LatinaLista — The last two sentences in the opening paragraph that introduces the Pew Hispanic Center’s latest report Between Two Worlds: How Young Latinos Come of Age in America should have everyone sitting on the edge of their seats.
Never before in this country’s history has a minority ethnic group made up so large a share of the youngest Americans. By force of numbers alone, the kinds of adults these young Latinos become will help shape the kind of society America becomes in the 21st century.
Those lines are significant because it’s Latino/a youth who comprise the largest share of high school dropouts, teen pregnancies, have a personal knowledge of a gang or someone who is in a gang, less likely to pursue college, work in a low-skilled job, etc.
Rather than take this information as a doomsday prediction for this country, this reports enables, not just the Latino community, but local school districts, colleges, state governments and Congress to know where to take action now before the nation reaches a crisis point for having an undereducated majority populace.
Hopefully, this report can be used to validate the warning bells that are being sounded now and programs that state governments are trying to get off the ground but are being met with resistance from segments who don’t see why money should be spent on Latino children or why there is such an urgency.
For example, one of the findings of the report was:
Latinos make up about 18% of all youths in the U.S. ages 16 to 25. However, their share is far higher in a number of states. They make up 51% of all youths in New Mexico, 42% in California, 40% in Texas, 36% in Arizona, 31% in Nevada, 24% in Florida, and 24% in Colorado.
In New Mexico, Governor Bill Richardson recognized that the Latino youth in his state seriously lagged academically behind their peers. So, he declared that Hispanic education was a legislative priority.
The New Mexico Hispanic Education Act proposed by Richardson would be modeled after the state’s Indian Education Act. It would include “language, culture, unity, community and parental involvement accountability, and student outcomes or impact on students.”
However, Richardson has been getting pushback from his state legislators who feel that the public schools are already addressing these issues.
Even if the schools are, the numbers of how wide the achievement gap is between Latino students and their peers should be enough proof to state legislators that either the students aren’t receiving the instruction or the teachers may not be taking the necessary time to ensure that Latino students excel enough to achieve higher academically.
In another area that addresses education, many prominent Latino academicians have written to warn US society that something is happening with young Latino males.
Dr. Luis Ponjuan and Dr. Victor Saenz wrote a study that was published in January 2009 entitled The Vanishing Latino Male in Higher Education.
Dr. Ponjuan characterizes this issue as a “crisis” within the Latino community and he and his colleague have been traveling around the country to try to get financial support to create programs that specifically target young Latino males.
While initial reception to their analysis has been encouraging, they find themselves having to explain the urgency for action and the implications for the crisis over and over.
It’s a message that hasn’t been delivered in Connecticut yet. In Connecticut, the governor is battling Latino legislators because the governor wants to trim the state budget by making a 25 percent cut precisely to those programs that service the state’s Latino youth and prenatal care.
As it stands now, current funding for Latino-based programming is less than one percent of the state budget.
“We can’t afford these cuts,” Carmen Sierra, executive director of CAUSA, the nonprofit Connecticut Association for United Spanish Action, said, charging that if the governor went into the communities, she would see the important work being done. “If they continue cutting the youth program, we’re going to have more crime.”