New Hispanics and Education Report Shows Need for Accountability

Thursday, February 24 2011


Written by Bill Loftus

BOISE, Idaho – Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic group in Idaho's education system and in its workforce, a datapoint that highlights the importance of educational policies and programs that take diversity into account.
“Most of the growth in our student population is coming from Hispanics,” said Priscilla Salant, University of Idaho outreach and engagement coordinator, based in Boise. “When we’re thinking about education policy changes, we should look for good models that keep Hispanic students in school, achieving their highest potential. It matters to the state’s future prosperity that we get this right.”
The February report on Hispanics and education, part of the university’s "Idaho at a Glance" series, is the third of three issues devoted to Idaho’s Hispanic population.
Hispanic students accounted for more than half of the enrollment growth in the state's public schools during the last 10 years. Enrollments in nine school districts would have declined without growth in numbers of Hispanic students. Districts with the largest numbers of Hispanics are in the Boise, Nampa and Caldwell metropolitan area.
Statistics gathered for the report show that Idaho's Hispanic students born in the U.S. are showing progress in earning high school diplomas and pursuing higher education, but they continue to trail the performance of Hispanic students nationally and non-Hispanic students both in Idaho and nationally.
"We want to make sure there's accountability. We know there's not going to be more money available for anyone," said Margie Gonzalez, executive director of the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs, which paired with the University of Idaho to prepare the report.
That's why, Gonzalez said, Hispanic leaders are frustrated that the same issues seem so resistant to progress. "This is not just an issue of the last 10 or 20 years, it's an issue of the last 30 or 40 years.
"I think we've made some progress in the last few years but we need to make more," Gonzalez said. "We need to make sure the money that is available goes to the right places."
Hispanic enrollment in Idaho's universities and colleges showed a 72 percent increase from 2000 to 2008. However, graduation rates after six years for Hispanic students were 31 percent, behind both the 45 percent for white, non-Hispanic students in Idaho and 47 percent for Hispanic students nationally.
Lewis-Clark State College at Lewiston outpaced the state's three public universities in that trend, posting a higher graduation rate for Hispanics than non-Hispanic students.
The report will help inform policy makers about Idaho's Hispanic population and the state's needs, Gonzalez said, adding "We need to find the tools to continue to educate our state because I don't see our priorities getting any better."
The report is available online at www.extension.uidaho.edu/horizons/ataglance/.