 60’s by the late Robert Kennedy). 
 
From COPACS’ position then all stakeholders have the right to know about the power structures tied to discourse and decision-making at the foundational level along with how school officials determine “who participates, who does not participate and why.” Stakeholders have a right to know about state, district and local social inclusion policies or democratic spaces and how they support transparency and accountability in school governance, discourse and decision-making. They have a right to know about the role of lobbyists within the educational system, including how they influence school policies and practices on behalf of teachers and administrators rather than public school children.
 
There are, of course, many reasons for this direction. Instead of deepening democratic processes, school officials have introduced new accountability challenges from the lowering of standards for children of color and/or low income students to trying to do away with the Common Core State Standards or high quality standards for all children. To address these concerns, COPACS supports the building of an enabling environment for capacity development tied to best practices, lessons learned and/or the latest research centering on a high quality public education for all children rather than the special interests of any one group.
 
Why? Capacity development changes things since it “reconfigures the balance of influence and power” by ensuring that all stakeholders are able to make informed decisions pertaining to student achievement, a goal that encourages and allows a broader representation of the school community to contribute to educational solutions.
 
While the Obama Administration is addressing many of the concerns that poor parents of color, in particular, have had for decades, such as: high suspension and expulsion rates, high rates of “disproportionality” (i.e., high rates of African American children placed in special education classes), high numbers of segregated schools with limited resources and inexperienced teachers, etc., it is not enough. Parents and community stakeholders must still show up on behalf of students, on an ongoing basis, to
bring attention to state, district and school accountability gaps. Information flow and answerability from educational officials in actual practice must be expected and supported by parent and stakeholder involvement.
 
So what can parents and community stakeholders do to make a bold, uplifting statement about the public school system? First of all, they can stop waiting for the public school system to change all by itself or without their input. They can join COPACS, a collaborative whose very mission and purpose focuses on building their capacity to promote transparency and accountability in school governance, discourse and decision-making tied to student learning.
 
By joining COPACS, they will be able to discover the ways that they can promote excellence and equity in public schools for all students or before decisions are made without their input. Through parent and community stakeholder voice and influence, they will be able to be a part of informed debates tied to the best possible educational solutions. As members, they will be a part of a collaboration where parents and community stakeholders work together to envision what is possible for public education students without excuses, a place where the influence of lobbyists no longer overpowers the educational interests and priorities of children.
 
To learn more about how to become a COPACS member and/or to start a COPACS chapter, go to www.copacs.org or call 202-534-1754.


  
 
David Landers