Thursday, November 1, 2007

Business Leaders Unite to Solve Latino Education Crisis in Utah

Official report:

In Salt Lake City this morning, several business leaders joined with Competitive America to pledge their support in solving the Latino education crisis in Utah. Latinos, who comprise 12% of Utah’s population, drop out of high school at astounding rates – approximately 40 to 50 percent each year.

“This is a state crisis, which is why these Latino business leaders are coming together. Ask any business leader and they’ll tell you the negative impact an uneducated workforce has on their company,” said Julio Fuentes, vice president of Competitive America. “Failing so many Latino students by not getting them the education they need will be a drain on the state’s economy for decades to come.”

Despite the fact that college degrees have become increasingly necessary in the labor market, only about 12% of Latinos nationwide actually hold a degree in higher education. Competitive America is a national coalition of business leaders concerned about this crisis and its future effects on the workforce and the American economy.

In addition to Fuentes, other participants in the press conference included: Tony Yapias, former director of the state office of Hispanic affairs and a public school parent, Marco Diaz, former chairman of the Utah Republican National Hispanic Assembly and newly-elected vice chairman of the National Republican Hispanic Assembly, Antonella Packard, president of the Latin American Chamber of Commerce, Quiko Cornejo, founder of the Utah Minority Community Information and Education Center and Claudia Burnet, a Utah parent.

Unofficial commentary:

I like to see coalitions like Competitive America taking on the Latino education crisis, because it really drives home the fact that our education system - its failures and its successes - affects the rest of our society. Business leaders should be concerned about how our nation's schools are working, because the students sitting in today's classrooms will be their future workers. They should be especially concerned about the Latino population as the fastest-growing minority group in the country.

Involving groups like Competitive America in the ed reform debate helps us maintain a wide perspective on the problem - and its possible solutions. I'll be the first to admit that it's sometimes difficult to take a panoramic view on how different reforms affect our society - too often, I am primarily concerned with how a specific reform strategy will affect a group of kids, a school, or a district. It is a challenge (a daily and necessary challenge) to view these efforts in light of the positive results that they can offer to our country's economy, justice system, social services, etc. So that's what I take away from Competitive America - a challenge to keep a wide perspective.

And of course, in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that Competitive America is a project of CREO, but were it not, I would be fond of it anyway.

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