March 18, 2005

Commentary:

President’s Budget Shortchanges Latino Students

By Congressman Rubén Hinojosa
Chair, CHC Education Task Force

Do you pack a lunch for your children in the morning and then watch them as they make their way to school? All parents want the best for their child and hope that the future holds bountiful opportunities for success. Unfortunately, it is a grim reality that less than 60 percent of Latino students receive a high school diploma and less than 10 percent a college degree. As if the obstacles weren’t tough enough, now President Bush is proposing severe budget cuts that will slash many educational programs that assist thousands of students, from preschool through college. These cuts will be extremely harmful to the Latino community; making it more difficult for our youth to graduate and succeed in a high-tech, information society.

Consider the programs slated for elimination in the President’s budget:

• Dropout Prevention: The President has recommended zero funding for dropout prevention every year since taking office.

• GEAR-UP, Upward Bound and Talent Search: These programs ensure that high-risk students succeed in high school and move on to college. 1.3 million students — 70 percent of whom are minorities — will lose the support they need to make it to college.

• Safe and Drug-Free Schools: No federal funds will be allocated to ensure safety and to reduce drug abuse in our schools.

• The Carl Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act: The President has proposed to dismantle the primary federal education program that supports secondary schools and connects education to careers.

• Perkins Loans: The President’s budget eliminates the nation’s first student financial aid program.

• Even Start: This program integrates early childhood education, adult literacy, and parenting education into a unified family literacy program. Currently, 50,000 families are served under Even Start — 23,000 of these families are Latino.

Despite the rhetoric, the President’s budget will leave many children behind by eliminating or cutting funding for programs that assist parents and students in their quest for an excellent education, the foundation of the American dream. The President’s budget cuts Education Department funding below this year’s level. Furthermore, he shortchanges his signature legislative accomplishment, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) by $12 billion. Since NCLB was signed into law, President Bush has underfunded it by $39 billion.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus continues to fight for education funding focusing on a group of Federal education programs that are critical to the Hispanic community. These programs include Title I of the No Child Left Behind Act, bilingual education, migrant education, dropout prevention, the High School Equivalency Program (HEP), the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), TRIO, GEAR UP, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Adult English as a Second Language and civics education. We call these programs the Hispanic Education Action Plan. Since the Bush Administration’s initial budget in fiscal year 2001, we have seen minimal or no growth in these critical programs, with the White House annually proposing to eliminate or cut funding for most of them. This year is no exception.

The President has never submitted a budget requesting an increase for bilingual education. The President proposes $676 million for the over 5.1 million English language learners in our schools — a cut of $7 million from just 2 years ago.

The White House slashes funding for Adult Education, which provides literacy, English as a Second Language, and high school equivalency to adult learners across the country. Latinos who benefit from these programs are the parents of the school children targeted in No Child Left Behind. Raising the level of educational attainment for the parents lifts the entire family. Yet, the President proposes to reduce this program by two-thirds, a cut of $370 million.

It is time for the Administration to be held accountable for the No Child Left Behind Act and the failure to make education, especially for the Latino community, a true national priority. You, my friends, must also take it upon yourselves to improve your lives and the lives of your family members, especially now when our future is being threatened.

Do something, however simple or small you may think it: write a letter to your local newspaper stating how these budgets cuts will affect your life; call your Congressional representative (many have Spanish-speaking staff members who can listen to your concerns); and most importantly, stay informed. Visit your local library or visit the Congressional Hispanic Caucus website at http://www.napolitano.house.gov/chc/. We will be posting information on issues important to the Latino community and resources available to you.

During the campaign trail, President Bush pushed hard to make inroads with Latino voters. Now it is the duty of all of us to make sure no one takes our vote or our voice for granted.

Letters to the Editor Return to the Frontpage