Reclaiming the Promise of Educational Equity at the State of Latino Education
By: Amanda Fernandez
The COVID-19 pandemic devastated and continues to hurt the Latino community. As we deal with immense loss and trauma, Latino students continue to suffer both mentally and physically, all while navigating an education system that is failing them. We saw very quickly during the pandemic how access and opportunity – to technology, resources, curriculum, and additional supports – very quickly widened educational inequities between Latino and white students. We have an opportunity to finally reckon with the fact that our previous system was not working for Latino students and build something better for students.
Our focus shouldn’t just be about “catching up” or making up for “learning loss,” but rather about how we infuse equity and a Latino perspective into all education decision making and policies moving forward. Instead of chasing an outdated standard that doesn’t consider the effects of the pandemic, education leaders and decision-makers must rally together on a new and shared vision of what education equity truly means for Latinos, and seize the historic opportunity to invest $190 billion in federal funding towards education systems to make that vision a reality.
That’s why we’re bringing together Latino parents, educators, and leaders for the 2021 State of Latino Education summit, where we will unveil our national policy and advocacy agenda informed by the Latino community and collectively brainstorm how to move this bold Latino agenda forward.
At Latinos for Education, the core of our work is focused on creating the largest ecosystem of Latino educators, administrators, and leaders so that our students can be taught by people with shared experiences and understanding. Latinos will soon represent 30% of all students in our public education system, yet their voice is not represented in the classroom, nor the boardroom, or statehouses. Rebuilding our education system with a focus on equity means that we need more Latino educators who can validate the experience and identity of our students and leverage that to help them succeed in the classroom. We need more Latino decision-makers who see Latino students and families as an asset – not a burden – and invest in their education.
But representation alone isn’t enough. We need to create policies and structures that formalize and institutionalize new practices that are responsive to the needs of the Latino community and contribute to an equitable ecosystem. In this way, we can unlock opportunities and access for more Latino students beginning with access to high-quality early childhood education. Latinos are among the least served by early childhood programs but have the most to gain from them, especially those who come from multilingual households. If state and national leaders truly care about Latino students, then investing in their development and giving them a head start on their educational journey must be a priority. At the State of Latino Education event, we will envision what this early start must include.
And as we embrace the reality that Latino students are the future of our country, we must ensure that the opportunity of a college education remains accessible and affordable to them; and that Latino students feel supported and welcomed on their journey through higher education. Latinos already contribute tremendously to our economy and workforce, and we will continue to do so as our numbers grow; therefore it is imperative to increase the number of Latino students with college degrees. We’ve seen steady progress on this front, but the pandemic has definitely complicated how affordable college remains for Latino students as many have been financially impacted by COVID-19. At the State of Latino Education, we will renew the promise of a college education and discuss how to make it attainable for more Latinos.
We are still in a moment of collective trauma — the pandemic is far from over and it continues to wreak havoc on our community. But we also lean into our sueños and ganas to think about our future. The State of Latino Education serves as our moment to reclaim the future of our children through education policy and practice change, which is necessary for us to see a true shift. We hope to spur commitment, energy and action as advocates for Latino educational equity. This is our moment, and I invite you all to join us on this journey by attending this year’s State of Latino Education Summit.
Amanda Fernandez is the CEO and Founder of Latinos for Education, the first Latino-founded and led national organization dedicated to creating leadership pathways for emerging Latino education leaders and diversifying education nonprofit boards. She is a Trustee of the Board with the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Roxbury Community College. El Planeta has twice named her one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in Massachusetts and she is a Senior Fellow at FutureEd. Amanda has over 25 years of experience in the areas of recruiting, diversity, organization development, change management, strategic planning, and Latino community relations.