January 1, 2009

Hispanics for School Choice

Without an elections strategy that leverages demographic trends, conservative Republicans are doomed to repeat the failures of the past. Conservatives tend to be students of history - the past can offer terrific insight into the future dangers and opportunities. One of the confluences of two emerging trends offers the GOP a great opportunity for improved electoral performance. Failure to recognize the opportunity, failure to capitalize on it will turn the opportunity into an electoral threat. There are two trends to consider (1) educational standards and reforms and (2) the rapidly growing Hispanic demographic.

School choice is a fundamentally conservative concept. The free market, everywhere it is applied, provides for the highest instance of innovation, the greatest success stories and is the most effective tool for weeding out the unsuccessful or transforming the unsuccessful into successful out of the necessity of survival. School choice is a logical application of this concept. Allow parents to select which school their child or children will attend and they will pick schools that are successful or best suited to their individual circumstances. In A Nation At Risk in April 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education stated the following;

Our Nation is at risk. Our once unchallenged preeminence in
commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by
competitors throughout the world. This report is concerned with only one of the
many causes and dimensions of the problem, but it is the one that undergirds
American prosperity, security, and civility. We report to the American people
that while we can take justifiable pride in what our schools and colleges have
historically accomplished and contributed to the United States and the
well-being of its people, the educational foundations of our society are
presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very
future as a Nation and a people. What was unimaginable a generation ago has
begun to occur--others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments.

If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the
mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it
as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves. We
have even squandered the gains in student achievement made in the wake of the
Sputnik challenge. Moreover, we have dismantled essential support systems which
helped make those gains possible. We have, in effect, been committing an act of
unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.

Our society and its educational institutions seem to have lost sight of the basic purposes of
schooling, and of the high expectations and disciplined effort needed to attain
. This report, the result of 18 months of study, seeks to generate reform of
our educational system in fundamental ways and to renew the Nation's commitment
to schools and colleges of high quality throughout the length and breadth of our

[Emphasis added]

The authors of the study made key recommendations around class content (i.e. emphasis on math, science, English) , standards and expections (e.g. grades should be indicators of academic achievement), time (i.e. more homework, longer school days, a longer school year), teaching (e.g. standards, salary guidelines) and leadership and fiscal support (e.g. State and local officials, including school board members, governors, and legislators, have the primary responsibility for financing and governing the schools, and should incorporate the reforms we propose in their educational policies and fiscal planning).

Predictably these ideas, recommended some 25 years ago, have been met with resistence from various quarters. Everything from teachers unions, ebonics, No Child Left Behind, to Obama's call for more art and music instead of tougher educational standards, and more hard work to a myriad of other reasons NOT to do it, has stood in the way of educational reform and the reemergence of educational excellence. American scholastics are still succeeding, but not in the ways they did in the past.

The other trend that is occuring is the rapid growth of the Hispanic population in the U.S.A. The chart below is the 2006 Census Bureau data;

Census Hispanic Hispanic
Pop (Millons) % Total Pop
1970 9.6 4.7
1980 14.6 6.4
1990 22.4 9.0
2000 35.3 12.5

2010* 47.8 15.5
2020* 59.7 17.8
2030* 73.0 20.1
2040* 87.7 22.3
2050* 102.6 24.4
How do these two trends, education and Hispanic population growth, intersect? It really isn't all that much of a stretch for conservative thinking to uncover it. Hispanics must be a part of any future Republican thinking and electoral strategy. In order to win, we need to have dialogue with this group and understand where we have common ground to build on. And one thing in common in every demographic is wanting the best education for American children. It's easy.

I've argued in the past about grassroots and outreach being key for GOP future strategy. Luckily, some of this ground up work has already been done within the Hispanic community.

The group Hispanic CREO is an organization arguing for school choice. From their website, they appear to be non-partisan, but even if they are Democrat-leaning, it's a potential wealth of opportunity for the GOP given our belief in what the are fighting for. In fact, there's an article on their site about Bobby Jindal's efforts in Louisiana. We don't need to rally Hispanics around the idea of better education - they are self-moticated on the issue and wanting improvement already. We just have to show them we mean business about it.

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