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Olivas Selected for Program at University of Notre Dame

This summer our Director of Outreach, Tammy Olivas, was selected to participate in the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education Parental Choice Symposium (PCS).

The PCS is an intensive formation experience designed for Catholic school supporters. The Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) at Notre Dame developed the week long program in response to the charge of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,

“As the primary educators of their children, parents have the right to choose the school best suited for them.  The entire Catholic community should be encouraged to advocate for parental school choice and personal and corporate tax credits, which will help parents to fulfill their responsibility in educating their children.”

The PCS has an annual cohort of approximately 30 drawn from schools, advocacy groups, and other ACE programs.

“The PCS is an amazing program that has helped me to think about my work in new and interesting ways, said Olivas. “I am grateful to ACE Notre Dame for providing me with an experience that will stay with me forever.”

As a participant, Olivas visited schools in both New Orleans, Louisiana and Tampa, Florida, in addition to participating in seminars with national school choice thought leaders on topics ranging from the legal dimensions of parental choice to school advocacy.

 

Hispanics for School Choice Helps Defend Nevada’s Education Savings Account Program

 

 Milwaukee, Wisconsin – This week, Hispanics for School Choice (HSC) submitted an amicus brief with the Nevada Supreme Court in support of that state’s nascent Education Savings Account (ESA) program. The brief was filed with the American Federation for Children, Dr. Patrick Wolf of the University of Arkansas, School Choice Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty.

Nevada’s ESA program was championed by Governor Brian Sandoval and is the most inclusive educational choice program in the nation. Over 93% of Nevada children are eligible to receive an account from the state to use for educational purposes that parents choose. Moreover, unlike programs in other states, the Nevada ESA program does not create an arbitrary cap on the number of students who can participate in the program.

“Hispanics for School Choice is proud to support the defense of a program that will provide families unparalleled access to the education of their choice,” said Jason S. Crye, HSC Executive Director. “There are 200,000 Hispanic school children in Nevada who, along with all children, deserve the opportunity to receive an education that best fits their needs. It is our fervent wish that the Nevada Supreme Court rejects the legal challenges to the ESA program.”

To date, over 5,000 applications have been submitted for the ESA program, which allows families to not only use the funds in their ESA for tuition, but also for expenses like tutoring, the SAT or ACT exam, and therapy for students with disabilities.

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Hispanics for School Choice exists to help Hispanic families to understand school choice and to have a voice in education policy.

Hispanics: Redefining the minority inclusion debate

This article was co-authored by Jason Crye, Executive Director of Hispanics for School Choice, and Julio Fuentes, President and CEO of Hispanic CREO

There’s an old Latin American saying: Dime con quien andas y te diré quien eres.
“Tell me who you walk with and I will tell you who you are.“

This wisdom, lovingly shared by generations of Hispanic grandparents, focuses on substance and content of character, not their race, color, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. It could have been uttered by Dr. King.

The distinction seems to have been lost in the debate regarding so-called “minority” inclusion in the education reform world sparked by a recent article by Robert Pondiscio of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Many seem to assume that for (mostly white) reformers to gain legitimacy within “minority communities,” they need to pivot left and ditch an agenda that has tried to help families in ways the left never could, given its historical political alliances.

Good debate. Let’s have it. Done right, it will make education reform better and smarter. Done badly, it might kill it.

One way to get it right is to drop the assumptions about where Hispanics fall within this debate.  It’s clear that both the left and the right agree by fiat that Hispanics will simply acquiesce to this leftward drift. The reform establishment seems all too willing to buy the premise that all minorities think alike.

Talk about feeling like an ornament for the movement!

This isn’t just our perception. Roughly 20,535 words have been written about this issue since the New Schools Venture Fund Summit last month. The word “Latino” appears nine times – four times as part of “Black and Latino” and four times in two sentences discussing California. The word “Hispanic” appears exactly never.

