The White House on Sept. 13 issued an executive order to advance educational equity, excellence and economic opportunity for Hispanics.
Included in the text of the order is the fact that Hispanic students continue to be underrepresented in advanced courses in math and science, and that they can face language challenges in the classroom. Only 40% of Hispanic children participate in preschool education programs compared to 53 percent of their white peers, so they’re already behind when they start kindergarten.
A lack of creativity in the K-12 traditional education system when it comes to students for whom English is a second language has contributed to poor learning outcomes. Only 19% of Hispanic adults have at least a bachelor’s degree compared with 1 in 3 adults overall, and just 6% have completed graduate or professional degree programs compared with 13% of adults overall.
While the executive order is a step in the right direction, RealClear Opinion Research polling in fall 2019 showed that when asked if they could select any type of school for their child, 70% of families selected a school other than their zoned public school. Polling from Beck Research conducted in January 2021 showed that 71% of Hispanics either strongly favor or somewhat favor school choice.
Leaders in the education community need to pay attention to what families want, because as the executive order relates, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed many inequalities that already existed among Hispanic students and families. The pandemic opened parents’ eyes, and now. Now more than ever, families not only want school choice; they need it.
The order falls short in that it fails to address ways families can access a school that meets the individual needs of their children if the schools they currently attend fail to do so. If we already know that access to a high-quality education and a fair shot at the American dream is hampered by systematic inequity, I believe we should be looking at how traditional school systems promote these inequities.
We need to give families options and have zero-tolerance for failing district schools in areas with a high population of students of color that have been doing a poor job for generations and failing the same communities this executive order aims to reach.
Let me be clear. The Hispanic community is tired of waiting for the traditional education system to improve and work efficiently. We are tired of being used for anyone’s political agenda. Indeed, we would like to see immediate solutions that won’t take years to implement. A child gets only one shot at a proper, quality education.