New York

Believing in Latino Children Means Believing in School Choice

Last week more than 350 Hispanic educators, parents, policy makers and current and future political leaders from across the United States gathered in Orlando to mobilize on behalf of children who desperately need more quality educational choices. The annual Hispanic CREO Summit brought together leaders from as far away as Hawaii, and with good reason. We honored our trailblazers and trained new ones. We were inspired by high school students such as Florida’s Anita Medina, who one day very well may be our nation’s first Latina president. But we’ll have to wait for that; she’s still a teenager. We heard empowering words of support and commitment from state legislators who we honored with our Hispanic Political Leadership in Education Awards—Illinois State Sen. Martin Sandoval, Assemblyman Marcos Crespo of New York and Florida State Sen. Darren Soto. We inducted our first class into the Hispanic Leadership in Education Hall of Fame: former California State Senator Gloria Romero and Tom Espinoza, president and CEO of Raza Development Fund. Sen. Romero led the fight for California’s landmark parent trigger law and also became the first woman in California history to become Democratic majority leader—a powerful position she left to chair the Education Committee. Educators, business leaders and community leaders came from California, Arizona, Florida, Indiana and Washington, D.C., to work together and advance our movement. We also welcomed guests from Puerto Rico, our nation’s Commonwealth that currently provides no school choice options or charter schools for its Puerto Rican-American students. Mucho trabajo por delante. Much work still remains. Our summit, titled “Bringing Back the American Dream through Education,” was bipartisan and beautiful.

Education Comes First

For too many of our Hispanic youth, the prospects are not beautiful. For them, the American Dream is just a dream or an unattainable illusion. Our children deserve a world-class education. Failing that, we will put them on a fast track to despair. Make no mistake. Education is our nation’s most important issue in our country. Good jobs, a strong economy, economic inequality—the solutions to all these issues are rooted in children receiving the best education possible. For Hispanics, the largest minority in the country, public opinion polls consistently show education ahead of immigration as the priority issue. This was most recently detailed in a survey released this fall by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice in conjunction with Hispanic CREO. The survey found 7 in 10 Latinos support some type of school choice, including vouchers, tax-credit scholarships and education savings accounts (ESAs)—the newest type of school choice policy. Latinos’ level of support for school choice measures was also found to be significantly higher than the national average. Seventy-one percent of Latinos said they support school vouchers compared to 61 percent nationwide. Seventy-six percent said they supported tax-credit scholarships for children to attend the school of their choice. Nationwide, 60 percent support tax-credit scholarships. Seventy-three percent of Latinos favor ESA policies, which give parents an education expense account to spend on a variety of learning services for their children including, but not limited to, private school tuition. Across the country, 62 percent support ESAs. At no time has the choice of a child’s education become more important for our most disadvantaged children. Hispanic children are still more likely to attend a lower-performing school and they still continue to experience lower achievement. And, unfortunately, there are still powerful forces that are mobilized against giving these children and their parents greater control over their education.

A Reason to Hope

Yet, we have reasons for hope. We are gaining strength and diversity in new coalitions determined to show our communities and our courts that there is widespread support for school choices of all types. Pastors, parents and school leaders are working the media and school boardrooms to urge support for all public and publicly funded education options. But we cannot rest. We must continue to raise awareness of the low academic achievement of our Hispanic youth. We must continue to highlight the success of students who have benefitted from school choice. We must continue to enhance the quality of those choices. And we must never stop trying to bring back the American Dream for all Latino children. “¡Creemos en nuestros hijos!” We believe in our children! “¡Yo creo en opciónes escolares!” I believe in school choice!
Julio Fuentes
Julio Fuentes is CEO and president of Hispanic CREO, the only national public policy Hispanic organization dedicated solely to K-12 education reform to advocate for parents and children.

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