These assumptions and this treatment demonstrate a colossal ignorance about Hispanics and a dangerous short-sightedness about education reform’s potential to change America.

Hispanics are indeed a minority in number, albeit now the largest minority in the country. However, that status does not imply that we march in lockstep with the perspective of other minority groups.

Hispanics do share views with other minority and ethnic groups on many things, but not everything and certainly not everything related to school reform.

What we are saying is “count us as us” — a distinct voice with our own point of view. We don’t fit nicely into a pre-packaged narrative. To think otherwise disserves the movement and cheapens the unique histories, struggles and experiences of each minority people. The reality is that no racial or ethnic group thinks in monolithic terms.

Without a doubt, the Hispanic community has also suffered the injustice of a public school system that has denied our children the opportunity to prosper in this country. The high school dropout rate among Hispanics is too high by any count.

Our community is ravaged by a drug war that extends directly onto our neighborhood street corners. Gangbangers prey upon our youth, seducing them with an illegitimate support network that’s missing in neighborhood schools, and, at times, our homes. Violence is all too real for our children. And yes, police abuse also exists in our midst. We don’t need to search too far to find a disdain for Hispanics in America when leading presidential candidates refer to Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers.

However, ours is hardly a community that has embraced a left-of-center victim ideology that passes for mainstream these days. In fact, the Hispanic community has, time and again, shown to lean more conservative on most social issues.

And when it comes to school reform, Hispanics overwhelmingly support choice—charter schools as well as the dreaded v-word that reformers have also abandoned: vouchers.

Hispanic parents support policies that promote the structured and disciplined school environment that charters and other successful school models champion.  Accountability and testing find strong support among Hispanic parents who willfully opt in. Family, respect, responsibility and work ethic are all common themes that run through most Hispanic households across America.

We support these things not because they are left or right, but because they reflect our values and are products of our own experience.

Even so, reformers now seem eager to retreat from policies that our community has embraced and has benefited from for over two decades. These are policies that have led to empirical outcomes, not irrational excuses.

We can’t speak for other minorities, nor should we, nor can we even speak for every Hispanic person. However, one thing is clear: assuming that simply including a leftist rhetorical flair to our discussion somehow covers the minority bases smacks of being reactionary at best, pandering at worst.

We Hispanics do have our own set of grievances with the education reform movement, but it is not over content, direction, policy or even an approach to learning. School reform has indeed served our community well, and we want more of it.

Our grievance is in being relegated to an afterthought status, called upon only as a gesture of political correctness or box-checking. This backward thinking misses the point—and the opportunity—to demonstrate that our community is a strategic right-of-center ally in a movement that has common detractors. How this manifests itself is through funding, resources and influence, not symbolic gestures. No apologies needed, just an expectation that we will deliver a quality product.

The future of the movement is not to guilt its founders into submission, but to build on its success and challenge a new minority leadership to step up, and more importantly, to catch up to its own community. As a minority, that is our responsibility.

There is another saying in Latin America – Separa el grano de la paja. Loosely translated into English, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

The movement should heed the advice of our wise grandparents. Those abuelos y abuelas knew what they were talking about.

*** This piece originally appeared in The Catalyst, the 50 Can education blog. 

Survey Shows Wisconsin Voters Support School Choice

A new survey by the American Federation for Children (AFC), a national organization that promotes educational choice, demonstrates that a majority of likely Wisconsin voters support the state’s statewide voucher program.

Overall, 54% of voters surveyed stated that they supported the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP), which encompasses all the state but Milwaukee and Racine.

This is unsurprising, as survey after survey shows that most Americans, no matter where they are or what demographic is highlighted, support options in education.

What education reformers have yet to see are parents taking this enthusiasm with them to the ballot box on a consistent basis.  All to often—and especially in urban areas like Milwaukee—elected officials who oppose programs like the WPCP represent parents who support educational options.

