For millions of Hispanics, America represents the promise of a better life for our children. As a Latina mother of seven, I know that one of the most effective ways to deliver on that promise is by providing access to quality education and empowering families to choose which school best suits their children. So who can we count on to defend that choice?
Clearly, not Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton is now scare-mongering about school choice. She singled out charter schools for criticism during a town hall last month, accusing most of them of filtering out challenging students. Regarding other options, she said: “I want parents to be able to exercise choice within the public school system — not outside of it.”
Interestingly, Clinton once exercised that choice outside the public school system, sending her daughter to an elite D.C. private school. She even once expressed optimism about charter schools, saying they had the potential to reform the whole public school system. Her new position seems to be that school choice is a losing proposition. Yet Hispanics across the country know our community wins with school choice.
Fully 40 percent of Nevada students are Hispanic. Unfortunately, Hispanic public-schoolers underperform their white, non-Hispanic peers by 21 points in math and 22 points in reading.
Access to a quality education — made increasingly possible by school choice — can help overcome that gap. Over half the states have adopted elements of school choice — including Nevada. The benefits for Latinos have been clear. Harvard professor Caroline Hoxby determined charter school students in predominantly Latino communities outperform their peers in neighboring public schools, with 7.6 percent more students meeting state reading standards and 4.1 percent more meeting mathematics standards.
Charter schools help Hispanic students overcome other barriers, too. Nearly one quarter of Hispanics live in poverty, and many Latino children speak English as a second language. Charter schools have been shown to provide gains for students in both categories. They receive the equivalent of 50 additional days of reading and 43 days of math education. A 2014 study by Mathematica Policy Research found that, compared with public schools, charter high schools have 7 to 11 percent higher graduation rates. That’s excellent news, considering Hispanics have the highest dropout rates of any demographic.
With these results in mind, it’s no wonder our community overwhelmingly supports various types of school choice options by large margins. In a recent survey by the Friedman Foundation, large majorities of Latinos rated their local charter and private schools highly. Two-thirds of Latinos said they would prefer to educate their child outside the public school system, while more than 70 percent favored other elements of school choice, such as vouchers.
Yet Hillary Clinton doesn’t stand with us on these issues. She recently repeated the tired and discredited attack that charter schools siphon funding away from traditional public school systems. And she’s even said that some school policies are “harmful to our democracy.”
If anything, the opposite is true. According to research from the Friedman Foundation, such policies actually free up state education dollars, allowing traditional public school districts to spend more per pupil. In neighboring Arizona, which has the sixth-largest Hispanic public school enrollment in the country, traditional public schools successfully coexist with charters. Public school district officials in Arizona say charters haven’t hurt their enrollment and have encouraged them to innovate — which in education means giving students a better education.
Despite what Mrs. Clinton claims, a lack of choices in education is the real threat to democracy. It’s wrong to force families into a failing system that leaves children behind, especially when better alternatives exist. Mrs. Clinton knows those alternatives exist — she made sure her own daughter had access to them. Now school choice is making sure Hispanic students across Nevada have the same chance at a quality education.
Supporting school choice is a no-brainer for anyone who claims to fight for the economic empowerment of Latinos. Hillary Clinton, however, is now fighting against us — and our ability to achieve our American Dream.
— Rachel Campos-Duffy is the national spokesperson of The LIBRE Initiative.