Head Start Cuts Will Impact Many Latino Children

Federal spending cuts due to sequestration are expected to eliminate Head Start services for more than 57,000 children across the country, including thousands of Latino children enrolled in the programs.

About 37 percent of all children in Head Start are Latino.  The largest numbers of children predicted to be impacted reside within two states where Hispanic children make up the majority of public school students — California and Texas.

The severity of the cuts became apparent after programs submitted their planned cuts to the government. The cuts also will result in fewer class days and teacher layoffs in some programs.

The National Head Start Association has an interactive online tool that lets users find out information on a state-by-state basis.

Related Links:

– “Latinos Among Those Hit the Hardest By Head Start Cuts,” NBC Latino.

– “Feds: Spending Cuts Mean 57,000 Fewer Low-Income Children in Head Start Programs,” The Washington Post.

– “Sequestration Hits Poor Hispanics Hard,” The Washington Post.

– “National Sequestration Impact”, National Head Start Association.

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Nevada Funding Boost for ELLs Stirs Controversy

A $50 million boost in education funding may seem like good cause for celebration. But in Nevada, the reaction to the news has not been uniformly positive.

That’s because some taxpayers are miffed that only English Language Learners are the beneficiaries. The Las Vegas Sun describes how some critics believe the influx of funding “smacks of special treatment and seems like an unjust, unfair burden on taxpayers who must subsidize the education of a select group of outsiders.”

The word that jumps out to me most from that excerpt is outsiders. Unfortunately, when resources are tight, an “us-versus-them” conflict can surface.

The general public often views ELLs as immigrants — and they often assume ELLs are undocumented immigrants.

“How can I justify requesting millions of dollars for foreign kids when we can’t even help our own kids here in our own state?” one caller to a Las Vegas radio station asked, according to the article.

But the facts don’t bear that out. In Clark County Schools (which encompass Las Vegas), about 80 percent of ELLs are from the United States.

The funding situation was so dire that at one point the ACLU of Nevada, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and Hispanics in Politics discussed a possible lawsuit against the state over the lack of adequate funding for ELLs.

A recent study by the UNLV Lincy Institute found that Clark County schools only provided $119 in funding per ELL students, compared with $4,677 in Miami-Dade Schools in Florida. About 94,771 Clark County students are ELLs.

It’s unclear how much $50 million will accomplish in terms of narrowing such a large gap.

According to the Sun, the influx of funding for ELLs will pay for items including pre-K and kindergarten classes, summer instruction, reading development, and new technology.

Related Links:

– “Funding boost for English-language learners prompts some backlash,” Las Vegas Sun.

– “Lawsuit Threatened Over Funding for ELLs in Nevada,” Latino Ed Beat.

– “Nevada’s English Language Learner Population: A Review of Enrollment, Outcomes and Opportunities,” The UNLV Lincy Institute.

– Clark County School District

Report: College Aid Changes Could Hurt Latino Students

A new report by a federal advisory committee concludes that several proposed need-based financial aid changes to the Higher Education Act (HEA) could threaten the completion rates of low-income college students, and in particular Latino and black students.

The Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, which issued the “Inequality Matters” report, is a federal advisory committee chartered by Congress that provides advice to the U.S. Department of Education on financial aid policy.

The report says that a number of proposed changes could hurt students. They include denying aid based on students being at-risk of not completing their degrees, demanding budget-neutral funding of TItle IV Student Aid, eliminating Pell Grants to fund block grants to the states, dismantling partnerships in need-based student grant aid, and relying only on improvements to student aid.

The report also provides data broken out by race ethnicity on college enrollment and completion.

Related Links:

– “Exacerbating Inequality,” Inside Higher Ed. 

– “Inequality Matters, A Policy Bulletin for HEA Authorization,” Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance.

Report: ‘One-Stop’ Services Help Latino College Students

A new report outlines how community colleges can improve retention and completion rates for Latino students — in particular, through targeted financial counseling and assistance.

The report, “Supporting Latino Community College Students: an Investment in Our Economic Future,” was conducted by the advocacy group Excelencia in Education and the program, Single Stop USA.

Excelencia focuses on efforts that build Latino student success at colleges and universities.

Single Stop USA is a non-profit program offered on 17 community college campuses. Eight of the Single Stop sites are Hispanic-serving institutions (where the full-time student population is at least 25 percent Latino), which are predominantly in New York. The program provides student services such as financial and legal counseling, and assistance with taxes.

The report makes several key suggestions.

