Latino Education: The Leadership Challenge of the Next Decade


It’s common knowledge by now; the Hispanic population is rapidly increasing in the Southwest region of the United States. Within in the next decade many states will join the state of New Mexico, the first state to boast a majority Hispanic population. We are beyond counting numbers, what’s emerging before us is evident to all. The Latino population is quickly overtaking many school districts, which are inept to deal with specific issues plaguing Hispanics, especially among the children of immigrants. If our educational system is ineffective in delivering education to this group, what will happen within the next decade when the Hispanic population is projected to overtake the system? Giselle Fernandez’ recent Huffington Post article dubbed The Latino Education Imperative opens our eyes to this dilemma:

The stats say it all and cast the same frightening projection: By 2020, Latinos are expected to represent close to 25 percent of the country’s 18-to-29-year-old population. In ten years, nearly ten million Latinos will be 15 to 24 years of age, accounting for nearly a quarter of the total US college-age population.”

These facts are cause for great concern among us. So what are Latino community leaders doing about it? Facing the facts is not easy, especially for many school districts where the student population is shifting to reflect more of a diverse demographic, more so than a decade ago. What educators design and deliver within the next decade will decide America’s future for the next fifty years. So what quality of life and culture will our children inhabit? Will Latinos be an undereducated and dependent class or an enlightened and competitive one in the ever-changing global markets?

The educational system cries out for more money to improve education. This has been the cry for the past 30 years plus, and we’ve seen no national measurable results to justify more. We can no longer wait for problems to arise then counter them with ineffective measures. We must take a proactive, and at times an unpopular stance, to effect change and correct the current system. Therefore, we don’t need managers of old systems, what we desperately need is more innovative leaders to advocate, experiment and introduce new systems of learning. A starting point is drawn from California’s Monterey County whose Hispanic student population is listed at 73%, while Soledad Union School District Hispanic population lists at 94%. Most school districts similar to Monterey’s are quickly making changes to their educational delivery systems to meet this growing trend by adapting their curriculum and hiring more bi-lingual teachers to talk to and orient parents to how their child’s educational system works.

What role should Latinos and others play in our educational system? At this point a desperate one! We need to summon not just the educational leaders together but leaders from the various genres of culture. We need the faith and business communities to step up, and collaborate to create innovative strategies for new educational systems. I’ve always been an advocate for creating learning centers in faith-based organizations who employ educated staff with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Many immigrants and their children attend church faithfully each week. Why not create learning and tutoring centers at these locations? Immigrants have tremendous respect and trust in their faith leaders, and would follow their vision of education. A connection and dialogue with the faith community wouldn’t hurt education but perhaps add wisdom to the current strategy. In addition, business establishments can also add to learning by inspiring their best employees to give their time and talent to local educational centers to mentor, inspire and tutor marginal students. The business community can also create learning centers with an internship program to teach workforce principles. In my experience, Hispanics are more prone to “hands-on” learning; therefore, an interactive approach to learning can enhance their learning experience. Education in the future must seek community oriented solutions rather than the centralized-status-quo mindset that currently exists.

What are your solutions to the emerging Latino educational crises in America?

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6 comments on “Latino Education: The Leadership Challenge of the Next Decade

  1. Virginia Douglas-Rommel, Ed.D., MFT says:

    Joel, I am on board! My first career choice was to teach Spanish. When I was in high school. growing up in Hoosier America , I fell in love with Spanish and majored in Spanish literature in undergrad at IU. Encountered some of my lifetime favorite authors. Now I am heart broken at the decline of culture in the Americas. Faith held it all together with family at the heart of what was admirable in our story. Now it is fragmented and submerged. When we bring all the themes back into the heart of the Father of us all, we will be renewed in Spirit by God’s Holy Spirit and be of some good to one another again. We will want to learn and contribute good things to our culture. Let it begin in our churches. I volunteer!

  2. Thanks Virgina, yes let’s all join in.. the next generation, as well as the quality of our culture depends on what we do now.

  3. Myrian Folias says:

    This is something that is close to my heart. I was 14 yrs old when I entered the school system and spoke very little English. My classes were all in English, not one of my teachers spoke Spanish. It was required I take a second language so I took German while learning English at the same time. By the time I was in 10th grade i was taking all regular classes. My sister was in Kindergarten – no ESL classes – I remember her coming home crying most days because she didn’t understand what everybody was saying. Within a couple of months she spoke better English than I did. By creating these systems that segregates and lowers the standards for Spanish speaking individuals we are creating second class citizens. Learning centers are great for adults. I love my Latino culture but I am an American (without a slash) and I celebrate my heritage while embracing my adopted country.

  4. Great post Myrian… we all pretty much has a story like yours where we felt out of touch with our new community through a language problem… my parents moved to a mid-class areas where our neighbors were practically “grey-haired”, retired folk. We were the young Hispanic family in the area but they were nice to us although my parents could not connect with them very much.

  5. Jeff Barnes says:

    In India all children are taught English,maybe you should push for that in Latino countries to help bridge the gap?

  6. Jeff, that’s an excellent idea but must achieve in the U.S. first… Missionaries are key since they start schools in foreign countries. What we need are “Educational Ambassadors” who go to plant not only Kingdom works but institutions of learning.

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