2000 Parents Rally for Reform in Texas

Published July 1, 2004

Troubled by the large number of low-performing public schools serving Hispanic students in Texas, an estimated 2,000 Hispanic parents and children from Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio rallied at the state capitol in Austin on May 15 to draw attention to their concerns.

They called on lawmakers to reform the public education system and make better options–including school vouchers–available for their children’s education.

“We are only asking that the state allow Hispanic children the same educational options, and a greater chance at success, that other Texans enjoy,” said Dallas parent Enrique Granados, who helped coordinate efforts in Dallas for the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (Hispanic CREO), which organized the rally.

The mission of Hispanic CREO is to improve educational outcomes for Hispanic children by empowering their families through parental choice in education. Currently focusing on four states–Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, and Texas–the group works at a grassroots level with local parent leaders and community organizations to help inform parents about the educational options available in their area.

“All studies show that students trapped in disadvantaged, violent schools are at a much greater risk of dropping out,” said Rosa Espinoza, parent organizer for Hispanic CREO in Houston. “Education reform can open the door to a brighter future for those students.”

Statistics cited by speakers at the rally made clear the need for reform. Granados pointed out that the dropout rate in the Dallas public schools is 57 percent, and only 9 percent of Hispanic graduates are academically prepared to attend college. Only 3 percent of Hispanic children earn college degrees, added Hispanic CREO President Rebeca Nieves Huffman, who was the first in her family to graduate college.

“Low-performing schools are not going to prepare our kids to be doctors, lawyers,” she declared. “More importantly, they’re not going to prepare our kids to become leaders–to sit in these seats behind me in the Senate.”

The group’s call for vouchers did not persuade Rep. Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville), vice chairman of the House Public Education Committee, who told the Austin American-Statesman, “until we fully fund education,” vouchers are out of the question.

“I think the vast majority of Hispanic legislators, as well as the vast majority of Hispanic parents throughout Texas, do not agree with the idea that we should have vouchers for private schools,” Oliveira said.

One influential Hispanic group that does support vouchers is the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, whose president and CEO, J.R. Gonzales, spoke at the rally. Last November, the chamber unanimously passed a resolution declaring it “fully endorses the K-12 opportunity scholarship legislation which is before state and federal legislative bodies and which will provide equal access to high-quality education to low-income children and enable parents who are lacking in financial resources the right to send their children to the schools of their choice.”

Driving the Hispanic Chamber’s action were concerns about high dropout rates among Hispanics, the questionable quality of graduates produced by “this flawed education system,” and the inability of the “current and antiquated educational system” to produce well-educated Hispanics capable of becoming successful business owners and CEOs.

Giving a personal example of what President George W. Bush has called “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” Gonzales related to the crowd at the rally what educators in the Austin public schools had said when he signed up for college-bound classes in high school: They told him he had registered for the wrong classes.

George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News. His email address is [email protected].

For more information …

The Web site for Hispanic CREO is http://www.hcreo.org.

The Web site for the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is http://www.ushcc.org.