may 2011

House Education Bill Comes Under Criticism

House Education Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) has introduced the State and Local Funding Flexibility Act (H.R. 2445) in order “to give schools the flexibility they need to innovate and best serve the needs of their students”.  The bill would provide states and school districts maximum flexibility in the use of education funds so that states and local school districts have the ability to use federal dollars on education programs that best serve the needs of their students.

However, LULAC, The Education Trust, and other advocates have called this a dangerous proposal that puts at risk the educational security of disadvantaged students.  Critics argue the bill would eviscerate anti-poverty mandates found in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  The House proposal would dismantle many of the rules within ESEA that directs federal funding to groups of disadvantaged students by allowing states and districts to take money out of an array of programs governed by the ESEA – including Title I grants for disadvantaged children – and direct the money to other purposes that they believe will do the most to improve student achievement.

Ranking Member George Miller of California argued that the measure would create "a slush fund that would allow [districts and states] to ignore the needs of poor and minority students. ... This legislation would allow school districts to siphon away money specifically intended for these students and instead use that targeted funding for nearly any other activity" allowed under ESEA.

The measure, part of a move to begin reauthorizing the ESEA piecemeal, cleared the House committee approved on a party-line vote. 

Pew Study Finds Recession Hit Hispanics the Hardest

The New York Times reports Hispanic families accounted for the largest single decline in wealth of any ethnic and racial group in the country during the recession, according to a study published by the Pew Research Center.  The report, which used data collected by the Census Bureau, found that the median wealth of Hispanic households fell by 66 percent from 2005 to 2009.  By contrast, the median wealth of whites fell by just 16 percent over the same period.  African Americans saw their wealth drop by 53 percent.  Asians also saw a big decline, with household wealth dropping 54 percent.

The declines have led to the largest wealth disparities in the 25 years that the bureau has been collecting the data, according to the report.  Median wealth of whites is now 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households, double the already marked disparities that had prevailed in the decades before the recent recession, the study found.

Latino GOP Candidates Finding Success, Support

NPR reports that since 2006, the number of Hispanic Democratic officeholders has shrunken by nearly 2 percent. Meanwhile, the number of Hispanic Republicans in office has increased 22.5 percent.  In terms of sheer numbers, elected Latino Democrats still outnumber elected Latino Republicans by an 11-to-1 margin, according to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO).  However, GOP Latino candidates have found a particular brand of victory.

“Hispanic Republican candidates have been especially successful in the kind of targeted, high-profile elections – for Congress and governor – that could influence the 2012 presidential contest.  And in statewide offices, Republican Latinos now outnumber Democrats.

“In 2006, Democrats held a 6-to-1 edge over Republicans among all Latinos holding statewide office.  Today, Republicans hold a 5-to-3 advantage, boosted by the 2010 elections of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.”

In an indirect response, Maria Teresa Kumar, Executive Director of Voto Latino, provides some guidance to President Obama and the Democratic party on how to win the Latino vote.  Her “Five Ideas” include: 1. Rebuild the Voter Registration Infrastructure; 2. Challenge the Voter ID Laws; 3. Call the Republican Bluff on Immigration; 4. Stop Deportations [partially achieved]; 5. [Give another] Big Speech.

Immigration Update

State DREAM Acts have seen a dramatic turn of events in the past month.  Senator Iris Martinez (IL), NHCSL President, was Chief co-sponsor of Illinois' new DREAM-Act legislation, speaking on the floor and lobbying with her republican colleagues to help pass in the senate a bill that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law on August 1st giving undocumented Illinois students access to private scholarships for college.  The Illinois DREAM Act also allows those students to enroll in state-run college savings programs.  Governor Quinn called the new law "landmark" legislation.

The DREAM Act as passed by the Illinois House and Senate sets up a public commission to raise money from private donors.  There will be no taxpayer dollars used to fund the scholarships.  The governor's office estimates that 21 percent of all the students attending Illinois public schools are Latino and a large percentage of them live in homes where one or more parents is an undocumented immigrant.

At the end of July, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Golden State’s version of the DREAM Act and easing access to privately funded financial aid for undocumented college students.  According to news reports, the governor also signaled that he was likely to back a more controversial measure allowing those students to seek state-funded tuition aid in the future.

In Maryland where the state has faced legal blocks to its DREAM Act, advocates including a group of students and an immigrant advocacy group have filed suit in Annapolis against the Maryland State Board of Elections for verifying what they say were thousands of invalid signatures.  Lawyers representing nine plaintiffs, including two illegal immigrants and the advocacy group, CASA de Maryland, said many of the signatures were invalid because the voter information on the forms was filled in by a computer program linked to the state’s voter database, and not by the voter, as required under Maryland law.  A court date has not been set.

Also on August 1st, the Obama administration sued to block enforcement of Alabama's new immigration law, widely considered to be the toughest measure in the United States to try to crack down on illegal immigrants.  The law, known as H.B. 56, was signed by Republican Governor Robert Bentley in June and is due to take effect on September 1. Civil rights groups brought a separate lawsuit challenging the law about a month ago.

The Obama administration also recently announced a new immigration policy changing the Department of Homeland Security’s deportation approach.   DHS will do a case-by-case review of deportations, allowing many undocumented immigrants without criminal records to stay in the United States indefinitely and apply for work permits.  The policy change is meant as a framework to help prevent non-priority undocumented immigrants from "clogging the system”. 

Finally in Georgia, a Cuban born immigrant has become the new face of the American DreamAlex Marcelo is set to become the first Hispanic owner of an NBA team if his agreement to purchase a majority share of the Atlanta Hawks is approved by the league.  Merulo’s family had fled Cuba when Castro took power.