Breaking down the results of the current survey by political party lines, 69% of Republicans, 49% of Independents, and 42% of Democrats support school choice.

The AFC survey also asked participants about the presidential race.  The answer to that question shouldn’t be surprising either: Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by 12 percentage points. Although in all fairness the race is somewhat in flux, as nearly 25% of likely voters are still undecided, considering third party candidates, or aren’t voting at all.

See all of the survey results here.

***Crossposted at the Rattle Bag Blog at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Millennials and the Future of Education Reform

Yesterday, Alan Borsuk hosted an education discussion at the Marquette University Law School entitled, The Future of Education in Milwaukee: One Conversation, Two Points of View, featuring State Assemblyman Dale Kooyenga and Milwaukee Teachers’ Association Executive Director Lauren Baker.

Annysa Johnson covered the event for this paper and Rachel Morello of WUWM has a full story here.

A lot of topics came up: School funding, testing, vouchers, and the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (OSPP) that Kooyenga co-authored.  And there were some interesting moments. For example, Kooyenga, a Republican, at one point called himself a “Milwaukee progressive” for his efforts to reform the educational status quo in Wisconsin; and Baker remarked that such efforts were ill-advised “experiments” on Milwaukee’s children.

Baker’s riposte about experimentation reminds one of the laughter and naysaying encountered by Henry Ford when he first started driving his gas-powered “quadricycle” around Detroit.

In short, education reform is here; and those who stand athwart the expansion of charter schools, voucher programs, educational savings accounts, and tax credit scholarships can only temporarily delay inevitable developments in how American students obtain an education.

Millennials and A New Definition of Public Education

In 1907 Kenneth J. Freeman summarized in his Cambridge dissertation a collection of critiques that the elders of the ancient world hurled at their youth,

The counts of the indictment are luxury, bad manners, contempt for authority, disrespect to elders, and a love for chatter in place of exercise . . .

Children began to be the tyrants, not the slaves, of their households. They no longer rose from their seats when an elder entered the room; they contradicted their parents, chattered before company, gobbled up the dainties at table, and committed various offences against Hellenic tastes, such as crossing their legs.

Today many of the same types of things are said about millennials. In fact, bashing millennials is such sport that even millennials are producing videos that go viral by criticizing their own generation.

Whether or not you like them, however, it is possible that if you support education reform, millennials may soon become a valuable asset.  It is because millennials will play a pivotal role in redefining how we look at public education in America.  Rather than an education system that Horace Mann and Henry Barnard would recognize, millennials will spur on innovations that will continue to redefine public education as “the public pays, and parents choose.”

How can I be so sure? Well, it’s already happening.

In education, besides the initiatives I mentioned above, things like Khan Academy and Dreambox Learning are already changing how students learn.

In other parts of life, ideas like Uber, Airbnb, and Netflix have drastically and permanently changed their respective industries.  If not founded by millennials, all three of these well known companies owe much of their success to millennial ingenuity and consumption.

Millennials now make up 1/3 of the American workforce, and surveys have shown that millennials value things like flexible scheduling, telecommuting, and paid volunteer days at their jobs.  Unlike previous generations that entered the adult world and assimilated, millennials are causing older co-workers to shift their attitudes towards their own.  This shift is due in part to the fact that some things, like technological advancements allowing an employee to work at home and be more productive, make too much sense for businesses interested in making profits to ignore.

As these 54 million adults between 18 and 34 get married and have families I see no reason why they won’t demand innovations and freedoms in education as they have in the workplace.

At an event I recently attended, a popular conservative pundit described millennials as “the most bespoke generation ever.”  He meant it in a disparaging way, but I left thinking that when it comes to education, what we need more of is the “bespoke” approach that innovations can offer to help students succeed.

Perhaps “the most bespoke generation ever” will be the generation that cements a new chapter in American education; one where the public pays, and parents choose.

***Crossposted on The Rattle Bag Blog at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.