‘The Politics of Latino Education’
The Politics of Latino Education
By David L. Leal and Kenneth J. Meier, Editors
Published by Teachers College Press: 2011, New York and London: 230 pp.
By Merri Rosenberg
The growth in America’s Latino population has been undeniably significant in recent years. According to recent data, Latino students account for two-thirds of the increase in public school enrollments between 1993 and 2005. Schools throughout the nation — not only in states such as California, Texas, Florida, and New Mexico that have traditionally attracted Hispanic immigrants — have confronted the challenges of educating a student population that is often quite different from other student groups.
At the same time, the ongoing, often ugly political debate about immigration, along with the concomitant controversy about such issues as bilingual education, allocation of district resources, high-stakes testing results, and the achievement gap between Latino and other students, has made it extremely difficult to frame the discussion in a productive way.
This volume of essays seeks to explore the issues surrounding Latino education in a thoughtful, measured and non-polemical way. There’s no denying that, for many of the authors, high-stakes testing is counter-productive — but no fear, these essays aren’t soap boxes.
Instead, what’s impressive is the nuanced approach that prevails. No one makes excuses for the reality that Latino student achievement is low, indeed lower than other racial and ethnic groups, or that dropout rates are disturbingly high. In the essays that deal with these issues (including social promotion), the authors unpack some of the complex reasons that hinder Latino progress and make suggestions for improvement. One of the most intriguing essays looks at the issue of Latinos in higher education, a subject that all too often gets little attention.
The overall collection of essays has been carefully selected and edited to offer substantive, significant topics.
Consider that the proportion of Latino teachers in the nation is declining. Non-Latino teachers, who have worked with other immigrant groups, may have more of a learning curve when it comes to Latino students. The diversity of where Latino students come from means that a monolithic approach to their specific educational challenges may not, in fact, work.
On the local level, Latino participation in school boards also affects resource allocation and policy decisions. In David Leal and Frederick Hess’s essay on “The Politics of Bilingual Education Expenditures in Urban School Districts,” they note that “the percentage of school-board members who are Latino has a statistically and substantively significant impact on bilingual spending.”
For the editors, and contributors, the reality is that politics matters. As Kenneth Meier writes, “Politics, even in education, cannot be divorced from policy or from the implementation of policy. Politics can also be the vehicle for addressing education problems as Latinos gain greater access to the political system and make their preferences felt throughout the education system.” #