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Influential educator lends voice to strengthening education in Hispanic community

NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen and Hispanic leaders discuss possible solutions


WASHINGTON - September 08, 2008 -

National Education Association Vice President Lily Eskelsen today urged hundreds of Hispanic business, community and political leaders to continue working together to deliver on the promise of great public schools for every student. Eskelsen delivered the opening luncheon address at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Public Policy Conference, an annual event that brings together leaders to address issues affecting the Hispanic community.

"I say it as someone who loves this country for the opportunity it has provided to millions of people from all corners of the world," said NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen. "And I say it as someone who is committed to making sure that the door of opportunity stays open. That's why NEA's vision is a great public school for every child-no matter what zip code they live in, how much money their parents have, or what language they speak."

Eskelsen is one of the highest ranking labor leaders in the United States and one of its most influential Hispanic educators. Recounting her experience, she said, "I started my career working in a public school lunchroom. A week ago, I became the vice president of the largest professional organization in the United States."

Hispanics are changing the composition of cities and states from coast-to-coast and influencing all segments of American life. They have become the largest minority group in the U.S. and that growth is reflected in America's public schools. About 20 percent of public school students-10 million children-are Hispanics. Half of these children are English Language Learners.

"But for many of these children, language is not the only barrier to learning," said Eskelsen. "They also struggle in school because of cultural differences and poverty. We can't keep that door open without public education."

Drawing a contrast with the current debate in education and elsewhere regarding the growing number of English Language Learners, she said, "instead of punishing these students because of their background and culture, we must help them make the most of their opportunities. Instead of pointing a finger at those who are struggling, we must lend a helping hand."

Eskelsen outlined the Association's unprecedented initiative to help educators who teach English Language Learners. The effort encompasses developing a specific curriculum and the appropriate pedagogy to help these students learn and thrive in a 21st century world. She also called for strengthening public education by providing quality pre K programs, reducing school dropout rates, and expanding the teaching profession to include more great Hispanic teachers in America's classrooms. 

For additional information, please visit http://www.nea.org/

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers

CONTACT: Miguel A. Gonzalez,  (202) 822-7823