“I’m sure he’s very proud of me," Meruelo tearfully stated when asked what his father would say. 

The Numbers Are In: College Pays Off

New research from Georgetown University shows just how valuable college really is.  The university’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that the median lifetime earnings for those holding a bachelor’s degree is about $1 million higher than for those holding just a high school diploma.  The report examines lifetime earnings for all education levels and earnings by occupation, age, race/ethnicity and gender.  The data are clear: a college degree is key to economic opportunity, conferring substantially higher earnings on those with credentials than those without.

Key findings
African Americans and Latinos earn less than their White counterparts, even among the most highly educated workers.  African Americans and Latinos with master’s degrees don’t exceed the median lifetime earnings of Whites with Bachelor’s degrees.  However, at the graduate degree level, Asians make more than all other races/ethnicities, including Whites.

Similar gaps also exist by gender.  Women earn less than men, even when they work the same number of hours – a gap that persists across all levels of educational attainment.  In fact, women with a Bachelor’s degree earn about as much as men with some college education but no degree.  On average, women must obtain a Doctoral degree to earn as much as men with a Bachelor’s degree.

Correspondingly, the New York Times reports the master’s is now the fastest-growing degree. The number awarded, about 657,000 in 2009, has more than doubled since the 1980s, and the rate of increase has quickened substantially in the last couple of years.  Nearly 2 in 25 people age 25 and over have a master’s, about the same proportion that had a bachelor’s or higher in 1960.

US Labor Secretary Hilda Solis’ American Latino Letter to HuffPost

On August 10th, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis submitted a letter to the Huffington Post outlining the state of the American Latino community.  Secretary Solis took the opportunity to draw attention to the successes and challenges facing Latinos today. 

Solis also highlighted a recent Department of Labor report on the impact of the Latino workforce on the American economy and the role Latinos have played in driving the country's renewal and growth.  Education continues to be the determining factor in an individual Latino’s success. 

Solis writes: “when only 1 in 6 employed Latinos over age 25 has a bachelor's degree, the need to provide our community with access to relevant, industry-recognized 21st century skills couldn't be clearer.

“Every day in America, 7,000 students drop out of high school.  That's one dropout every 26 seconds. The problem is especially serious for our Latino youth. One in five children in our K-12 schools is Latino, and nearly half aren't finishing high school.

“Earning a GED is critical if we're to get these youth back on track to continue their education and get a good job. Right now, just 1 in 10 Latinos who drop out earn a GED. We know the dropout crisis risks America's competitiveness and our economic future. We have to give our youth a second chance to earn vital workforce skills. If we don't, we will lose valuable contributors to our economy and risk falling further behind other countries.”

Congressional TriCaucus Calls for Action to Address Lack of Minority Health Funding

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus called for renewed investment to address lack of federal funding directed to minority health issues.  The announcement was in response to the results of a study released by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) entitled, “Race, Ethnicity and NIH Research Awards.”  The study found that despite its current programs to increase the racial and ethnic diversity among its intramural and extramural biomedical and health services research workforce and grantee pool, there are serious and persistent racial and ethnic disparities in the manner in which NIH funding is awarded.

The members of the so-called Congressional TriCaucus have long championed health disparity elimination as a national priority.   It recommended steps to address the clear racial and ethnic inequities in the granting of awards and the award process highlighted in the study.  The TriCaucus also suggested ways to utilize NIMHD to strengthen NIH’s commitment to health disparities research and to targeted recruiting, mentoring, and training of racial and ethnic minority researchers in all NIH fields.

New Tool Released Details Child Wellness by State

The 2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book, put out by The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of "vulnerable children and families," ranks all 50 U.S. states based on 10 indicators that they have determined represent overall child well-being.

According to the data, over the last decade there has been a significant decline in the economic well being of low-income children and families.  The official child poverty rate, which is a conservative measure of economic hardship, increased 18 percent between 2000 and 2009, essentially returning to the same level as the early 1990s. This increase means that 2.4 million more children are living below the federal poverty line.

The data center provides valuable tools to compare data across states and by various indicators.  However, minority breakouts and Hispanic-specific information is not available.

AARP Launches Spanish-Language Retirement Calculator

As part of its continued efforts to serve older Hispanics with resources to help them plan ahead for a secure retirement, AARP has created a Spanish-language Retirement Calculator.

“With the launch last year of our bilingual Web site, Hispanics and Latinos 50+ have grown to expect high-quality content and trusted information from AARP,” said Rocky Egusquiza, AARP Vice President of Multicultural Markets. “This calculator continues to build on that promise and gives our growing Hispanic audience another tool to plan for their retirement security for themselves and for their families.”

The AARP Retirement Calculator is intended to provide information for users to evaluate their current situation and see potential pathways to their desired retirement goals.  A suite of additional AARP tools and resources are also available for users to learn more about Social Security, financial planning and other aspects of retirement.

The National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) is the preeminent organization representing the interests of 300 Hispanic state legislators from all states, commonwealths, and territories of the United States. Founded in 1989 as a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)3, NHCSL is a catalyst and advocate for joint action on issues of common concern, such as health, education, immigration, homeownership and economic development to all segments of the Hispanic community. NHCSL also works to design and implement policies and procedures that will impact the quality of life for Hispanic communities; serves as a forum for information exchange and member networking; an institute for leadership training; a liaison with sister U.S. Hispanic organizations; a promoter of public/private partnerships with business and labor; and a partner with Hispanic state and provincial legislators and their associations representing Central and South America. For more information visit www.nhcsl.org

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