By Pablo Jaime Sáinz
Experts at a recent educational forum agreed that Latino students in the San Diego Unified School District are trailing behind their White counterparts.
The forum, which took place at the Jacobs Center on Saturday, May 14, highlighted several key academic areas where Latino students are lacking the same opportunities than other ethnic groups, although Latinos make up more than 50 percent of the total student population in San Diego City Schools.
“The education gap for our children is widening: It is not getting better,” said former State Senator Gloria Romero, who currently serves as State Director of the Democrats for Education Reform. “Many of our children are trapped in underperforming schools. We´re far behind.”
Romero was at the forum to encourage Latino parents to get more involved in their children’s education, and to make their voices be heard to create positive change in the schools.
“Listen to the statistics. Make a commitment as a parent that you’re going to be active,” she said during her speech.
The forum, which was sponsored by La Prensa San Diego and the Mexican-American Business and Professional Association (MABPA), was attended by about 200 people, including parents, and students.
“You being here tells me that you’re a leader in your community, in your school,” Dan Muñoz, editor of La Prensa San Diego, told the crowd.
The main goal of the forum was “to openly and candidly discuss the Latino condition in San Diego Unified,” organizers said in a statement.
Dr. Alberto Ochoa, a long-time Latino educational leader and a professor at San Diego State University, said that San Diego schools are more segregated now than in the past.
“There are significant differences in terms of quality for different groups of students,” said Ochoa, who is on the school district superintendent’s Latino advisory committee. “Most our children are English-language learners and they do not receive effective instruction.”
Romero echoed his comments against segregation: “Separate means unequal.”
Aremi López, from the Association of Raza Educators, said that “education is a basic human right. Many of our students are not going to college: They are going into the prisons.”
The majority of the students enrolled in San Diego City Schools are Latinos, but due to factors such as language and cultural barriers, sometimes they are the ones who are left behind, according to a Latina principal in the district.
“Unfortunately, historically the district hasn’t done justice to these students,” said Consuelo Manriquez, principal at the School of the Arts at San Diego High School, said at a recent interview. “I don’t see Latino students, as a group, moving forward. In fact, they haven’t moved forward whatsoever.”
The main message in the forum was that parents need to organize and speak up, to create change in the schools.
“Change begins with you, the parents. You are the first teachers of your children,” Romero said.
Romero said that discrimination shouldn’t exist in education.
“Education is what makes us equal,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what’s the color of their skin, what accent they speak English with, what side of the street they live in. Our children can learn and will learn if given the opportunity to excel.”