It suggests that policymakers should use the Higher Education Act reauthorization to provide incentives to colleges to improve student services that encourage retention and completion of degrees. In addition, colleges should create very targeted strategies to better inform Latino and low-income students about financial aid opportunities.

The report also describes how Single Stop works. The program is usually housed in a community college’s office of financial aid or student services. A site coordinator interviews the student and then determines what sorts of benefits may be able to assist the student with staying enrolled. Assistance could include public health insurance, food stamps, legal services and tax services.

The report describes how Julio, a 23-year-old student at Miami Dade College studying architectural design living with his father, used the services of Single Stop to apply for food stamps, Medicaid and disability for his family.

According to the report, about 55 percent of Latino students who have been helped through the program receive aid with preparing their taxes, 23 percent with public benefits, 13 percent with financial counseling, and 10 percent with legal services.

The HSIs that Single Stop serves are Contra Costa College, Miami Dade College, Central New Mexico Community College, CUNY Bronx Community College, CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY Hostos Community College, CUNY LaGuardia Community College, and CUNY Queensborough Community College.

Related Links:

– “Supporting Latino Community College Students: An Investment in Our Economic Future,” Excelencia in Education.

– “Group paves way for Latinos to graduate college,” NBC Latino.

– “New report highlights innovative ways community colleges can help Latino students succeed,” Latina Lista.

– Single Stop USA.

Poll: Texas Education Budget Cuts Hurt Latino Families

Latinos living along the border between Texas and Mexico reported feeling hurt by the state’s $5.4 billion in state education budget cuts two years ago, according to a new poll by the Texas State Teachers Association and the group Latino Decisions.

About 67% of those polled said they knew about the cuts and as a result noticed negative changes such as fewer teachers, cuts in after-school programs, cuts in transportation and supplies, overcrowding and larger class sizes, teacher pay cuts, and other problems. Most favored accessing the Rainy Day Fund for more school funds.

The survey clearly highlights that education, and not just immigration, is a key issue for Latinos.

“The importance of public education to border area Texans should not be underestimated,” poll director Sylvia Manzano said in a TSTA news release.

Those Hispanics polled also reported being quite engaged in their children’s schools, including by involvement in sporting events, fundraising, and meetings with teachers and principals. Additionally, the poll found most parents want their children to obtain a college degree.

“The results present a clear warning to those who promote blue collar job training for Hispanic students over increased access to a college education,” according to the Latino Decisions report. “When asked if it is better for their children to secure a job full-time after high school, or go to college full time, Hispanic parents chose full-time college over the job 85% to 10%.”

According to Latino Decisions, 400 Latino adults who live in El Paso, Laredo and The Rio Grande Valley were polled in March, with interviews conducted in English and Spanish. These findings are very interesting, but also must be placed into context. Southern Texas has many Mexican American residents and schools that are almost totally Latino, while there are areas further north, such as Dallas, which are predominantly immigrant, and yet the schools overall are more integrated.

Related Links:

– “For Hispanics in Texas border communities, politics isn’t just local — it’s personal,” Latino Decisions. 

– “Poll: For Latinos in Texas, schools are the heart of the community,” NBC Latino.

– “TSTA poll: Hispanics take school cuts personally,” Texas State Teachers Association.

Lawsuit Threatened over Funding for ELLs in Nevada

Civil rights organizations in Nevada are raising concerns about the scant funding for English Language Learners attending the state’s public schools, and are investigating a possible lawsuit against the state.

The Las Vegas Sun reports that the ACLU of Nevada, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Hispanics in Politics have met to discuss the situation. Hispanics in Politics president Fernando Romero went as far as to say that Latino students have become “collateral damage,” CBS reported, after funding for ELLs was cut by legislators last session.

The discussions come on the heels of a lawsuit filed just last week by the ACLU against the state of California on behalf of six ELL students and their families, alleging that the state has not adequately educated its ELL student population.

However, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed adding $29 million for ELLs to the budget for use over the next two years.

According to a recent study by the UNLV Lincy Institute, Nevada has severely underfunded services for ELL students. Clark County schools reported serving 53,073 students in its ELL program in February 2013, but 94,771 are defined as ELLs. The report says that Nevada is one of only eight states that does not allocate specific funds to the ELL population (beyond regular base per-student funding). Schools therefore rely on federal funding for additional money.

“The lack of a state vision and action plan for ELL education is especially problematic in Nevada, where despite its higher numbers of ELLs, has no funding mechanism for ELL education nor standards to guide the educational goals and achievement of its ELL students,” the report charges.

