January 10, 2007

Latino Christian Leaders Celebrate 5th Anniversary of No Child Left Behind

Washington, DC- On Monday, in the ballroom of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Margaret Spellings, U.S. Secretary of Education spoke before a delegation of leaders to commemorate of the 5th year anniversary of No Child Left Behind. The National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) attended in support of this milestone law. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce introduced their national Business Task Force lead by the corporate leaders of Intel, Prudential, and State Farm. The 5th year has given this law the time needed to make a difference, but reauthorization must take place this year for NCLB to continue to improve and impact our education system for the future.

"On behalf of the Board of Trustees, staff and affiliates of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, our special thanks to President Bush, Secretary Spellings and the other leaders who collaborated in the development and implementation of this trailblazing legislation that has resulted in promising academic results and has proven not only can school accountability and performance can improve, but that all children including the poor and inner city children can perform well when given the opportunity," said the Reverend Miguel Rivera, President of CONLAMIC.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a study called "Insight into the Business Community's Views about the U.S. Education System" and the results show that the business community believes we need to make NCLB a top domestic priority.

The study states that the business community wants graduates who can read, write, and speak intelligently; solve problems; work collaboratively; understand basic math and science; and possess a good work ethic and a professional attitude.

Latino Christian leaders are in absolute agreement, not only from an economic standpoint but also as a matter of social justice. All students, regardless of their social economic status, have the right to a quality education. If NCLB is not reauthorized and disappears, America's poor and minority children will be lost.

"Active engagement of not only the business community is extremely important, but it's critical that the faith based community also lead the way if we hope to see success in America's K-12 education," said Maite Arce, Vice President of the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (Hispanic CREO).

"Hispanic CREO worked closely with the U.S. Department of Education for two years to train more than 25,000 parents throughout the nation and increase awareness about the provisions NCLB provides to students who need tutoring or access to a school that meets their needs. Education reform is part of CONLAMIC's organizational platform, which makes working with them critical in our efforts to reach Latino churches who have seen the education crisis in their own congregations and who are eager to be part of the solution this crisis," said Ms. Arce.

"CONLAMIC leaders understand this issue well. They have already heard the cries of many parents who are desperate to help their children excel in school and be well prepared for the workforce. When they learn about NCLB, school choice and the support of leadership who is fighting to bring change to this crisis, they immediately step up and support," said Rev. Rivera.

"In Florida alone, CONLAMIC and the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce have taken historic steps for education reform, they're working closely together to reach the media with their strong and influential voices, and to train other leaders that take the message into their communities,” said Ms. Arce.

In the state of Texas, where Hispanic CREO has trained thousands of parents to understand their rights under NCLB, CONLAMIC has stepped in to involve Latino Pastors. These leaders understand the need to act now, and many are advocating for education in organized activities for the first time. "This is more powerful than we can imagine. NCLB and the promise of better performing schools and options for parents have awakened a voice that has been historically very quiet," said Rev. Rivera.

It's not acceptable that only half of our Latino youth are graduating high school. It's an outrage to the business community knowing that they spend more than 1 billion dollars on remedial education. We've heard the complaints about NCLB - that testing is too much, labeling schools as failing is terrible, it's not possible to get on grade level before 2014 as NCLB requires. But results show that there has been more progress in the last 5 years since NCLB was enacted than in the last 20 years in reading scores!

"Let's get this done! We agree with the business community that we can't continue pouring money into an education system without any accountability. It has created an environment where poor and minority children are hurt the most," said Rev. Rivera.

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