February 19, 2007

CONLAMIC Pastors Support Largest Rally for Education

Texas faith leaders demand educational options for Latino parents

Austin, TX –Thousands of people gathered on the Austin Capitol steps on February 7th in support of school choice for parents in Texas. Among these gathered were bus loads of Hispanic ministers, church members and community members who took a day off of work to travel for hours from their homes throughout the state of Texas on behalf of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) to rally in support of increasing parent choice in education.

“On October 13, 2006, CONLAMIC-Texas leaders signed a school choice resolution that calls upon the Texas Senate body and all of the state legislators to provide our children most in need with broader educational opportunities through an urban school choice program. Since then, our members, who are President’s of Hispanic pastor associations, have testified in the Texas Education Senate Hearing, have written hundreds of letters and made calls to legislators to voice the concerns about this issue, one that is considered a moral issue for our community,” said Rev. Miguel Rivera, President of CONLAMIC.

“As the buses arrived for the Austin Rally with my people from McAllen, Harlingen, Edinburgh, Houston, Pasadena, Dallas, and other areas, I felt a deep sense of pride, but also a deep sense of concern for our children. Our voice in Austin must not go unheard. Legislators, specifically those charged with representing us in the inner cities must hear the voices of our leaders, parents and children over the voices of the special interests,” said Rev. Rivera.

The rally drew about 6,000 leaders, parents, and a diverse collaboration of business leaders, faith leaders, educators, and parent organizations such as the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options. Speakers such as Dr. Howard Fuller of the Black Alliance for Educational Options cried for justice and equality. CONLAMIC-Texas’s leader and School Choice Resolution signer, Pastor J.R. Rodriguez spoke passionately about justice for Texan children.

“It's been an honor for our organization to work collaboratively with CONLAMIC. Their support in this effort has been key in mobilizing the Hispanic Evangelical community and their constituents," said Rebeca Nieves Huffman, President and CEO of Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (Hispanic CREO).

“Reverend J.R. Gonzales, a CONLAMIC-Texas leader and the only Hispanic pastor who spoke during the rally, demonstrated passion for school choice, the plea of the Hispanic family, and the urgent need for action. His leadership shined through as motivational speech drew great cheers from the crowd,” said Mrs. Nieves Huffman.

According to the Intercultural Development Research Association, during the 2005-2006 school year, Dallas County had a dropout rate of Hispanics was 58 percent in comparison to 13 percent of Whites; Bexar County experienced a dropout rate of Hispanics of 41 percent in comparison to 19 percent of Whites; in Tarrant County, 55 percent of Hispanics didn’t graduate high school compared to 24 percent of Whites; in Houston County, 54 percent of Hispanics didn’t graduate high school in comparison to 6 percent of Whites; and in Harris County during the 2005-2006 school year, 52 percent of Hispanics didn’t graduate high school in comparison to 20 percent of Whites.

Why is there such a disparity, when we know that Latino and other minority children have the same capacity to achieve excellent academic results? The answer may be the need for a better educational environment for these children and for this, parents need school choice.

”CONLAMIC supports the separation of church and state. We do not expect all of our children to go to private schools. We recognize that a strong and effective system of public education is necessary for the protection and sustainability of our democratic government. However, we will not stand and watch as half of the Latino population in public schools drop out of high school. Parents must have the immediate option to send their child to a better performing school if the local public school is not meeting the needs of their child. Legislators must provide their constituents with the basic right to obtain a quality education for their children now,” said Rev. Rivera.

“The ability of parents to choose the public or private school that is best for their child –school choice- changes lives and transforms the powerless into the powerful. As leaders, we will fight for what we know will help us to end the crisis in Latino academic achievement because our children deserve the opportunity to excel and as American’s it’s in our best interest,” said Mrs. Nieves Huffman.

“After the rally our leaders gathered to discuss the next steps needed to support this effort. I told them, we’ve only started this fight. We will increase efforts to ensure that the media and our district legislators know that we want a school choice pilot program for Texas and that we will show a united voice of parents, Pastors and community leaders on behalf of CONLAMIC and the other collaborative organizations,” said Rev. Rivera.