Recent reports suggest that Hispanic-Americans, in contrast to Non-Hispanics, list education as a major policy concern when ranking the issues. Right behind jobs and the economy, most Hispanic-Americans indicate that they are concerned about the state and quality of their children’s education. This should not be surprising, as various studies illustrate that a rather large achievement gap exists between Non-Hispanic Whites and Hispanics, as well as African-Americans. Many Hispanic parents feel that without greater resources and the ability to choose from among a multitude of decent schools (not just failing ones in poor neighborhoods), the opportunity for their children to attain far more than they ever did is slipping out of reach, along with the American Dream.
Yesterday, Presidential candidate Mitt Romney outlined how his education policy would move the nation forward and thus make America one of the most competitive countries in the world again. Claiming in front of an audience of Hispanic-American small business leaders in D.C. that American children were receiving a “third-world education,” Gov. Romney stated that President Obama’s policy of supporting teacher’s unions over the needs of American students was deepening the existing educational crisis. “I believe the president must be troubled by the lack of progress since he took office. Most likely, he would have liked to do more. But the teachers unions are one of the Democrats’ biggest donors – and one of the president’s biggest campaign supporters. So, President Obama has been unable to stand up to union bosses – and unwilling to stand up for kids,” Romney said. Yet another study indicates that Hispanic-Americans strongly favor school choice and school vouchers. Oftentimes trapped in a cycle of limited school choice, Hispanic parents jump at the opportunity to provide their children with a better quality education. Governor Romney highlighted how President Obama has continually failed to meet the demands of parents and students. What these studies also reveal is the need to treat Hispanic-Americans as the informed citizens that they are, and not take for granted that they are paying attention and voting on many of the same issues important to Non-Hispanic Americans. This is not a population defined by immigration, though that is usually the message and image that the media likes to project (and in turn, confine Hispanics to).
Quality of education may well be one of the defining issues of our time. Without an informed and well-educated citizenry, everything from our democracy, economy, and our inherent stability as a society is in jeopardy. With the Hispanic-American population growing at the exponential rate that it is, and given how incredibly young this population is in comparison to other ethnic and racial groups in the US, it is even more critical that we provide our nation’s young Hispanic-Americans with the tools that they will need as future leaders and entrepreneurs. Though there has been a steady decline in the Hispanic high school dropout rate, that alone does not serve as a marker for success or indicate that the quality of education students receive has improved. Very much linked to Hispanic students and their educational success is financial stability in the home. Oftentimes, many Hispanic-American students drop out because of a need to support their families and provide for them financially. Thus, a more secure economic situation will likely lead to fewer students dropping out and perpetuating the cycle of poverty within the Hispanic community. Overall, Governor Romney is right to call out the President on his refusal to support school choice, as this policy would ultimately increase the Hispanic-American community’s access to better quality schools and serve as a way out of the cycle of poverty.
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