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Among the many inequities impacting young Latinos in Arizona, wide gaps in education not only affect those students now but could harm their future.
A recent report from Arizona for Latino Leaders in Education (ALL in Education) shows that Latino students are facing significant disparities, despite the fact that they make up nearly 50% of the state’s student population.
The data should be a catalyst for change, according to Stephanie Parra, the executive director of ALL in Education.
“The data doesn’t lie, the fact of the matter is Latino students are following behind and they have been for two decades,” Parra said. “More affluent communities are able to raise dollars and provide additional programming, retain quality educators, all of those things help our students thrive.
“Unfortunately for communities stuck in a cycle of poverty, we don’t have some of the same opportunities afforded to them.”
Latino Students Face Education Gaps
The main finding of ALL in Education’s report illustrates that Arizona’s Latino students are mostly attending lower-ranking schools.
The data also shows a direct link between poverty and poor education outcomes.
Some believe the disparities are caused by a significant lack of representation — especially considering that only 16% of the state’s teachers are Latino. Moreover, only 13% of Arizona’s school board members are Latino.
Nationally, this is a problem not only for school-age Latinos but also college students from that demographic, according to Andrew Howard Nichols, the senior director of higher education research and data analytics at The Education Trust.
A 2018 The Education Trust report showed that Latinos were half as likely to hold a college degree than their white peers. Also, when it comes to enrolling and graduating Latinos, public colleges and universities in most states are failing as a result of “structural racism and injustices throughout the education pipeline,” according to a 2019 report by The Education Trust.
“For us, it was surprising just how low the Latino degree attainment numbers are and how significant the gaps are in certain states,” Nichols said in a statement. “Everyone is pushing degree attainment. But we won’t reach our goals for a college-educated workforce if we ignore the racial gaps that exist.”
Advocates in Arizona are using facts like these to urge action. They are calling for change to improve the state’s trajectory.
“These are your future employees, your future business owners, and entrepreneurs. It’s absolutely critical that we provide them for the resources they need because we’re going to need them in the future,” Parra said.
What You Can Do
The Education Trust recommends rewarding public colleges and universities for enrolling and graduating students of color, and ensuring residents with some college but no degree are eligible for need-based aid programs.
They also suggest investing in community college programs that help residents earn high school equivalency credentials and get on a pathway to higher education.
“We need to organize our people, we need to organize our ideas and money that we have in our communities,” said Luis Avila, president of Iconico consulting firm.
Also, with student pressure, universities across the nation are beginning to make statements and take action to address the systemic racism that impacts students, staff, and faculty of color.
Here are some other ways to help:
- Offer a short task with the power to sharply increase Latino middle-schoolers’ chances of getting to college.
- Provide college for Latino students who don’t have a high-school diploma.
- Create college readiness programs in high school.
- Support Hispanic-Serving Institutions, which are on the rise.
- Recognize colleges that are committed and able to help Latino students find success.
In the meantime, if you’d like to continue making a difference in your community’s education system you can download a Salud America! Health Equity Report Card.
The report card will show you how you will see how your county is doing on a variety of health-related conditions compared to the rest of your state and nation. The data will show how your area stacks up in education, as well as housing, transportation, poverty, healthcare, mental health, environmental issues, and access to healthy food and active spaces.
Email your Health Equity Report Card to community leaders, share it on social media, and use it to make the case to address food insecurity where help is needed most!