For the past several years, education has topped the list of Latino voter priorities — often beating out even immigration, health care, and jobs. Enthusiasm for higher education has been much higher among Latinos compared to the general population. Yet, their hopes and expectations don’t yet match up with reality. While 94 percent of Latinos say they expect their own children to go to college, only 13 percent of Latinos have a college degree or higher.
Thursday, the White House released a report which sets forth a strategy to address that discrepancy. Many of the proposals are part of Obama’s general education plan: creating more “Promise Neighborhood” projects, turning around low-performing schools, supporting innovative teaching methods, reforming No Child Left Behind, and boosting the number of effective teachers in the classroom. However, the White House also sets forth proposals that directly address many of the obstacles that Latinos in particular face:
- Training and growing the number of effective Latino teachers in the classroom by providing special support to Minority-Serving Institutions and through the national TEACH Campaign which “aims to increase the number, quality and diversity of candidates seeking to become teachers.”
- Providing more support for Latinos enrolled in adult education programs to learn English and to improve their reading, writing and numeracy skills.
- Strengthening Hispanic-Serving Institutions by investing $1 billion in public and private nonprofit colleges and universities with a student body that is at least 25 percent Latino.
- Strengthening Pell Grants, creating more affordable loans, and simplifying the financial aid application process.
While there will undoubtedly be at least a handful of right-wingers who accuse the Obama administration of pandering to minorities, helping Latinos raise their educational achievement should be a national priority. New Census figures show that Latinos comprise over 16 percent of the population and are the fastest growing minority group.
Juan Sepulveda, director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, points out that the number of Latinos in the U.S. has “grown so large that the future of the U.S. is inextricably linked to the future of the Latino community.” The Miami Herald noted that “Latinos are the largest minority group in America’s public education system, numbering more than 12.4 million in Pre-K through high school…nearly 22 percent, or one in five, of all Pre-K through 12 students enrolled in America’s public schools is Latino.”