Republican Response: Reaching out to Latino voters through Education
January 11, 2013
By Assemblymember Rocky Chavez
Since the November election, Republicans, Democrats and media outlets alike have been examining Republican Party losses and critiquing where they think mistakes were made with the electorate. The December 21 story “Winning over Latino votes is an uphill battle” examines where Republicans went wrong with Latino voters in the battleground states of Florida, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico. The conclusion I found most troubling was Latino voters in these states felt that “Republicans do not respect or value the needs and interests of the Hispanic community.” While the Republican Party itself may not be conducting outreach that conveys a message of compassion or commonality, our history and platform carries a different message.
Most surveys of Latino voters show jobs and the economy as their top two issues of concern. However, education becomes a top priority among Latino families when their children are about to enter school or are graduating and moving on to the next level of their education. I believe education reform is the best way for the Republican Party to reach out to California’s Latino community.
This issue is near and dear to me personally. Before being elected to the Assembly, I spent six years as the Chief Education Officer of The School of Business and Technology, a charter High School in the Oceanside Unified School District. There I met and served many Latino families who saw their child’s education as the only ticket to a future of growth and prosperity. Republicans should seize this opportunity to communicate and connect with Latinos on an issue where we have so much in common.
Like many conservative education advocates, Latino parents want their children to have access to good schools and quality teachers. They believe they should be able to choose where their children attend school, and they believe no one should be stuck in a low performing school just because of where they live. As an education director, I found many Latino families felt that transfers between school districts should be easier to obtain, and there should be greater access to public charter schools. Essentially, Latino families, like the Republican Party, believe in educational choice.
Instead of actively campaigning on these issues, the Republican Party tends to avoid them. We forget the work of our past leaders and their efforts to improve education. The Nixon-Ford Administration pushed for block grants that enabled local governments to utilize more federal dollars and created flexibility in funding for local education and job training programs. It was under Republican President Eisenhower that The Department of Health, Education and Welfare was created. It was Republican President Harding who first proposed a national department of education back in 1923.
Here in California, the Latino statewide high school graduation rate is 70 percent and the Latino college graduation rate is well below 10 percent. With these numbers, educational attainment will continue to be an important issue in the Latino community. Republicans need to remember that since the days of Abraham Lincoln, our party has promoted the rights of the individual. We believe in providing opportunities for individuals to be successful, and this starts with ensuring that all children in every community have access to the education they deserve. It not only benefits students; it benefits society. Republican’s know the value of investment in people’s individual desire to be successful.