Last week in Washington, Mitt Romney said the failure of schools with minority students “is the civil rights issue of our era.’’ Hmmm. It is more the seminal national security of our time but who’s quibbling? If HispanicLatinos do not accelerate their educational – and thus their economic – attainment in the short term, they will not be able to stave off the nation’s crushing fiscal demands in the long term. Without the tax revenues necessary to keep abreast with the technological advances in defense systems, the country’s defenses ultimately will be on par with other nations. It is only a matter of time. Not to mention keeping up with other costs. But this is a fella who cannot bring himself to support any version of the Dream Act, and he seems to not understand how college-opportunities programs after World War II set up the nation for long-term economic growth.
It is hard to humor Romney. Mixing apples with oranges, he wants us to think there is a way to make lemonade out of the lemon that is the American education system today. He wants the schools reformed under the aegis of parental option and charter schools. Charter schools might be an answer but the real problem with education is funding and parental involvement. Charter schools have little to do with either. And what about the schools that never rise to the level of the presumably better charter schools?
What about the civil rights of their students?
Sometimes I wonder how much of the management expert he claims to be and whether he understands markets. A smart businessman would have in mind the impact that a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court on Arizona’s anti-HispanicLatino laws would have on the HispanicLatino political market he tried to rally to his side in Washington on education. If and when that ruling next month causes states and local school districts to invent their own version of laws to target HispanicLatinos in the schools, then education indeed will become a civil rights issue. Does Romney think he is going to get much higher than his current 27-percent support within the HispanicLatino community — a political market he desperately needs?
Romney might make history in attracting the least number of HispanicLatino votes since Barry Goldwater in 1964. And Romney might end up being exactly what some feared at the campaign’s very beginning: A drag on the entire Republican ticket in crtitical state races.
Better than any program and additional funding, per se, what needs to happen regarding education is a way to convert parental involvement into the force that it should be in the lives of students who even in the worst of schools can learn and succeed.
Given their age as a population, HispanicLatinos have the fate of the nation in their hands. Whether they think Mitt Romney understands the same is probably unlikely.
Feel free to forward these blogs adapted from previous writings, with additional thoughts published invariably in between.