April 15, 2007

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.

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