According to the study, the Miami-Dade Schools in Florida provides funding of $4,677 per ELL student, while in the Clark County schools in Las Vegas provides just $119 per student.

Just last week, the ACLU, Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the law firm of Latham & Watkins LLP sued the state of California for its alleged failure to provide an adequate education to some 20,000 ELLs. They allege that about 250 school districts say they are providing no to few services to the students. The state has responded that it is committed to making sure ELLs receive appropriate instruction and help.

What sort of funding does your state provide to ELLs? In addition, how are school districts actually using the funding? Are ELL students receiving language services?

Related Links:

– “Education advocates threaten lawsuit over funding public schools,” Las Vegas Sun.

– “Latino Students Are “Collateral Damage,”” CBS Las Vegas.

– “Study of a New Method of Funding for Public Schools in Nevada,” American Institutes for Research.

– “Nevada’s English Language Learner Population: A Review of Enrollment, Outcomes and Opportunities,” UNLV The Lincy Institute.

– “Calif. Neglecting Thousands of English-Learners, Lawsuit Claims,” Learning the Language blog. Education Week.

– “California ignoring some English learners, lawsuit says,” Los Angeles Times.

Plaintiff in Historic Texas School Finance Case Remembered

Demetrio Rodriguez played a pivotal role in the creation of what is known as the “Robin Hood” school funding system in Texas. He was the lead plaintiff in the Rodriguez v. San Antonio ISD case, which was first brought in 1968.

In part, the case centered on inequality and whether children children had a constitutional right to an education.

The issue arose when students attending the poor, almost totally Mexican American Edgewood Independent School District in San Antonio walked out of class, demanding better teachers and resources. They marched to the district’s administration building.

Rodriguez was a veteran and a sheet metal worker who became involved in the Edgewood Concerned Parents Association in San Antonio. According to the Texas State Historical Association, because of the area’s poverty and property tax based funding, the district was only receiving $37 per student, while wealthy children in neighboring Alamo Heights received $413 per child.

In Rodriguez, a federal district judge found the system unconstitutional, but the U.S. Supreme Court later overturned that decision. According to the historical association, Rodriguez responded by saying that “the poor people have lost again.”

However, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund tried another challenge with Edgewood ISD v. Kirby in 1984, and Rodriguez once again joined as a plaintiff. This time, in 1989, Edgewood won, and the funding plan known as “Robin Hood,” in which property-rich districts must send funds to poor districts, was born.

Rodriguez died this week at the age of 87, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

“He was my hero,” said his daughter Patricia Rodriguez, now a third grade bilingual teacher in Edgewood ISD, told the Express-News. “I would like for other people to remember him as a great warrior. Even though he wasn’t well educated, he didn’t let that stop him. It didn’t keep him from fighting for what he thought was right.”

To this day, inequalities between the communities persist. Edgewood ISD is about 98% Hispanic and 97% economically disadvantaged, and Alamo Heights is about 38% Hispanic and 21% economically disadvantaged.

In the 2011-12 school year, the academic performance gap was stark. According to the Texas Education Agency, of 10th graders initially taking the English Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies exams, 80% of Alamo Heights students passed all the exams, compared with 40% of Edgewood students. Keep in mind, there are many other students who dropped out and of course were not tested.

The same year Edgewood had 506 high school seniors enrolled and 791 ninth-graders—quite a gap. Meanwhile, Alamo Heights had 353 seniors and 388 ninth-graders.

And the fight over adequate funding for Texas schools continues to rage on. Hundreds of school districts representing more than one million children have once again sued the state for inadequately funding schools. In February, a judge ruled once again that the school finance system is unconstitutional. According to the Dallas Morning News, the ruling centered on schools being inadequately funded, unequally funded and limitations on districts’ taxing levels. The state has planned to appeal.

During the trial, former Texas state demographer Steve Murdoch testified that more funding is needed, particularly because of the growing number of Hispanic and poor children in the state. Texas’ student enrollment is now about 51% Hispanic and 60% economically disadvantaged.

The Texas Legislature cut more than $5 billion in public education funding in 2011 to balance the budget.

“The debt all of Texas owes to Rodriguez can be best repaid by properly funding the state’s public schools,” wrote the editorial board of the San Antonio Express-News.

Clearly, Rodriguez’s battle is not over.

Related Links:

– “Rodriguez, who fought for equality, dies at 87,” San Antonio Express News.

– “Rodriguez was a warrior for equity,” San Antonio Express-News

– Rodriguez v. San Antonio ISD, The Handbook of Texas Online.

– “Judge: Texas school finance system ruled unconstitutional,” The Dallas Morning News.

