Erica Cardenas

Arizona has failed to address the Latino education gap

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Arizona’s Latino education gap could lead to A  state crisis.

According to a recent report released by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, new data and projections point to a future fiscal and economic crisis for Arizona unless the state’s Latino educational attainment gap is addressed.

The 40-page report, Dropped? Latino Education and Arizona’s Economic Future, is a follow-up to the Morrison Institute’s 2001 landmark publication, Five Shoes Waiting to Drop on Arizona’s Future. The new report narrows its focus to education, noting that little or no progress among Latinos has occurred – and, in fact, key measurements indicate some reverses – despite the warnings of a decade ago concerning the need for a highly-skilled workforce in today’s economy.

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“This report isn’t about ethnicity, but about economics, demographics and a failure a decade ago to deal with a critical education issue,” said Susan Clark-Johnson, executive director of the Morrison Institute for Public Policy.

“Latinos eventually will comprise a majority of Arizonans and provide an increasingly larger share of the state’s leaders, workers and tax base. If we do not close the educational gap, all of Arizona will suffer the consequences. In truth, education here needs to be improved for all Arizonans. In a competitive global environment, our overall education achievement lags far behind that of too many countries,” she said.

Some key findings of the report note:

In 1980, Latinos made up 16 percent of Arizona’s total population. Today, that number is 30 percent, as the state and nation continue to move toward a “majority-minority” populace.

Latinos will be the largest component in Arizona’s future workforce with the state already home to more Latinos than whites under 18 years of age.

Nearly 100 percent of Latino children under age five in Arizona are U.S. citizens, contrary to political rhetoric about immigration.

With the trend for lower average incomes and fewer jobs for low-skilled laborers, Arizona’s unemployment and poverty rates can be expected to worsen with greater demand on state services and less revenue to pay for them.

Projections show that by 2030, if income and education trends continue, the combined average income for Latinos and whites in Arizona will drop to $32,423 (in 2010 dollars), down from today’s combined average of $39,667.

The report, with senior policy analysts, Bill Hart and C.J. Eisenbarth Hager, as principal authors, emphasizes the point that all of Arizona’s education must greatly improve in order for Arizona to compete in the new economy.

“We are not preparing most of our students adequately to handle the competitive challenges of a global economy; and we are particularly failing to tap the enormous potential of Arizona’s fastest-growing population group,” the report states. “If Arizona does not deal with its current and increasingly significant educational attainment gap, the state faces a very real possibility of economic decline.”

The report, the result of a one-and-a-half-year project overseen by David Daugherty, director of research at the Morrison Institute, also discusses the root causes of the Latino education gap and recommends strategies to address the problem.

The report is available at morrisoninstitute.asu.edu.

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