Latinos & Education: A Townhall with U.S. Secretary of Ed. Arne Duncan

By Victoria Cepeda

This past Wednesday Pa’lante Latino joined the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, Latism’s Elianne Ramos and Director of White House Excellence in Education for Hispanics Jose Rico for a Townhall co-hosted by #Latism and #HispanicEd. At the heart of the meeting was, you guessed it, education and affordability of education for the Latino community.

Rico opened up requesting that Mr. Duncan sums up Obama’s administration approach to education specifically for the Latino community. Duncan emphasized the need for Latinos to not only graduate from high school but focus on going to college and attaining a higher education. He is of the opinion that Latino drop out rates must decrease in order to secure a more successful future for our young people, particularly male students. On a positive note he noted that there has been a 24% increase of Latinos going to college and graduating which is encouraging. As for some initiatives to help students are steps to make the completion of FAFSA less cumbersome, increase the funding of Pell Grants, GI Bill and the American Opportunity Tax Credit among others.

We simply cannot have a strong USA if we don’t have a strong Latino community and the only ways we get there together, I think, is through great grade education at every level. From early childhood education to greater opportunities for K-12 and ultimately some form of higher education i.e. 4 year university, 2 year community college, trade, technical and vocation education.

Less than 2% of the nation’s teachers are Latino males. If we are to attempt to reduce drop out rates among young Latino males, we need more male teachers as role models.

Latino parents need to understand the importance of enrolling their children in early childhood education such as pre-K vs. leaving them with a relative. This would ensure a more successful learning experience and easier transition into school.

Secretary Duncan answered questions on various issues ranging from the DREAM Act, early childhood education, adult learning, college loan debt, parent engagement (asked by Dolores Huerta) and ideas on how to alleviate school overcrowding. Our question comes in at the 13:50  mark of the below link. Pa’lante Latino (Vicky522 via Twitter):  In the wake of stats confirming college debt #1 among students, how do you propose to alleviate burden?

Secretary A. Duncan: So it’s actually amazing, if you look across the country, college debt to-date is greater than credit card debt. Something that worries the President tremendously…He has worked hard to reduce those loan repayments on the back end. Going forward, the government is going to cap 10% of income.”

Thus it would be easier for lower income earners to pay proportional to their income. After ten years college loan debt will be forgiven, or written off, for anyone that goes on to work into the public sector i.e. teachers.

Our second question comes in at  the 40:16 mark via @PalanteLatino: How realistic is to expect Latino STEM enrollment when most urban neighborhoods don’t have funds for good programs?

Jose Rico: Again, I think that one of the successes that we’ve been seeing in this area is the role that the private sector has stepped up. Recently, yesterday during the science fair, the President announced tens of millions of commitments from the investment  innovates program to increase the number of STEM teachers that go  into these urban schools where our students are.

As we continue our committment to promote education, we just do not write about it, we actively participate in forums that address this topic in an effort to make our government officials aware that we hold them accountable for improving the status quo.

Our sincere thanks to LATISM for choosing our questions and to Mr. Duncan and Mr. Rico for answering them. Pa’lante!

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