UW official: Latino education a growing national priority
Among 15 distinguished professionals — most of them Latinos — recently tapped by the Obama Administration to help reverse troubling trends in the education of growing numbers of Latino students is Luis R. Fraga, a professor of political science at the University of Washington who also serves on the boards of OneAmerica and New Futures.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population, Latinos account for 1 of every 5 students enrolled in U.S. schools, and in less than five decades will make up a majority of the nation's labor force.
Yet they are at or near the bottom in educational attainment, at or near the top for dropping out of high school and less likely than other groups to obtain a college degree.
Among 15 distinguished professionals — most of them Latinos — recently appointed by President Obama to help reverse this trend is Luis R. Fraga, associate vice provost for faculty advancement and a professor of political science at the University of Washington.
Authorities have said the trend, if allowed to continue, could put the U.S. at a disadvantage in global competition, and Fraga says the answer is not simply to issue more reports.
"From the beginning, it was stated ... that we would not produce yet another report on causes and problems, that will sit on shelves untouched," said the native of Corpus Christi, Texas, who taught at Stanford University and the University of Notre Dame before coming to the UW.
"The future educational attainment of these families is indispensable to the economic growth, acquisition of job skills and global competitiveness of our entire country," he said. As members of the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, Fraga and the other 14 will work at least through Obama's first term, operating as part of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
The initiative was established under the first President Bush and renewed by every president since.
The commission is expected to establish priorities that ensure Latinos are integral to the investments being made in education across the country, said Fraga, who serves on the boards of OneAmerica, an immigrant advocacy group, and New Futures, which provides programs for families and children.
The presidential commission's efforts will cover all levels of education — K-12, college access and retention, and adult education.
As the nation's fastest-growing population group, Latinos number 50.5 million — 16 percent of the total population. They are mostly younger and represent a significant portion of the labor force.
In Washington, Latino students in K-12 increased 72 percent in 10 years, mirroring their growth rate statewide during that time. They now make up 18 percent of all students in the state.
Fraga said educational attainment for Latinos can't be achieved in a vacuum, and that any new strategies must also consider such areas as health care, nutrition and immigration.
Latinos, for example, make up the majority of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
Often, this lack of legal status is a barrier to college. And many who do obtain a degree then find themselves unable to put their training to any use in the U.S. economy.
Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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