School choice supporters rally at State Capitol

| Theresa Malloy | January 27, 2012 | 1 Comment
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Students from Cristo Rey Jesuit High School and Hope Academy in Minneapolis and St. Agnes School in St. Paul joined parents, teachers, legislators and others at a Rally for School Choice at the Minnesota Capitol Jan. 26.

Participants wore yellow National School Choice Week scarves at the rally — a local part of national initiative featuring special events and activities that highlight support for programs and proposals that give children and families more educational options.

Cristo Rey graduate Luis Nava Torres, now a college freshman at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, told the crowd that this would not have been possible had he not chosen to attend Cristo Rey.

“I originally wanted to attend Roosevelt High School — mainly because they have a construction program, and I wanted to go into that,” said Torres, a first-generation college student who looks to major in engineering or social work. “But after that, I saw [Cristo Rey]. . . . I started thinking about Cristo Rey and seeing the other options that existed, that I could actually go pursue a future I couldn’t otherwise.”

Cristo Rey is part of the nationwide Cristo Rey Network, which serves urban students with limited resources who could not otherwise afford a private college preparatory education.

Faud Mahamoud, also a Cristo Rey graduate who is now a freshman at St. Thomas, spoke about how school choice helped him.

“Cristo Rey made me who I am today,” he said. “Without working hard I wouldn’t be able to enjoy college life.”

He said his parents are proud to see his success.

The Minnesota House and Senate both passed legislation last year to improve school choice options, but Gov. Mark Dayton did not sign the bill.

The bill addressed initiatives such as a tuition tax credit and opportunity scholarships, or vouchers, for low-income students.

Sen. Ben Kruse (R-Brooklyn Park) said Minnesota has “one of the greatest achievement gaps in the nation. I know we can do a much better job of that.”

He said families would benefit if they had more educational choices available to them.

Rep. Kelby Woodard (R-Belle Plaine) agreed.

“We have to give all students a chance to succeed,” he said.

The Minnesota Catholic Conference has listed education reforms including school choice as a top priority for this legislative session.

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