Thursday, January 30, 2014

Who Could Hate Student Achievement?

Mr. Lopez’s plea for an education that educates is reprinted here from

On Dec 30, 2013 
By Mario H. Lopez

Ask any parent what are the key factors that will help their children achieve the American Dream, and the top answer will almost certainly be a quality education.  Sadly, for generations it seems that there has been a steady increase in bad headlines and alarming stories about the state of education for American children, especially in urban and underserved areas—precisely where it is most critical.

Yet there are inspiring success stories.  In Hartford, one school in particular, Capital Prep, has managed to compile a record that is nothing short of outstanding.

According to the Hartford School District’s website, the entire Hartford School District’s graduation rate was 59.9% in 2011, and the target for 2012 of 62.7%.  By contrast, Capital Prep’s graduation rate in 2012 was ninety-seven percent.

In that same year, about two-thirds (64%) of Capital Prep graduates enrolled in four-year colleges, the second highest level among other schools in the District.  After three years (the latest figures available), 95% were still enrolled in college.

In the 2012-2013 school year, only 12.8% of incoming kindergarteners read and wrote at the state’s established “proficiency” levels, yet by spring this level improved to 59.5%, one of the greatest levels in improvement in the city.

We should not overlook the context of these achievements.   Census records show almost 40 percent of Hartford residents live below the poverty line. According to Hands on Hartford, a local charity, the city’s astounding poverty rate of 33.5 percent makes it the second-poorest major city in the Unites States.  Hartford is 70 percent black and Hispanic.

But I suppose it would not be Christmas season without a Scrooge in the story.  Jonathan Pelto, a liberal ex-politician turned blogger has been working his fingers to the bone.  Since he was ousted from government office 20 years ago, it appears that his newfound purpose is to launch vitriolic attacks against Capital Prep.  What is worse is that this is just one aspect of his efforts to kill education reform in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, neighborhoods in which he likely does not shop, visit, or much less live.

A 1993 New York Times article describes Pelto as being “pushed” from public office, his being fired from political positions with the Democrat Party, his arrogance and lack of being “a team player,” and paints a picture of him sitting around his family’s home “nursing a handful of grudges.” In fact, the state’s Democrat Party Chair said at the time:  “Jonathan’s demise, though part of it is voluntary, is something caused by Jon Pelto.”

Now, Pelto the blogger spends his time railing against education-reform advocates.

Pelto is so obsessed that even the tag-line for A Better Connecticut—an education-reform group— which reads “Every Zip Code. Every Classroom. Every Kid” somehow offends him as he also has criticized this organization and its mission. A quality education for students in “Every Zip Code” may be an honorable goal for some, yet it insults this ex-politician, who is from a rural Connecticut town that is 84 percent white, according to records.

The poverty rate among whites in Hartford is 18 percent, with minority populations hitting 45 percent or more.   And given a poverty rate of almost 50 percent for Hartford residents who don’t finish high school, Pelto’s irrational opposition to reforms that improve the lives of children in these circumstances is nothing short of disgusting.

In recent weeks, Pelto has attacked proposals—and anyone connected with them—to expand a highly successful magnet school program to a nearby public school that is failing, personally deriding school board officials, principals and parents who work tirelessly for a better future for local children.  Keeping minorities poor is not an answer—it is vicious and cruel.

Hartford should move forward with its plans to expand successful magnet school programs across its neighborhoods and provide better education opportunities for children of every race and economic condition, as should other communities across the nation.

With Capital Prep’s positive track record of producing better higher education and career opportunities for kids—and the wealth of social benefits that accompany these achievements—one wonders just who or what is the motivation for such hate-filled attacks.  Our children, whether in Hartford or elsewhere, deserve better.

Mario H. Lopez is president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund.

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