Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

President's Hispanic Education Commission Releases Report

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

President's Hispanic Education Commission Releases Report

Article excerpt

The long-awaited report by the President's

Commission on Educational Excellence for

Hispanic Americans was finally released last

month with few surprises and a grim picture for

both Latinos and the nation.

In assessing the status of Latinos in

education, Alfred Ramirez, executive director of

the commission, states: "We have a crisis on our

hands."

In a letter to President Clinton, Dr. Ana

Margarita Guzman, chair of the commission,

which was founded in 1994 and was twice

hampered by efforts to eliminate it by Congress,

wrote: "The bridge to the 21st century for this

country will not be

built without equity in education for

Hispanic Americans -- that is, without

`leveling the playing field' for all who are

a part of the educational system."

The commission worries that, with block

grant funding to states, the shift away from

federal mandates will mean that Latino issues will

continue to be ignored and enforcement of

federal laws and initiatives will "be specious at

best." There is the fear that Latino students will

suffer as a result of locally hostile judicial and

legislative climates against people of color -- particularly

on issues such as immigration,

language and affirmative action,

"With block grant funding and local

decision-making, there could be more

inequities," says Ramirez. "The whole

purpose of establishing federal civil rights

laws and Supreme Court decisions was

because the states and local districts were

ignoring the law and not treating people of

color in an equal manner."

Some states, such as California, have

already targeted immigrants legal and

illegal. In an era of shrinking budgets and

smaller government, other states may

follow suit. Chances are also likely that

some states and local districts will attempt

to do away with bilingual education.

Ramirez said that while the

commission found many things that people

already know, they have essentially "put it

all under one roof." Additionally, he said,

in meeting the objectives of the executive

order that created the commission, "this

isn't even the first step. It's an entry point."

The purpose of the commission is "to

remove the barriers and inequalities to

education for Latinos and to

increase federal participation and outreach

to Latinos," according to Ramirez. "The

importance of the commission is that it's

the only [federal] initiative dedicated

completely to Hispanics in this

administration. One of the things we found

out is that if you're not at the door, you're an

afterthought or listened to less often."

As to the distribution of federal dollars

intended for Latinos: "We're sorely behind,"

says Ramirez. "We're not talking about new

dollars. We're talking about the equitable

distribution of existing dollars."

In general, the commission found that:

Latinos attend segregated schools with "an

intolerable amount" enrolled below grade level;

they have the highest dropout rate in the

country; few go to college and fewer graduate.

While the college population of Latinos

increased from 5.3 percent in 1985 to 8.5

percent in 1993, the total proportion of

bachelor's degrees for Latinos has risen at a

slower pace -- from 3.5 percent in 1985 to 4.9

percent 1993. Latinos currently comprise more

than 10 percent of the U.S. population.

Additionally, literacy levels for adults

remain low and less than 15 percent of Latinos

enroll their children in preschool programs. …

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