Monday, August 17, 2009
Part of President Barack Obama's education team is traveling through California this week to talk about which reforms are needed to help Latino students. The first stop was in San Diego on Sunday at San Diego Mesa College.
SAN DIEGO Part of President Barack Obama's education team is traveling through California this week to talk about which reforms are needed to help Latino students. The first stop was in San Diego on Sunday at San Diego Mesa College.
Juan Sepulveda is the man behind what's called the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for Hispanic Americans. The initiative was created in 1990 under then-president George H.W. Bush. The Obama administration is now giving renewed attention to the effort by staging community forums across the state and country.
Sepulveda says the community input will help to drive reforms on a federal level. He says the president realizes reforming education begins with addressing the needs of Latino students.
“Part of it is just being honest,” Sepulveda said. “Being honest about what's happened not just since 1990, but even going back further and saying, ‘Where are we?’ This is important to us because the Latino community is the largest minority group in the country. And California, in particular, the largest numbers of the Latino community are here. So we know it's time for us to be more aggressive.”
Community members who took part in San Diego's forum talked about giving Latino families more access to quality preschool programs, the need for more Latino teachers in the classroom, and lifting financial aid restrictions on immigrant students. They also touched on more controversial topics including immigration reform as a means to help Latino families.
Overhauling the curriculum of school systems was also cited as a way to engage Latino students. San Diego Unified school board president Shelia Jackson says developing cultural connections in the classroom and through course work are sorely needed.
“(It requires) a different mindset,” Jackson said. “I think when we're educating teachers, we're not just educating them how to teach reading and teach math, but how to actually have cultural relevance. Where we say to the child, 'Your cultural foundation is very important, and it's valued.'"
The California visit follows community forums held in a number of other states. However, federal education officials say their eyes are focused squarely on California and Texas because they have the largest numbers of Latino students.