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Obama signs order aimed to improve achievement among Hispanic students

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

When President Barack Obama renewed the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics today, he did it having in mind that many of those students are undocumented immigrants who find obstacles when trying to attend college, education officials said.

“One key piece for example is the change in the name" of the initiative, said Department of Education spokesman John White.

“We used to be known as White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. We now changed the name to talk about Hispanics because it is not just about citizenship," he said.

This renewal of this initiative is part of President Obama’s goal to ensure that the United States is the top nation in the world in college completion by 2020.

Despite this change in name, the 20-year-old initiative has four main provisions that do not refer to or mention any particulars on immigrant students.

It is estimated that every year 65,000 undocumented students graduate high school with dim chances of continuing their education due to their immigration status.

The four points included in the executive order are:

  • Working directly with communities nationwide in public-private partnerships, linking together key individuals and organizations from within and outside the education system to increase capacity and announce communitywide education initiatives.
  • Establishing a Presidential Advisory Commission and national network of community leaders that will provide real-time input and advice on the development, implementation, and coordination of education policy and programs that impact the Hispanic community.
  • Forming a Federal Interagency Working Group to exchange resources and address issues impacting the lives of Hispanics nationwide, including housing, health, finance, employment, and education, among others.
  • Ensuring that federal programs are serving and meeting the needs of Hispanic children, youth, and adults.

The new provisions are the product of 18 months of work, during which the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics visited more than 90 communities in 20 states to engage citizens concerned with improving the lives of Latinos, officials said.

“In the last decade, Hispanic students have been the biggest minority group in public schools. They represent almost a quarter of our nation students,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

“To improve our country’s education system we have to improve outcomes from all students, but particularly Hispanic students,” he said.

Duncan added that he will continue his support for the DREAM Act, legislation that did not get its chance in the Senate three weeks ago but that promises to come back as a stand-alone bill.

“I’m going do whatever I can as we move forward to make sure that every child in this country regardless of their status has a chance to pursue the American Dream, and going to college is basically a prerequisite for that today, “ he said.

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