White House Initiative on Hispanic Education

August 21, 2009 5:57:03 PM PDT
The leader of a White House initiative designed to help Hispanic students visited the Valley, to get input from local educators and parents.The White House representative who came here is preparing to update an executive order that was created nearly 20 years ago to promote quality education for Hispanic Americans. But first, he's asking communities across the state for help.

Juan Sepulveda said, "What we're going to spend most of our time doing today is hearing from you directly ... "

The chance to have their voices heard brought dozens of parents and educators to this meeting with the executive director of the white house initiative on educational excellence for Hispanic Americans.

Rosemary Parga Duran said, "I've been in education 30 years and I've never had the White House ask me what I think about anything, so I'm very excited that they're willing to come out to California, the Central Valley, Merced and find out what we think."

Juan Sepulveda hosted a forum in Merced following a similar stop in Fresno Friday morning. Its part of a statewide listening tour designed to ask those on the front lines how Latino education can be improved and what the white house should be doing to spearhead those efforts.

"One interesting one we heard which was different is the issue of water and how water has to be dealt with in order for all of the other things that are connected to it for the kids to have the educational opportunities they need as being something that's unique to the Valley," said Sepulveda.

Participants at this meeting say other challenges include parents who don't understand the educational system ... as well as teachers who don't understand where the kids are coming from.

Barbara Hill said, "You have teachers who have never been in poverty trying to understand poverty trying to understand why children can't learn because their parents can't pay the rent."

Sepulveda says the Obama administration is taking several steps to break down those barriers, including increasing the value of Pell grants and simplifying the federal financial aid form. And he's hoping these forums will lead to more ideas to help close the achievement gap.

"If you could tell the president ... Mr. President I think these are the three most important things we should be doing, we want to get your advice as to what the agenda should be for us moving forward," said Sepulveda.

Sepulveda says there is more money available now to help with these efforts thanks to federal stimulus funding which included 100 billion dollars for education.

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