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.

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