Photo: Hispanic Education Task Force Meeting
Today the Senate Democratic Hispanic Task Force discussed the state of education for Latinos, within the context of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). One out of every five K-12 students in the United States is Latino, and their success is critical to the competitive future of this country.
Senator Robert Menendez, Chair of the Hispanic Task Force, convened a group of Latino education leaders from across the country and 11 Senate Democrats to discuss how this law impacts Hispanic students, and how specific provisions of the law should be revised to better address these students’ needs. Among the issues discussed were:
· The need to improve accountability and student success rates, given that only 55% of Latino students graduate high school on time.
· Meeting the needs of English language learners, who comprise almost half of the Hispanic student population (45%).
· Addressing teacher quality and parental involvement
· Closing the achievement gap between White and Latino students, which has remained largely unchanged since 1977.
“As someone who benefitted from our nation’s public education system, I cannot emphasize enough how important the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is to this country. It is in our national interest to ensure Latino students are given the resources and support system they need to be successful, given that the recent census showed that today one in five children are Hispanic and not too long from now, one in three students will be Hispanic,” said Senator Menendez. As Chair of the Senate Democratic Hispanic Task Force, I am committed to working with my colleagues to ensure this legislation addresses the unique challenges faced by the Hispanic community.”
Nine community leaders and senators participated in the meeting, including Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Michael Bennet –former superintendent of the Denver Public Schools—Sen. Tom Harkin, Chair of the Health Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Also present were Thomas Saenz, President of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF); Lillian Rodriguez-Lopez, President of the Hispanic Federation. A complete list of participants can be found at the end of the release.
“I commend the Senate Democratic Hispanic Task Force and Chairman Sen. Menendez for tackling the important issue of education. The growing number of Hispanic children in our school system and the alarming educational achievement gap calls for urgent changes to help us better serve the needs of these students, which in turn, will strengthen our nation,” said Reid. “I remain committed to continue working alongside my fellow Task Force members to ensure that all students get the education they need so that our schools are producing a workforce that can compete in the global economy.”
“We can no longer allow for a child’s zip code to determine the quality of education they receive,” said Bennet. “With the reauthorization of ESEA, we have the opportunity to fix our system of public schools so that every child, regardless of who they are or where they live, has the chance for a quality, competitive education that prepares them for success in the 21st century.”