It’s hard to get too excited about the executive order President Obama signed Wednesday.
The order renews the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and came two weeks before an election in which Hispanics and other traditional Democratic Party supporters have voiced dissatisfaction with the administration and party candidates.
It calls for more research into factors that might cause Hispanics to achieve lower achievement levels than their Anglo counterparts. Specifically, it renews the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, a campaign of community polling to determine what people say would improve educational opportunities and achievement among Hispanics.
The president said the initiative has collected some 10,000 responses in the past 1 1/2 years.
He cited several issues that affect that achievement, including large class sizes and high dropout rates.
Factors contributing to those issues already are known, and they are largely economic. Hispanics and other minorities still are more likely to live in less wealthy areas; schools in those areas usually have fewer resources, and as a result new campuses aren’t built as fast as enrollment.
Besides the need to cram more students into each classroom — often burdening teachers with more students than they can handle, the lack of available money also means that materials and other resources don’t match those that students in better-funded schools enjoy.
Studies also have shown that educated parents tend to influence their children toward greater educational achievement. Conversely, children of dropouts are more likely to drop out themselves. For minorities living in poverty, this can result from pressure teenagers feel to find jobs as soon as they are of age, so they can help the family financially. Unfortunately, dropouts usually sentence themselves to a lifetime of low-paying jobs, which only prolongs the family’s economic woes.
Hispanics whose parents have limited English skills have an additional handicap if no one at home can help them with homework.
It almost seems a vicious cycle: People living in low-income families face greater challenges in attaining higher educational achievement, yet the best way to escape poverty is through education.
Government officials at all levels can help address educational disparities by maintaining policies that guarantee equal opportunities for all, both educationally and economically. It is up to individual students and their families, however, to commit themselves and work toward improving their own education and income.
No presidential decree can create a quick or easy fix to educational disparities. It takes time, and hard work, by Hispanics and others to improve their position. There is no doubt,
however, that the results are worth the trouble.