Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Obama Cabinet 'Trickle Down' Effect

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Obama Cabinet 'Trickle Down' Effect

Article excerpt

Hispanic advocacy groups want President Barack Obama to increase Hispanic representation in government jobs, especially in education.

The federal government bills itself as a leader in employing minorities, with American Indians, Asians and Blacks all holding a larger share of federal jobs than in the civilian labor force.

The exception: Hispanics, with 7.8 percent of federal jobs in 2007, despite holding 13.3 percent of nonfederal jobs. Hispanics are even scarcer in the Department of Education, with just 4 percent of the jobs.

Hispanic groups want President Barack Obama to change that.

Even before Obama took office, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), an umbrella group of advocacy organizations, gave the transition team a scadiing report on Hispanic underrepresentation in the federal work force. It noted that two departments with the most critical shortages of Hispanic employees - education and health and human services - also oversee areas most critical to the community. Hispanics have the highest high school dropout and lowest college enrollment rates of any ethnic group and many are among the nation's uninsured.

The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) raised the issue in a Dec. 30 conference call with the transition team, noting there are no Hispanics in the Department of Education upper management ranks known as the Senior Executive Service, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

"Education is the cornerstone of social mobility in the nation, and the Department of Education is the lead agency nationwide to promote educational opportunity," HACU President Antonio Flores says. "We begin to wonder: why is our federal government excluding us from an agency that is so vital to the success of our community?"

Studies of the underrepresentation show Hispanics face extra barriers.

A General Accountability Office (GAO) report in 2006 said citizenship status and educational levels had the heaviest impact on Hispanic numbers. The U.S. government has a larger share of jobs requiring higher degrees than the nonfederal work force. Citing 2000 Census figures, it said 29 percent of federal jobs required professional degrees compared to 18 percent in the civilian labor force. When the report looked at Census data of adult U.S. citizens, it found Hispanics and American Indians had the lowest percentage of college degrees compared to any other ethnic group (15.4 percent).

The GAO report said 99.7 percent of executive branch employees are U.S. citizens, putting Hispanics at a disadvantage with me lowest rate of citizenship of any ethnic group, except for Asians, who had similar rates. The 2000 Census showed 65 percent of Hispanics were U.S. citizens.

The GAO report set off a firestorm among some groups that say it offered excuses to the federal government to not hire Hispanics. …

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