By Monica Garcia
This week an important event in our nation’s capital brought together experts to examine this problem: Although education is the key to our future success as a country and the cornerstone of our democracy, we have allowed our students to fall behind. This has never been truer for Latino students. Educational opportunities for Latino students — who comprise over a fifth of the nation’s school children — are being disproportionately affected by this crisis in America.
The sixth-annual NALEO National Summit on the State of Latino Education was a three-day summit that provided a framework for tackling the pressing policy and governance challenges facing education leaders across the country. Participants got access to leading education experts from the public, private and non-profit sectors, and engaged in structured discussions on topics of national consequence in this new era of American education.
While my day job keeps me busy as the Board President of the Los Angeles Unified School District, our nation’s second-largest public school system, I committed to being in Washington as a key member of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) National Task Force on Education. I am passionate about ensuring that Latino students are part of the public policy debate around the renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), more commonly known as the “No Child Left Behind” law. As the only national, bipartisan education coalition of Latino policymakers in the country, our members serve in public office as school board members, state superintendents, higher education system leaders and state legislators, representing a broad cross-section of the leadership of the Latino education community. We are committed to ensuring that Latino student achievement is a central focus of the national education reform agenda.
The educational attainment of our students is a precondition for the nation’s future growth, economic development and ability to compete in a global economy. Our Taskforce firmly believes that in order for the President to reach his ambitious goal of five million new college graduates by 2020, we must ensure that more Latino students attain their high school diplomas and enroll in college. The ESEA reauthorization could provide the Administration a critical policy vehicle for addressing the increasing gap for Latino students. We met in Washington, reminding policymakers that their solutions must include Latino students and that the Latino community is a partner in the effort to make schools work for children and families. We have expectations that together we can change the course of our schools, our cities, our states and this nation. Our children and nation are waiting.
Mónica García was elected to the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education in June 2006, becoming the third Latina to serve on the Board in its 155 year history. As a board member, she gives voice to the hundreds of thousands of children and families that rely on education for access to good jobs, healthcare and a sustainable quality of life.