Hispanics Want Candidates to Focus on Education: Poll

Published October 1, 2007

If 2008 presidential hopefuls want a piece of the Latino voting pie, they must concentrate on their educational agendas and focus on the future of America’s public education system, according to the results of a national poll released July 23.

Latinos nearly unanimously identified education as a “very important priority” for presidential candidates–one they said will heavily affect their vote.

The nationally representative poll of 1,026 registered Latino voters, sponsored by ED in ’08 and the National Council of La Raza, found nearly 90 percent of respondents consider education to be more important than health care and the Iraq war.

Pressing Problem

According to the poll, Latinos say their staggering dropout rate is the greatest educational problem. According to the Diplomas Count study released by Education Week on June 12, just over half of Latino freshmen go on to graduate with their peers.

“This poll demonstrates what Hispanic CREO has already learned in its work with parents around the nation,” said Maite Arce, the group’s vice president. “Our next president has the opportunity to introduce strong measures to address the dropout rate and to remedy the problem in our schools. If not, our future economy will collapse under the strain of a low-skilled workforce and a knowledge gap that we cannot close.”

Hispanic CREO, based in Washington, DC, was founded in 2001 to address the crisis in Latino education by empowering families with parental choice in education.

Economic Future

Poll respondents said the “lack of parental involvement in their children’s education” is one of the two most important problems facing the Hispanic community. Half of the parents surveyed also indicated parents like themselves are to blame for the low graduation rate.

“American voters must take a special interest in America’s school dropout rate,” Arce said. “More than 40 percent of Latino children drop out of high school, and Latinos make up the largest segment of today’s young generation. Our public schools are not adequately preparing our children for the workforce, and that will ultimately affect retiring Baby Boomers and our nation’s economy.”

Strong Support for Choice

Last October, a poll of Florida Hispanic voters revealed 70 percent “favor allowing low-income parents using state funds to send their children to the school of their choice whether it is a public or private school.”

School choice empowers parents to choose the school they believe will provide the highest-quality education for their children. With school choice, education options for low-income families are no longer restricted by their socioeconomic status, and parents are engaged in the educational process, said Step Up For Students spokeswoman Denise Lasher.

Step Up For Students, Florida’s school choice program, was created five years ago to provide options to Florida’s low-income families. The program now empowers more than 17,000 low-income students, 25 percent of whom are Hispanic, to attend the school of their parents’ choice.

“In Florida, the high school graduation rate for Hispanics is only 60 percent,” Lasher said. “This survey demonstrates that Latino parents will be looking for solutions from those looking for their votes.”

Jillian Metz ([email protected]) writes from Florida.

For more information …

“New Poll: Latino Voters Will be Most Impacted by Presidential Candidates’ Positions on Education,” National Council of La Raza, July 23, 2007: www.nclr.org/content/news/detail/47514

“Diplomas Count,” Education Week, June 12, 2007: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2007/06/12/40gradprofiles.h26.html