Complaint Alleges Pre-K Program Requires Proof of U.S. Citizenship

The Southern Poverty Law Center has sent a complaint letter to the administrator of the Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, Head Start program, alleging that the organization has illegally demanded proof of U.S. citizenship from Latino families seeking to register their 3-year-olds in the program.

The letter addressed to the Jefferson Parish Community Action Program (JEFFCAP) alleges that  immigrant families were either denied the opportunity to apply for the program or discouraged from applying. It said parents should have been able to enroll their children by showing proof of their residency on utility and other bills.

The SPLC emphasizes that Head Start is run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which defines eligibility as being a child of three years old, living in the area served, and meeting an income limit.

The complaint also attached a flyer about Head Start registration listing a checklist including a child’s social security card and cards for family members over age 21 who are the household breadwinners

The Times-Picayune reported that Parish representatives said they would not comment, but are reviewing the complaint. According to the newspaper, the program serves about 930 children from ages three to five.

“Just because I don’t have papers doesn’t mean our kids can’t have access to these services,” one undocumented immigrant mother told the newspaper.

Related Links:

– “Jefferson Parish Head Start programs unfairly exclude Latino families, complaint alleges,” The Times-Picayune.

– Southern Poverty Law Center Complaint

– Southern Poverty Law Center Homepage

New NCLR Web Tool Provides Detailed Data on Latino Children

The National Council of La Raza has a new online web tool that allows users to delve into detailed data on the well-being of Latino children across the country.

The Latino Kids Data Explorer breaks down information by numerous searchable categories including education, health, juvenile justice, citizenship status and family structure/income. Data can be further broken down by age, year and state.

For example, in the education category, users can search data including the percent of eighth graders below basic proficiency in math and reading, the percentage of children whose children read to them fewer than three times a week, and participation rates in preschool.

In a separate fact sheet, Building a Brighter Future 2012, the group cites the significant barriers to educational success that Hispanic children face. NCLR cites a number of factors, including higher rates of poverty and a greater likelihood to lack health insurance. Hispanic children also have lower rates of preschool attendance and are less likely to be read to by their parents than other groups. The group considers the report a call to action–and promotes a focus on improving Hispanic children’s access to quality early education programs.

The group uses the power of numbers to highlight the importance of improving outcomes for Latino children. Between April 2010 and July 2011, Latinos made up 26 percent of all babies born in the United States. Hispanic children ages zero to eight years old make up a little more than 25 percent of all children in the age category. Another statistic may surprise people who assume that Latinos are disproportionately made up of immigrants–the group says that about 92.4 percent of Latinos ages zero to 17 are U.S. citizens.

“If today’s young Latino child is not adequately prepared to enter the workforce ready to compete in the global economy, then our nation is neglecting an important segment of the population crucial to our future growth and economic success,” cites the fact sheet released by the organization.

Related Links:

– Building a Brighter Future 2012: “Young Latino Children–Ready to Learn and Lead?” National Council of La Raza.

– Latino Kids Data Explorer. National Council of La Raza.

– “New Online Resource Provides Data Tables on Latino Children.” Learning the Language blog. Education Week. 

NCLR Spotlights Four Pre-K Programs Successful With Latino Children

The National Council of La Raza has released a new report listing best practices for use by early education programs seeking to improve their services for Hispanic children and English language learners.

The civil rights group profiled four programs from around the country that are making progress and made policy recommendations for replicating those models elsewhere. According to NCLR, the programs highlighted exemplify the key areas of professional development, student assessments, language instruction and family engagement:

  • Youth Development, Inc., of New Mexico.  The program provides Head Start to 1,600 children, of whom about 76 percent are Latino. The organization’s professional development goes beyond federal training requirements by providing ongoing lessons throughout the year on topics such as dual-language instruction. Community college professors also lead sessions. Other supports include mentor-coaches who develop goals with beginning teachers and observe classroom instruction.
  • The Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. The LAMB charter school offers dual-language classes from pre-K through fifth grade. The school has three ways of assessing children: only in their home language; in a language that the children are proficient in, even if it isn’t the home language; or both languages the children know. The school uses formal assessments such as DIBELS and informal assessments including student portfolios and weekly plans.
  • East Coast Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Program in southern Florida. This program with 60 sites serves primarily Mexican migrant farm worker families and focuses on providing dual-language instruction. The group developed a curriculum for toddlers and pre-K students that gradually increases the amount of English used. Learning benchmarks are used, classrooms  are labeled in both English and Spanish, and home visits are conducted.
  • The Concilio in Dallas. This group formed in 1981 works closely with the Dallas Independent School District to increase Hispanic parent involvement . The organization operates the Parents Advocating for Student Excellence program at 29 schools and four prekindergarten sites in the district. Past graduates of PASE recruit parents of preschool students to attend a series of 30 meetings during the school year focused around lessons and activities. Parents who participate must complete homework assignments tied to the sessions.

Related Links:

– “Best Practices in Professional Development.” NCLR.

– “Best Practices in Assessments.” NCLR.

– “Best Practices in Language Instruction.” NCLR.

– “Best Practices in Family Engagement.” NCLR.

– “Expanding early education for Latino children imperative, group says.” Early Years blog, Education Week.