Gini Pupo-Walker, senior director of education policy and strategic growth for Conexion Americas, an affiliate of UnidosUS (formerly known as the National Council of La Raza), is on the August 4th ballot to represent District 8 on the Nashville School Board.
Pupo-Walker’s campaign biography emphasizes her commitment to Latino and immigrant families and students, including starting the Metro Nashville school district’s first Spanish Heritage classes while she was teaching Spanish at John Overton High School.
When Metro Nashville Public Schools announced that Arabic was being added as a foreign language in several schools, it was explained that foreign language heritage classes are “for native speakers to deepen their knowledge of the language and learn to read and write in” their native language.
Pupo-Walker’s former school now employs translators and interpreters as part of its staff, and a student enrollment estimated to be 66% minority enrollment 29% of which are listed as Hispanic. Forty-nine percent of the student body tested either below basic or basic in English proficiency.
Before joining the staff at Conexion Americas, Pupo-Walker served on the organization’s board whose founder and director Renata Soto, has a long-standing relationship with UnidosUS. Not only is Soto’s Nashville organization a named affiliate of UnidosUS, but beginning in 2012, she served as the vice-chair of the board until she was elected as chairman in 2015 when the organization was still named La Raza. She remains listed as Chairman for the 2017-2018 slate.
In 2016, Conexion Americas launched the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition (TEEC) which Pupo-Walker leads, tying GOP gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd even closer to Soto and her Nashville organization. Boyd’s own education non-profit Complete Tennessee is listed as a State Partner on the TEEC website and Conexion’s Renata Soto serves on the Complete Tennessee Board.
Mauricio Calvo, executive director of Latino Memphis serves on Boyd’s Complete Tennessee steering committee and is listed as a TEEC regional partner.
Shortly before TEEC was created and while Randy Boyd was still serving as the Commissioner of Economic and Community Development, he and his wife Jenny donated a quarter of a million dollars to Conexion Americas which Soto described as “the single largest individual gift” to her organization in its 14-year history.
Once the TEEC was in place, it began its expansion, first partnering with the George Soros funded Migration Policy Institute, to initiate the “TN English Learner Network” and the following year, establishing The Mosaic Fellowship, “a transformational strategy to develop and connect education leaders of color to enact change and elevate their voices to ensure equity and excellence in education in Tennessee.”
TEEC’s English Learner initiative is working to organize in different parts of the state to expand advocacy for more resources.
Pupo-Walker, Soto and Boyd are tied to organizations that support “tuition equity,” which is the legislative reference to a bill that would grant the in-state tuition benefit to illegal alien students which is probably why Sen. Todd Gardenhire spoke at the Education Summit TEEC convened this year. But “equity” whether related to college tuition or education services received in the K-12 years, does not come without a cost to state taxpayers.
Boyd and Conexion Americas leaders are fellow travelers in the anti-Trump camp. Boyd was a “never-Trumper” even before the primary election and served as a delegate for the failed amnesty candidate, Jeb Bush.
Within weeks of Trump’s election, Soto announced she was an “Indivisible” organizer, a campaign intended and designed to obstruct President Trump’s agenda for the nation including enforcing U.S. immigration laws. According to Soto, “[w]e at Conexion Americas have launched a campaign called #Indivisible” using a hashtag of a Twitter site which promotes the original Indivisible Guide and Indivisible groups scattered across the country.
When asked about the Conexion Americas “Indivisible” campaign, Gini Pupo-Walker told The Tennessee Star, “[i]t’s something we decided internally, we didn’t know there would be other groups using the same word.”
If elected to the Nashville School Board, Pupo-Walker would join current school board member Will Pinkston who supported Metro Nashville’s lawsuit against the state for more education funding including more money for English Language Learner services.