In 2015, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (the Initiative) will celebrate its 25th Anniversary.  The Initiative was established under the George H.W. Bush Administration, at a time when the high school dropout rate for Latinos was 32 percent – far outpacing the national rate of 12 percent.  The education narrative on the state of education for Latinos was bleak. The staggering statistics set off alarms that brought national attention to the education deficits in our community.  The narrative was described as a national crisis that could not be ignored.

 

There was a collective sense of urgency from civil rights organizations, education advocates and community leaders that resulted in the creation of the Initiative.  Throughout its history, the Initiative has focused on various areas of education policy and engagement activities, from cradle to career, with its ultimate goal of preparing the Hispanic community for success in education and the workforce.

The Initiative’s upcoming milestone is historic for many reasons.  It represents over two decades of bi-partisan leadership at all levels of government, as well as deep community and nonprofit engagement, working together to address the achievement and opportunity gaps for Hispanics.  It represents years of research, intervention models and data on the educational Hispanic landscape. It is significant, not only because of the gains we have made, but for the opportunity it presents – a chance to build on the lessons learned and invest in those areas where states and school districts continue to face challenges.

 

But, this is bigger than us; as a community, we must celebrate the progress that has been achieved and work on with the same sense of urgency, to reframe the narrative from a deficit base to one that is focused on raising the bar on educational excellence for Hispanics.

 

Today, the high school dropout rate for Hispanics has been cut in half and the Hispanic high school graduation rate is at a record high.  Hispanic students are also showing modest signs of progress in reading and math according to the 2013 NAEP Report Card. During the Obama Administration’s first term, the college enrollment of Hispanics reached record heights and is expanding rapidly.  Since 2008, the Census Bureau estimates that Hispanic enrollment is up by more than 1.1 million students–and college enrollment is up more for Hispanics than any other group.  In 2000, 22 percent of Hispanic students attended college and now more than 35 percent are enrolled in college.

 

Yes, indeed, there is much to celebrate, but there is still a long way to go. Education remains the key to economic growth and prosperity for our community and our country.  It is the surest path out of poverty.  We need more of our children enrolling in high-quality early learning programs, attending more rigorous and competitive high schools, equipped with technology and internet-access, more of our students taking AP, financial literacy, IB and STEM courses, and even more students graduating from post-secondary institutions with high-quality degrees, prepared to lead in the 21st century workforce.  The future of our nation is inextricably linked to the future of the Hispanic community – we are the largest and fastest-growing minority group, and will represent 60 percent of our nation’s population growth between 2005 and 2050. We hold the key to the President’s 2020 goal, of having the best-educated most competitive workforce in the world.

 

Over the coming months, the Initiative is poised to bring national attention to policy issues, programs and community leaders in action – those making positive gains in accelerating Hispanic achievement.  We will build on the past, using the foundation to set a new ambitious agenda aimed at strengthening the educational pipeline for Hispanics from cradle to career.

 

The work ahead of us can only be met through a shared partnership involving all levels of government and institutions, as well as the business, education, labor, and philanthropic communities.  Together, we must do more to prepare, inspire and support the next generation of leaders.

 

For us, it is not an option—we must provide every child with the world-class education they need and deserve.  If we are to remain competitive in a knowledge-based economy, we must continue to accelerate the rate of progress do more to narrow the achievement and opportunity gaps for the Hispanic community–Our future depends on it.