A bit of good news for Latinos:
“More Latinos are graduating from high school than they were nearly a decade ago, according to a new study by the U.S. Department of Education.
According to the report done by the National Center for Education Statistics, Hispanic students graduated at a rate of 71 percent in 2010. That is a striking jump from 2006, when the rate was 61 percent.
The national rate is 78 percent and the rate for white students is 83 percent. African Americans have the lowest rate at 66 percent while Asians graduated at a rate of 93 percent. …
‘The trends are hopeful but our high school dropout rate is still unsustainably high and it’s untenable in many of our African-American and Latino communities,’ [Secretary of Education Arne Duncan] said. ‘We have a long way to go here.’ “
While it’s true that Latino students are working harder in school, Sec. Duncan explained that graduation rates tend to rise during economic slumps like the one we’re currently muddling our way through. Back when the economy was roaring, kids could afford to drop out and find work without a high school diploma. Not so anymore.
Janell Ross over at HuffPo reports that the Latino population in California now equals that of the state’s non-Latino white population (both at 39 percent) and that Latinos are expected to become the largest ethnic group in California by the end of 2013.
The trend is not unique to California, of course, as most states in the Union are expected to become minority-majority in the next few decades. In fact, the United States will be a minority-majority country no later than 2050, predicts former head of the U.S. Census Bureau Steve Murdock. (This means that labeling Latinos as a “minority” will soon be an anachronism.)
As Latinos become a larger slice of the American pie, Latino education will increasingly become a major issue for all Americans, as it concerns the health and vitality of the nation.
As Murdock tells HuffPo:
“Education has been the coin of the realm, if you will, in America. Meaning historically, it is the way that you progress, how groups come along. I think the extent to which we invest in the education of Latinos and our newest immigrant populations become fully engaged in our economy will depend a great deal on how we provide schools and other services that these children need. That’s what will determine if the country remains competitive or not.”
Julian Vasquez Heilig, assistant professor of education policy and planning at the University of Texas, stresses the point that lower education spending and failures at education reform at the state level have disproportionately affected Latinos in states where their population is on the climb.
In Texas, where Latinos are expected to be in the majority by 2020, state legislators cut more than $5 billion from the K-12 education budget.
“If the student growth in Texas had been white kids,” Vasquez Heilig said, “I do not believe that the legislature would have cut $5.4 billion from our school budget. I believe personally that there is a racial dynamic to funding in our schools. … I know that’s controversial but I’m saying it. We know for sure that race and politics are inextricably linked.”
Yet despite the obstacles — or perhaps in spite of them — Latino students appear unphased.
In some more good news, it was reported earlier this month that Latinos are now the largest group applying to the University of California.
Latinos will continue to face challenges as they become more and more integral to the American fabric. But as long as we teach the next generation the virtues of good citizenship and a good education, the only major stumbling block that can hinder our progress is our own indifference and hesitation.
Latinos are going to become the largest ethnic group in America, and we must be prepared to capitalize on that new reality.