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Judge Reformers by Results, Not Race

This piece, by our Executive Director Jason Crye, originally appeared at Education Next

 

Some education reform advocates who lean to the left are questioning the foundations of the educational system as well as the reform efforts that have been made—not always by people of their preferred political persuasion—since the 1990s. Some of these voices are so strident and their attacks so fundamental, calling for a total reform of society more than “mere” reform of schools, that I think it’s time to take a look at the basics.

ednext-oct16-forum-img01If education reform is about children, we have to remind ourselves, too, of some basic facts about children themselves. Children are tender and impressionable. And children are children for a very short time.

So when I read about a “broader social justice campaign” aimed not just at schools but at a whole society, and of the need for “changes to health care, housing, immigration, and economic policies, as well as education” how do I react? I think of my five children, and look at my watch. My kids don’t have time to wait for Utopia before they buckle down and learn their ABCs. They need quality education this year. If we wait for the earth to shift on its foundations, it’ll be too late.

Part of this movement focuses on “minority” needs and insists that change be “minority-led.” But what does “minority” mean?

Black Lives Matter (BLM), for example, is an expression of the profound frustration of some in the black community. I hear what they’re saying, but I am not black, and neither are my children. Part of my heritage is Latino, and I work with the Hispanic community, which the BLM crowd is trying hard to woo and bring on board with their agenda. But in my experience, Latinos are ill-served by being treated as an accessory to a black-led movement. Perhaps this is why just one in three Hispanics expressed support for BLM in a Pew Research Center survey earlier this year, compared to two out of three African Americans. The history and needs of Hispanics are distinct. That difference is something I’d like activists like BLM and advocates for education reform to respect.

There are more Latino than black students in the U.S. today—in fact, there have been more Latino than black students since 2002, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And their numbers are growing fast. One in four U.S. students is Latino, which is projected to increase to 29 percent by 2025. African Americans make up just 16 percent of all U.S. students. That number is projected to decline to 15 percent by 2025, by which time the proportion of white students will have fallen to 46 percent. Who will be stuck with the quaint label ‘minority’ then?

I also have an issue with the profound disrespect shown by new left-leaning reform advocates to anyone not of their own race or political affiliation. True, free market-based school reforms associated with school choice and charter schools did not emerge from Marx. Leadership on education reform has often come from business leaders, some of whom are wealthy, and many of whom are white. Does that make their efforts less valuable? We should judge reforms by their results for students, rather than trying to label them according to the race or class of their proponents.

On the whole, education reform has a proven track record. It has enjoyed broad bipartisan support on the state and federal levels for years. One reason is that these reforms are targeted, structured, and modest. They use incentives and methods that work, and are focused on evidence that children are learning. They don’t try to fix health care and resolve racism and reform the police force simultaneously as a condition for helping schools. These are solutions provided by sober adults.

By contrast, some of the new “social justice” solutions smack of a dorm room bull session. The vision statement for the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) reveals a lack of focus and set of priorities so sprawling, it’s difficult to chart a path to progress. It calls for building “an international movement of people of African descent to force nations to ratify and recognize education as human right.” What exactly would that look like? Are black people in Accra and Ouagadougou really worried about schools in, say, Chicago? And is it OK if the rest of us Americans get involved in helping our kids, or are only those of African descent allowed?

The platform also calls on that mystical monolith known as “the federal government” as the solver of problems. For instance, it demands an increase (another increase) in federal spending on education, and a guarantee that “public education is protected by federal government.” The state is not a nanny whose job is to fix things with wads of money and ironclad decrees.

Before I am an education reformer, a Latino, or a member of any party—even before I am an American—I am a father to my children. And as a father who strives daily to raise responsible adults, I resent and will resist any campaigner who wants to draft my kids into some trite revolutionary game.

 

100 New Leaders for Education Reform

In July, Hispanics for School Choice, in partnership with the Florida-based advocacy group Hispanic CREO, held a day-long retreat for our first cohort of our 100 New Leaders for Education Reform project.

The inaugural session had 26 participants and included parents, recent college graduates, lawyers, school administrators, and a doctor. All participants are united by a desire to develop their own leadership skills, and to foster change in our communities to improve the education for our children.

We are committed to transforming the leadership landscape in support of school choice for and with the Hispanic Community. To this end, the 100 New Leaders training aims to identify, recruit, and train Hispanics for leadership roles in the public arena and to take public action in support of a school choice agenda.

By the end of the year, we hope 100 new leaders have completed our training and are engaged in the debate about what education reform will look like in the future.

Dia de La Mujer Latina

Hispanics for School Choice was a proud participant in Milwaukee’s “Dia de La Mujer Latina,” an annual event to celebrate life and cancer survivors.  The day long event included presentations on living a healthier life, cancer survivor testimonials, and other free information for the community.

We love this event because it supports a good cause and provides us an opportunity to connect with lots of families and other partner organizations interested in promoting health and wellness for Hispanics.

To learn more about “Dia de La Mujer Latina” and to see a video of this year’s event, check out the event’s Facebook page here.

 

 

Summer Outreach

When schools go on summer vacation our outreach work ramps up!

This summer our outreach team has been at festivals and fairs all over Wisconsin talking to parents about their educational options.

“Tabling at events is a great way to reach parents and summer is an important time for us,” said Tammy Olivas, Hispanics for School Choice Director of Outreach. “Every time we are out we meet someone with a compelling story that reminds us how special this work is.”

This includes parents like a mother who recently moved to southeastern Wisconsin from Mexico via Chicago and had been told by a neighbor about our services.  The neighbor had picked up a flier at a local fair and gave it to her friend.  After a quick phone call we were able to provide the mother with a list of high schools near her new home for her 15 year old.

In this word-of-mouth way, Tammy and other outreach volunteers will reach over a thousand parents during the summer months making stops in Green Bay, Madison, Waukesha and many points in between.

Crye Speaks at Charter Conference in Nashville

Executive Director Jason Crye joined leaders from our Florida-based partner organization Hispanic CREO for a roundtable discussion entitled “The Hispanic Voice in Education Reform” at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee.

The discussion included Hispanic teachers and charter school leaders from around the country and participants were challenged to work together to create a national narrative supporting educational options in the Hispanic community.

“We feel strongly about the need for more Latino leaders in the education reform movement,” Crye said.  “Hispanic families are a significant percentage of all families participating in school choice programs around the country, and yet, their voices are rarely heard at the policy level.  We are actively working to change that.”

Overall, the charter school conference brought thousands of charter school supporters from around the nation to Nashville for fun-filled and information-packed days.