“For Our Children: Preserving Our Neighborhood Public Schools”

(March 8, 1999 – San Antonio) More than 250 people rallied in support of neighborhood public schools and opposition to school vouchers Saturday. Sponsored by the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Public Education, community leaders, parents, teachers, children and youth, advocacy organizations, educators and policy makers gathered at Fox Academic and Tech High School where they cheered, “No school vouchers in Texas!”

Vouchers are not the answer,” said Martha Ortiz a parent advocate who spoke at the rally. “The public system offers an education for all children; the private [system] does not.”

“No voucher could give me better principals, teachers and opportunities than I have now,” said Candie Bocanegra, a student at Memorial High School in Edgewood Independent School District (ISD). “A student’s education should not be gambled for any voucher that is given…The best way to strengthen public schools is to strengthen the public schools.”

The Coalition for Excellence and Equity in Public Education is a San Antonio-based coalition of community organizations and individuals who support the use of public money for neighborhood public schools and who oppose any effort to divert public tax funds to subsidize private education. The group is dedicated to improving neighborhood public schools by helping to channel the community’s support for public education. Several organizations have been involved in the coalition. They include:

  • The Coalition for Public Schools
  • Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA)
  • Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of San Antonio
  • Edgewood Independent School District
  • Families United For Education: Getting Organized [Familias unidas para la educación: ganando organizadas]
  • Grupo de Los Cien, San Antonio
  • Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
  • San Antonio Independent School District
  • Texas Federation of Teachers
  • Texas Freedom Network
  • Texas State Teachers Association

“I am insulted that voucher proponents think that our communities would be content with something that is restricted, insufficient, and belongs to someone else,” said Dr. María Robledo Montecel, executive director of IDRA. “Neighborhood schools are your schools, and if today, they are restricted or insufficient it is largely because we have had to fight for equity and for our children’s rights at every turn. And if today, your neighborhood schools are not what you want, fight to make them better because they are yours. Private schools are not.”

Speaking for the Greater Corinth Baptist Church and the Baptist Ministers’ Union, Rev. Dr. Carl Johnson told the crowd, “Vouchers reward those who have and penalize those who have not.”

Policy makers and public officials who participated in the rally included U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzales; State Rep. Art Reyna; State Rep. Juan Solis; State Board of Education member Dr. Joe Bernal; Superintendents Dr. David Splitek (San Antonio ISD), Dr. Rawlinson (Northside ISD) and Dr. Dolores Muñoz (Edgewood ISD); and school board members Mary Esther Bernal (San Antonio ISD), Manuel Garza (Edgewood ISD) and James Howard (San Antonio ISD).

“You don’t improve public schools by making them weaker with vouchers,” commented Rep. Gonzales.

Senator Gregory Luna was unable to attend the rally, but sent a statement that was read aloud by State Rep. Solis: “The performance of Texas public school students has increased over the last decade, especially for our students from low-income families…I have always been committed to strengthening our public schools and holding them accountable for results! I reaffirm that commitment to you today and will continue to oppose any legislation that would harm our children or our public schools. All children deserve access to good schools and we must work together to make our neighborhood schools the best that they can be.”

Reading a statement from the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Public Education, Zane Chalfant said: “We know that vouchers will not improve our local neighborhood schools. Vouchers jeopardize equity. Vouchers jeopardize school accountability. Vouchers jeopardize the continued existence of neighborhood schools. Most private schools do not have the capacity or capability to absorb large numbers of students with special needs. Our children and our communities deserve better.” Mr. Calfant is the former executive director of Texas PTA.

He concluded: “The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Public Education knows that the only way to strengthen our public education system in San Antonio and in Texas is to strengthen and support our neighborhood public schools. Education for all, not for the few. We demand excellent neighborhood public schools, and we will fight for them.”

The coalition plans to continue to voice its concerns regarding publicly-funded vouchers and will host another community rally in April.

Contact: Christie L. Goodman, APR, at IDRA (210-444-1710; christie.goodman@idra.org).

Note: Additional information will be available on-line this week at www.idra.org. The information includes copies of the statements by the coalition and Senator Luna, a description of the coalition and its participants, and a list of groups that oppose school vouchers.

IDRA is an independent, non-profit organization, directed by María Robledo Montecel, Ph.D., dedicated to creating schools that work for all children. As a vanguard leadership development and research team for 25 years, IDRA has worked with people to create self-renewing schools that value and empower all children, families and communities. IDRA conducts research and development activities, creates, implements and administers innovative education programs and provides teacher, administrator, and parent training and technical assistance.