Next year, students of Hispanic descent will be a majority in the public schools of Texas. Yet the voices of Latino parents, educators, and advocates are seldom heard in legislative hearings. Instead, it is usually business leaders calling the shots.
A new organization called the Latino Coalition for Educational Equality has emerged to express their views and to release the results of a survey.
What issues are at the top of their agenda: adequate funding and well-prepared teachers.
“School finance is, by far, the biggest priority the groups identified, and the report summary echoes a lot of what the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) has argued in its piece of the everlasting school finance lawsuit: that Texas’ school funding is based on what lawmakers want to spend, not what a quality education actually costs, and that cuts in school funding have meant scaling back bilingual education programs.
“Interestingly, the teachers surveyed here are all bilingual teachers—either working in school districts or enrolled in teacher prep programs—and they were far more concerned with teacher quality, school accountability and access to books than school funding. Lopez says that’s a reflection of their more direct interaction with classrooms. “School finance obviously is intertwined in every issue,” she says. “You can’t advocate for more materials and more appropriate materials or resources without it being a school finance issue.”
“Teachers and advocates also agreed, according to the report, that “increasing the number of well-prepared Latina/o teachers” should be a top priority—a finding that squares with research suggesting that Hispanic teachers tend to stay in high-needs schools longer, bringing stability to classrooms as well as a cultural relevancy that helps students relate to lessons.
“It’s also worth noting what’s not listed among the top priorities: charter school chains, vouchers and full-time online schools, which the report dismisses as “privatization experiment efforts” that siphon money away from the schools most kids attend. In other words, if you ask Latino teachers and activists—and not Sen. Dan Patrick—there are plenty of “civil rights issues of our time” more pressing than school choice.
“It’s not that teachers and advocates were opposed to charter schools or any particular group of reformers, Lopez says, just those “who come in who have no historical participation in a community, and see it as a potential market.”