April 15, 2007

Latino Leaders Dialog with Hispanic Caucus of Arizona for Education Reform

Phoenix, AZ– Leaders from the National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) and the Hispanic Council for Reform & Educational Options (Hispanic CREO) met with key members of the Arizona Hispanic Caucus April 10, 2007. Ten legislators attended this meeting in the capitol building to discuss the crisis in Hispanic educational achievement in Arizona and how school choice initiatives passed last year by Arizona’s legislature are urgently needed for Latino and other minority children to have a chance at a better future.

Thefollowing day, the Goldwater institute released a poll showing Arizona’s overwhelming support for school choice policies that most Hispanic Caucus leaders opposed last year.

The Goldwater Institute reported “82 percent of Hispanic adults support expanding to all students Arizona’s current laws that provide private school tuition scholarships for disabled children and those in foster care. Last year, 14 of 16 members of the Hispanic Caucus voted against those two measures.”

“These poll results confirm that Arizona families, regardless of ethnicity, believe in educational opportunity. A message can’t get clearer than 82 percent support for school choice. This should be a wake up call to lawmakers,” says Darcy Olsen, president of the Goldwater Institute. Caucus leaders who attended the CONLAMIC/Hispanic CREO were open to a dialog on the issue.

Phoenix-based parent leaders, Liliana Hutcheson and Christina Caro, are well known faces in the capitol. Last year, they played an integral part in the empowerment of Hispanic voters who mobilized to support school choice initiatives.

Addressing the Hispanic Caucus members, Reverend Miguel Rivera said, “the parents organized by Ms. Hutcheson and Ms. Caro have begun a voter registration process…these are parent leaders in your districts who care deeply about the future of their children and are intent on making certain you represent their voice in the legislature on the issue of school choice.”

“The statistics in Arizona for Latino educational achievement are astounding. Sixty three percent of Latino children in the 4th grade are already behind in reading. This is not an issue only for Hispanics, but we are here to tell you that if you do not help us to protect and expand educational options for Hispanic parents now, the future of this nation from an economic standpoint will be in dire straights,” said Maite Arce, Vice President of Hispanic CREO.

Last year, the Arizona legislature passed three school choice measures to create private school scholarships for k-12 students: a tax credit for businesses that contribute to scholarship organizations for low-to-moderate income families, scholarships for children with disabilities, and scholarships for children in foster care. These measures passed largely in spite of the Hispanic Caucus, but there is more work to be done.

“Hispanic Caucus members voiced interest in accountability within the public school system. CONLAMIC and Hispanic CREO are informing legislators of their support for NCLB reauthorization, which includes expanded parental choice in education provisions,” said Ms. Arce.

“We need the support of the Hispanic Caucus on this issue. We believe that when the Caucus hears the public outcry from their districts in favor of these programs, they will listen,” said Rev. Miguel Rivera.

National and State Latino Leaders Unite for Florida School Choice

A Skilled Workforce for the Future!

Tallahassee, FL– On Thursday, April 12, business, Christian and education leadership organizations will unite to take a strong message to Florida Legislators that now is the time to ensure Florida’s children have the education needed to meet the demands of a skilled workforce for the future. The Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (FSHCC), Washington, D.C.-based National Hispanic CREO, and the National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC), will join their local ally Step Up for Students for a march for education from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Capitol Courtyard.

These three organizations have joined forces for two reasons: To advocate, protect, and expand initiatives that will allow Florida parents to choose a school that will best meet their children’s needs regardless of their socio-economic condition; and to inform legislators of the crisis in low achievement rates among Latino students and the urgency in which they must act to better prepare Florida’s future workforce.

“Fifty percent of Florida’s Hispanic children are not graduating high school, and a staggering 94 percent of Florida’s Hispanic students who go to college drop out. This is happening at a time when our nation needs to provide our young people with an extraordinary education, yet our school system is failing to properly equip our youth,” said Julio Fuentes, President of FSHCC. “I agree with the U.S. Chamber that we will be committing economic suicide if we fail to improve schools and provide an equitable and quality education for our young people.”

Latino leaders point to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s recently released State-by-State Report Card on the nation’s school systems as an alarming wake-up call for education reform. The Chamber’s “Leaders and Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Educational Effectiveness” is an in-depth look at each state’s return on its educational investment with a bottom-line conclusion that educational reform needs to be rigorous to meet the needs of all students.

Alarming is that the U.S. Chamber report gives Florida a “D” in Academic Achievement, reporting that student performance in Florida is lower than the national average. Florida eighth graders stand 4 percentage points below the national average in the percentage at or above the proficient level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading exam. In the area of college and workforce readiness, Florida also received a grade of “D” as only 58 percent of Florida’s 9th graders receive a diploma within four years compared with the national average of 70 percent.

The Chamber report states that “. . . academic performance needs to improve for all demographic groups, but especially for poor and minority students, who have too often been ill-served by today’s schools.” Florida received an “A” in academic achievement for low-income and minority students for its strides in the 25 percent of Hispanic 4th grade students scoring at or above the proficient level on the NAEP reading exam. Yet, that leaves an astounding 75 percent of Hispanic 4th graders not reaching the proficiency level!

“This is a matter of urgency not only for the Latino community but for the nation. These grades are deplorable. This is additional evidence that low-income, minority students are not achieving at grade level because of a poor education,” said Maite Arce, Vice-President of Hispanic CREO. “Hispanic children are struggling at below grade level at a time when standard performance is no longer enough for the highly competitive American and global workforce.”

“Latino pastors from Florida and around the country have opened a dialog regarding the U.S. Chamber study, that we must provide our youth equal access to a quality education, which is why school choice is so important. Latino’s work hard to achieve the American Dream – our leadership must take bold action now to preserve the American Dream or it will be lost,” said Reverend Miguel Rivera, President of CONLAMIC.

These three organizations are working together in Florida to educate Hispanic business and faith leaders, and parents on the importance of expanding and protecting Florida’s school choice programs. COLAMIC is the nation’s largest Latino Christian advocacy organization, a network consisting of 16,000 churches, with 73 citywide Latino pastors’ associations in 32 states. FSHCC was formed in 2000, in response to the tremendous growth of Florida’s Hispanic population. Today the organization has grown to 42 chapters and more that 30,000 members. Hispanic CREO was founded in 2001 to address the crisis in Latino education by empowering Latino families with parental choice in education. By creating coalitions with schools, faith-based organizations, advocates and like-minded groups, Hispanic CREO has been able to educate, inform and mobilize Latino parents on the issues surrounding school choice.