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Report Highlights Latino Education Concerns

by Associated Press and DIVERSE staff

DENVER

Education is a key issue to Hispanic Americans, according to a preliminary report released at the Democratic National Convention by groups hoping to bring attention to the concerns of the nation’s fastest-growing minority.

The report, “The State of Latinos 2008: Defining an Agenda for the Future,” calls for the creation a presidential advisory commission to propose solutions to the most pressing issues affecting Hispanic residents of the United States.

The full report, commissioned by Azteca America, a Spanish-language TV network, and Fundacion Azteca America and produced by the University of

Denver’s Latino Center for Community Engagement and Scholarship (DULCCES), includes policy recommendations for the next Presidential administration and Congress. It will be presented to members of Congress during a televised forum in Washington, D.C.  on September 23.

“We’re looking forward to presenting the findings and policy recommendations to the camps of both Republican and Democratic candidates, as well as to key members of Congress and other policy makers in September,” said Luis J. Echarte, chairman of Azteca America and Fundacion Azteca America. “A stronger Latino community means a stronger nation as a whole. It’s time to take the next step from diagnosis to action.”

The report focuses on five issues of importance to the Latino community: education, health care, the economy, immigration and the Latino vote, the group said.

Among the general findings, the authors said, were that Latino communities want to be self-sufficient and contribute to the U.S. society but  face major challenges in accessing quality education, health care, and economic services. The study found that a lack of comprehensive immigration reform widened disparities and limited the future progress of the Latino community and the nation.

Echarte said the network and foundation commissioned the study because “the issue of immigration is very important, but it’s not the only issue that concerns the Latino community.”

Echarte said research shows the high-school dropout rate among Hispanics is more than twice that of African American students and more than three times greater than for non-Hispanic White students. One solution would be to create a more bilingual and culturally relevant education system for Hispanics with more Hispanic teachers who can be role models for students, Echarte said.

On health care, the document found that about six of 10 Hispanic families in the U.S. do not have health insurance.

Researchers also found that although Hispanics make up about 15 percent of the U.S. population, about 9 percent of eligible Hispanic voters are registered to vote and only 6.5 percent do vote. Echarte said Azteca is trying to increase political awareness among Hispanic Americans, who often do not seek U.S. citizenship after obtaining permanent residency status and doubt that their votes as citizens would count anyway. He said others may be unaware that they do not have to rescind citizenship from their native country if they became naturalized in the U.S.

“Latinos have so much to offer and so much potential, but they keep facing these consistent barriers,” said Maria del Carmen Salazar, one of the study’s authors, who is an assistant professor at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.

Salazar and faculty at DU’s Center for Community Engagement and Scholarship used information from the U.S. Census and national research documents by the Pew Hispanic Center and other institutions to compile the report. Research topics were selected by the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute, the National Council of La Raza, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials and other groups.

For more information, log on to http://www.fundacionaztecaamerica.org/  or http://www.du.edu/



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