As the Conservative Political Action Conference convened in Washington DC this week, their agenda included issues vital to our nation, including religious liberty, life and immigration. These topics matter deeply to the 54 million American citizens of Hispanic heritage. Yet if there were a Latino speaker on the docket, he or she would tell you that one vital national issue is grievously missing from the CPAC agenda: education equality.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, from 1990 to 2013, the high school dropout rate for Hispanics dropped from 32 percent to 12 percent. That 12 percent can certainly be viewed as progress, but when compared to white students – a decline from 9 percent to 5 percent — and black students — a decline from 13 percent to 7 percent — we sadly lag behind.
Our nation’s 8 million Hispanic Evangelicals, including the 40,000 churches that comprise the NHCLC, are deeply committed to both faith and education. Education consistently outranks other issues for Latinos, including healthcare and immigration. And just as our faith is expressed in the shape of a cross, our shared mission is both vertical and horizontal.
Vertically, we stand connected to God and His kingdom. Horizontally, to our left and to our right, we stand connected to family, culture, society and community. We care deeply about issues that lie along both these planes, including the education of our children.
As a former public school student and educator, I am aware that Hispanic students face more than one obstacle in the pursuit of a quality education. Yet the wild variation in academic standards between schools and zip codes is one that we can address. As a high school student I definitely felt the sting of low expectations for students of color, such as myself. Later, as a high school teacher, I watched minority students continually rise to the challenge as I held every class to equally high standards.
Schools must be held accountable for the quality of education they provide, and high academic standards which can be compared across states are a key step toward educational equity. High academic benchmarks are the path to a high-quality education; individual district and school curricula are the steps on that path. And the end of the journey is a bright future for all students, where a high school diploma means as much in Ohio as it does in Iowa, Alabama or New Hampshire.
As Christians, we are called to honor the imago dei in every person, enabling each to fulfill the potential God has given them. Many young Hispanics dream about being leaders in their communities and in their country. But for too many, the goal of graduating from high school or even college is a step too far. This is unacceptable.
All of us — faith leaders, parents, educators and politicians — must do a better job of educating Hispanics and helping develop their potential. Anything less is failure, and we’re failing too many of our children already.
Read more at Conservative Conference Misses Hispanics … Again.