– “Latino-Majority Texas School System Faces Funding Challenge,” Latino Ed Beat.

Activists Protest Philadelphia School Closings

Plans to close 37 Philadelphia schools have set off an emotional firestorm and allegations of discrimination.

This week, the U.S. Department of Education confirmed that it was looking into complaints that school closings in Philadelphia, Detroit and Newark discriminate against Latino and black students, the New York Times reported. Officials are also looking into the impact on students with disabilities. About 19 percent of the school district’s students are Latino and 55 percent are black.

The Philadelphia plan aims to rid the system of a $1.1 billion deficit and cut the number of underused and low-performing schools. Final approval on the closures is scheduled for March.

The situation is complicated. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that there are about 53,000 empty seats in schools in the city, most heavily in the north and west part of the city. Meanwhile, the schools with greater numbers of white students are more likely to be at or over capacity.

If the activists are able to win over the U.S. Department of Education, that would be a big change. The Huffington Post reports that the Office of Civil Rights has investigated 27 school closings between October 2010 and January 2013, but found no violations in any of the cases. The office has 33 open cases in 22 states.

How much do school closings impact children’s education? If your district is considering closing schools, what are the demographics of that campus versus the entire district?

Related Links:

– “Education Dept. to Hear School Closing Complaints,” The New York Times. 

– “City school closings target vulnerable students, critics say,” The Philadelphia Inquirer.

– “School Closures Violate Civil Rights, Protestors Tell Arne Duncan,” The Huffington Post. 

Latino Students Play Pivotal Role in Texas School Funding Case

As Texas’ school funding system went on trial this week, former state demographer Steve Murdock testified in court on Tuesday that the significant challenges ahead facing Latino children require a greater investment from the state.

The Legislature cut more than $5.4 billion from the education budget last year, representing a cut of $500 per student, reported the Dallas Morning News. At the same time, the state has phased in more rigorous standards and tougher exams.  Hundreds of districts sued the state, demanding more adequate funding.

About 53 percent of Texas public school children are now Latino. They also are much more likely to come from poor families, requiring greater investment from the state, Murdock argued.

“Our future is increasingly tied to the minority population–how well they do in terms of education will determine how well Texas does in the future” Murdock said, according to a report in the Morning News.

Murdock listed off the demographic changes the state is experiencing: over the last decade the white student population dropped by 10 percent and the Hispanic population increased by 50 percent. By 2050, he estimates that Texas public school students will be about 64 percent Latino and 15.5 percent white.

As Texas students become more Hispanic, they also are becoming poorer and more in need of academic and financial support. About 27 percent of Texas Latinos live below the poverty line–compared with 9.5 percent of whites.

Murdock has played a key role in Texas for years as a figure who has called attention to the fact that the educational outcomes for Latinos must improve for the state to stay economically strong in the future. He once told the Texas Tribune that given the state’s demographics, “the Texas of today is the U.S. of tomorrow.”

Related Links:

– “Educating Hispanics crucial for state, demographer testifies in lawsuit.” The Houston Chronicle.

– “Demographer warns of increasing education costs as Latino population rises.” Austin American-Statesman.

– “Texas public schools require more funding to serve Hispanics, expert testifies in finance trial.” The Dallas Morning News.

– “Texas, school districts square off in finance trial.” The Dallas Morning News.

Latino-Majority Texas School System Faces Funding Challenge

The Texas Tribune reports that the Lone Star State reached two milestones in 2011–public school students became majority Latino, and the state did not fund enrollment growth in schools.

Amidst a massive demographic shift, the schools face more challenges than ever before on a tight budget. Latino children in Texas are more likely to come from poor backgrounds than other children, requiring more investment in educating them.

Texas legislators cut more than $5 billion in public education financing to balance the state budget last year, the Tribune added. Many school districts resorted to teacher layoffs, resulting in increased class sizes.

The Texas State Teachers Association called the growing class sizes “a serious erosion of educational quality standards,” reported The Dallas Morning News.

Former state demographer Steve Murdock has warned state leaders for years that educational outcomes for Latino children must improve for Texas to have a strong economic future. Gaps in achievement between white and Latino students are narrowing–but not by enough, he says.

“It says I need to run fairly quickly from here to the finish line or maybe I won’t get to the finish line,” Murdock told the Tribune.

Related Links:

– “For some Texas schools, demographic future is now.” The Texas Tribune. 

– “Waiver to Texas class size law triple, thanks to funding cuts.” The Dallas Morning News.

– “Hispanics now majority of Texas public school students.” The Dallas Morning News.