Despite opposing the one-cent sales tax, Citizens United for Public Schools (CUPS) has re-emerged in an effort to ensure that fair treatment in services is provided to the underserved communities of the Charleston County School District. The purpose of Citizens United for Public Schools is to work for a good public education for all children in the Charleston County School District by advocating for and supporting fair and equitable funding, resource allocation, staffing, and disciplinary treatment while maintaining a diverse student population in all public schools.
CUPS’ purpose is very much needed in our community. While the school district has made some positive improvements to level the playing field for underserved students, parents, and schools, more work is needed. The deep mistrust that exists among segments of our community will continue to divide us and prevent all of our children from preparing to compete globally. The lack of trust was shown when CUPS, the Charleston Branch of the NAACP, and the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance opposed the Yes4Schools tax referendum. The lack of trust is clear when some members of the school board do not believe in the need to allocate equitable resources across the board, and the lack of trust is evident when all interested parties are not communicated with before decisions are made but, rather, afterwards.
CUPS is in a great position to be the advocacy organization that will hold the school board and school district officials accountable to their mission and the policies regardless of who the chair and superintendent are. I do not see this as a problem but as a positive opportunity to create a sustaining environment that ensures that our students learn, our schools improve, our parents and teachers are proud, and our community gets stronger. Advocacy groups like this seek to ensure that the right and just things are done when others are not paying attention. In doing so, we build trust and our children gain the most benefit. Advocacy groups like this seek not to find fault or blame, but to ask the appropriate questions others will not or cannot ask.
CUPS is not a new organization. When some elected officials were campaigning on using public dollars as vouchers for private school, CUPS was there to raise the right questions and offer another perspective on the subject. Only recently has the organization become vocal. I believe this group will be very vigilant, especially when it comes to two goals.
First, CUPS will ensure that the monies collected from the one-cent sales tax increase will go to the named projects. The creditability of the school district, those that fund Yes4Schools, and its partners will crumble if monies are spent elsewhere. It would be fitting for some members of CUPS to be invited to actively participate on the advisory board the district will create to ensure monies are spent properly and that accurate information about each project is disseminated correctly. Its other goal is the construction of a high-tech academy at Rivers Middle School. This long-overdue school did not appear to be the priority it once was until CUPS started asking questions.
The school district does not need CUPS’ approval or permission on any action, or lack thereof, on any concern or initiative. However, it would be best for the district to ensure that advocacy groups like CUPS are engaged in the efforts of the school district in order to improve the quality of education each child receives regardless of their zip code, last name, or family connections.
Outside of those two goals mentioned above, other goals and objectives exist that will keep CUPS relevant, vigilant, and alert on behalf of the greater community. With new members joining the school board, I suspect that CUPS will be watching and listening keenly to how the board responds to the issues that confront the district going into another tight budget year. As initiatives are adopted and polices are enforced, I believe CUPS will be steadfast in asking questions to ensure that fair and equitable actions are seen throughout the district.