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State of Latinos in Education summit focuses on transformational change

Call to lead the charge with educators and community leaders at the helm


WASHINGTON - November 19, 2010 -

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the National Education Association (NEA), and the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI) hosted a summit for members of the United States Council on Latino Affairs (USCLA). The two-day State of Latinos in Education summit focused on identifying the best practices, policies and programs to boost the academic achievement of Latino students.

USCLA is made up of directors of Latino affairs commissions and agencies in 24 states. Its goal is to promote the Latino community’s priorities at the national level and to identify potential best practices for the agencies and programs each director represents.

After robust deliberations about the challenges and opportunities facing Latinos today, participants at the education summit left energized and ready to lead efforts to transform public schools to more effectively meet the needs of all students, regardless of background, race, ethnicity or immigration status.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis addressed the summit, along with Janet Murguia, president and the chief executive officer of the National Council of La Raza, and Tom Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund.

“We are delighted that we could co-host the 2010 summit on the State of Latinos in Education” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Our country will be a far better place when we spend the time, energy and effort ensuring that all our Latino students have the opportunity to dream their dreams and achieve them. This means taking a holistic approach to addressing their needs both inside and outside of school, from cradle to career. It’s also going to take all stakeholders working together and taking shared responsibility, much as we have done in this summit.”

Today about one out of every five public school students—10 million children—are Hispanic, and approximately half of them also are English Language Learners. That means in 12 years—16 if college is taken into account—20 percent of the national workforce will be Latinos who vote, pay taxes, raise families, run for office and create businesses. Yet they are the least educated of all major ethnic groups.  Poverty, lack of access to high quality preschool, low levels of parental education and inadequately funded schools are some of the challenges facing this community.

“Working together, we can open a world of opportunities for the Latino students in our public schools,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Educators, families, and community leaders must better engage and support these students, keep them on a path to graduation, and keep their expectations high as they consider college and careers. The energy and perspectives of these young people promise a rich addition to our democracy and to our future economic success.”

NEA is stepping up to the challenge with its Priority Schools Campaign, the Association’s effort to transform persistently low-performing schools into great public schools for all students. The NEA Priority Schools campaign, now underway in 14 states, includes several states with significant Latino populations: California, Nevada, and Colorado.

Those attending the summit recognized that rapidly changing demographics, combined with the growing pressures from a global economy, will require major changes in policy both at the state and local levels. With the economy still in a slump, they noted that states will have to fight the temptation to balance their budgets on the backs of students and working families.  

“It is important that leaders at all levels—local, state and national—be engaged in the struggle to improve the quality of education in America,” said Dr. Juan Andrade, president of the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute. “To be competitive in a rapidly and complex world, America must summon the collective will of all sectors to ensure that our schools are places where all students can learn what they need in order to succeed in a global society.”

The summit comes on the heels of an election in which Hispanic voters were credited for playing a key role in some especially tight races. This political fact was front and center in the minds of the participants during their deliberations. In Nevada, Hispanic voters were credited with delivering a political victory to Sen. Harry Reid against a candidate who came across as decidedly unsympathetic to Hispanics. Similarly, in California and Colorado, Hispanic voters helped winning candidates who pledged to fix the broken immigration system, strengthen public education and jumpstart the stalled economy.

“The United States Council on Latino Affairs is thrilled to have the opportunity to discuss the serious challenges facing Latino communities throughout the United States,” said José Ibarra, who chairs the U. S. Council on Latino Affairs and the Oregon Commission on Hispanic Affairs. “Even though we have experienced a great deal of progress, it is obvious that more needs to be done. USCLA stands ready to work with the AFT, NEA, and USHLI to address the challenges facing our Latino students locally, drawing upon the models of success and best practices from the national level.”

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About the American Federation of Teachers
The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.

About The National Education Association
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.

About the United States Council on Latino Affairs
The United States Council on Latino Affairs is composed of fellow directors of Latino Affairs commissions and agencies representing different states of the Union.  The purpose of the USCLA is to foster camaraderie and friendship among the fellows, to promote Latino community priorities at the national level, and identify potential best practices for the agencies and programs each fellow represents.

About the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute
The mission of the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute is to fulfill the promises and principles of democracy by empowering minorities and similarly disenfranchised groups and by maximizing civic awareness and participation in the electoral process.

CONTACTS:  Miguel A. Gonzalez (NEA) (202) 822-7823, mgonzalez@nea.org 
                               Cynthia Garza (AFT) (202) 879-4447, cgarza@aft.org