It is undeniable that public education is facing an unprecedented period of assault from both the private sector, which has its collective eye on the potential for monetary profits, and the political sector, which too often is overly influenced by the private sector. These assaults are never-ending, highly destructive and dizzying. School budgets are slashed, positions are eliminated, public schools are closed while charter schools are opened, and without any sufficient evaluation, one new program after another is implemented.
While many oppose these attacks, our defense is often fragmented, disjointed and in some cases counter productive. If our public education system is to survive, the time has come for like-minded groups and individuals to unify and form strong, active coalitions.
A Coalition’s Importance
A coalition is a union of people and/or organizations working together to solve a common problem. Through its power to address a common goal and provide concerned parties with a unified approach to a problem, coalitions eliminate duplicate efforts, minimize chances for wasted resources, and create a greater chance for effective and efficient action.
Step 1: Identify the issue or issues you want to address. Once that question is answered, identify potential individuals and groups with similar concerns or interests in the identified issue. Remember that the broader your membership, the better the coalition represents its key groups and individuals.
Step 2: Identify your Key Groups : Key groups and individuals fall within three broad categories: stakeholders, community opinion leaders, and policy makers. Stakeholders are those most affected by the issue and are the most likely to be the driving force of any coalition. They are also the most likely to energize the coalition and voluntarily do much of the hard work necessary for a coalition to succeed in its mission. Identify and invite stakeholders to become members early in the coalition building process. Their importance is indisputable. Community opinion leaders such as civic, clergy and business leaders hold the power to influence others and spread the coalition’s message. They also can raise the credibility of the coalition. These individuals often have a track record of positive leadership, bringing much needed attention to the coalition and its mission. Policy makers such as state and local political leaders have a wide sphere of influence and are in the position to influence policy decisions that effectuate the coalition’s desired changes. Their seats at the coalition table greatly increase the chances that tangible and positive change will take place as a result of the coalition’s work.
For more information on how to build your coalition, you can reach out to the AFSA office at 202-986-4209 or refer to the following resources: