Washington Outlook

Mayor O'Neill Joins President and Secretary Riley at White House Hispanic Education Summit

By Josie Hathway
July 31, 2000


Long Beach Mayor Beverly O'Neill participated in a high-level strategy session on Hispanic Education at the White House recently. President Clinton thanked Mayor O'Neill for her leadership on this issue as well as the other elected officials including Representatives Ruben E. Hinojosa (TX) and Silvestre Reyes (TX), Senator Jeff Bingaman (NM) and Governor Parris Glendening (MD). Department of Education Secretary Richard Riley, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Maria Echaveste, and White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Mickey Ibarra also participated. Secretary Riley has discussed Hispanic education issues with mayors on many occasions at the Conference of Mayors Jobs, Education and Workforce Standing Committee, chaired by O'Neill.

Mayor O'Neill and other leaders in education provided proposals for action to achieve the Administration's goals for educational attainment for Hispanics. These goals, presented at the Summit and listed below, are designed to narrow gaps in educational achievement of Latinos over the next ten years:

The Administration's Goals for Improvement in Hispanic Education Achievement by 2010:

  • Raise the level of participation in high-quality preschool programs to at least the national average. (According to the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, less than 30 percent of Hispanic toddlers are enrolled in pre-school centers, compared with about 45 percent of white toddlers and almost 50 percent of black toddlers.)

  • Ensure that all Hispanic students graduating from high school demonstrate proficiency in English.

  • Eliminate the achievement gaps that exist at every level - elementary, middle and high school - between Hispanic students and other students.

  • Increase high school completion rates of Hispanic students to 90 percent.

  • Double the percentage of Hispanic American's who earn associate and bachelor degrees.

"Closing this knowledge gap is a challenge that must be met. The educational achievement of our rapidly growing Hispanic population is essential for the progress of our communities and the continued growth of our economy," said O'Neill. O'Neill also pointed out that Hispanics are underrepresented in the information technology (IT) industry, where there is a growing shortage of skilled workers. The U.S. Conference of Mayors President Boise Mayor H. Brent Coles recently appointed Mayor O'Neill to co-chair a task force on Workforce Technology Training. This presidential transition team task force will define mayoral priorities related to the skills shortage in the IT economy and ensure that both presidential campaigns include these priorities in their campaign agendas (see cover story).

The White House also released a study by the President's Council of Economic Advisors, which shows that while Hispanic students are achieving academic success, too many are lagging behind. The report indicates that high school completion rates for Hispanics are about 63 percent, while completion rates for both blacks and whites are about 88 percent. The number of Hispanics who earn degrees from four year colleges is less than half that of white students. The report also indicated that lower levels of education severely impact income potential in today's economy. A male Hispanic student who graduates from college can expect to earn 146 percent more than a male Hispanic student who does not graduate from college, as opposed to 20 years ago when the average earnings difference was 67 percent.

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