WASHINGTON At a Senate Democratic Hispanic Task Force meeting last week with national Latino advocates, co-chairmen Sen. Robert Menendez (NJ) and Sen. Ken Salazar (CO) renewed their commitment to address some of the most pressing education policy issues impacting the Latino community. This includes focusing on the needs of English language learners, continuing to support the Even Start program and tackling the disproportionate high school drop out rate and higher education enrollment rates of Latino students. With the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind imminent and other education proposals moving through Congress, Senate Democrats are working to ensure the needs of the Latino community are addressed.
“We must work hard so that the American Dream becomes a reality for our nation’s Latino youth.” Senator Robert Menendez said. “For Latino students, the picture looks troubling underperformance and high school drop out rates are staggering. That is why I am committed to improving and reauthorizing a bill that ensures no Latino student is left behind.”
“Unfortunately, too many of our young people are being left behind in our nation’s educational system,” said Senator Ken Salazar. “We must invest in the futures of all of our Nation’s youth and in particular our country’s Latino youth because it is such a quickly growing demographic. From Head Start to access to higher education and everything in between, we must work towards creating a system that ensures the success of all young people nationwide.”
Senators Edward Kennedy, Sherrod Brown, Ben Cardin, Jack Reed and Robert Casey also attended the meeting, as well as national Latino advocates from the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of major Latino advocacy groups that includes the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the National Puerto Rican Coalition.
The Hispanic Task Force is working to ensure that all students have the right to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to compete and succeed in a global economy. Nearly one in five K-12 students in the United States today is of Latino background, and that number is expected to increase to 25 percent by the year 2020.
Nationwide, about 1 in 3 high school students drops out of school, but among Latino students, the drop out rate is closer to 50 percent. Data also suggests that Latinos score well below non-Hispanic white students in subjects such as reading and math at both the fourth and eighth grade levels. Shockingly, by the end of high school, Latino students on average have math and reading skills that are comparable to white middle school students.
Even so, according to a study released by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, nearly 98 percent of Latino high school students say they want to attend college, and nearly 95 percent believe they will graduate from college.