|AUSTIN, September 16 - Today’s reporting on public education has increasingly become a narrow overplay of what we already know.
Rather than solely recycling stories about the somber trends of Latinos, a question we all should be publicly engaged in is: What is the state of Texas going to do about its demographic shift and what are the roles of leadership across multiple levels?
Yes, Texas is and has been experiencing tremendous demographic shifts. In fact, the historical and projected trends showing the disenfranchisement of Texas Latinos in public schools and elsewhere are clear. However, what needs to be clearly articulated to the public are the positions held by current leadership, as it pertains to the educational opportunities that will be afforded to this growing majority, and what public policy solutions entail.
In our current climate, how one addresses young, low-income Latinos is more an issue of politics than mere data.
From a public policy perspective, concerned individuals should demand to know what rights do young Latinos coming of age in Texas have to a high school diploma, a college degree, or a right to vote? Should Texas Latinos be entitled to learning their history, preserving their culture, and mastering multiple languages?
Do Texas leaders feel a responsibility to fairly fund public schools, end high-stakes testing, or hold an expectation that all students be afforded an opportunity to obtain a college education? Are there concerns for the scarcity of Latinos as public school teachers, administrators, superintendents, and school board members?
As the demands for a college education increase alongside their rapid growth, are investments in higher education, student financial aid, and completion programs for Latinos top priorities? Is there political will to respond to the parallel scarcity of Latino tenured faculty, staff, and administrators in our public institutions of higher education?
In sum, are Texas Latinos, young and experienced, viewed as viable leaders across every sector of the state?
Educational institutions are noted as primary vehicles utilized to confine the political strength of Latinos (http://www.esperanzacenter.org/lavozpdfs2012/2012_07sept.pdf). The demographic shift in Texas is old news. There are a whole lot of us—in and out of the public policy arena—who are waiting for some real news. Confronting larger questions as they relate to how our public institutions—and the people who occupy them—are responding to changing demographics are vital for the future of Latinos and the future of Texas.
What precisely are our leaders going to do to make sure this shift translates into schools that are up to the task of educating young Texans so they are ready to lead the state?
Patricia D. López holds a Ph.D. in Education Policy and is currently working on a manuscript that draws from five years (February 2008-July 2013) of ethnographic data on political actors, advocacy, and the Texas state legislature to discuss the larger politics of state-level policymaking and the issues raised in this piece. Visit her blog, “Public Policy and the Chicano/Latino Community,” at http://ppclc.wordpress.com.