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La Raza Details Hispanics' Low Level of Education

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WASHINGTON--Hispanics remain the most undereducated major segment of the nation's population, according to a report issued last week by the National Council of La Raza, an umbrella organization for Hispanic groups.

Although the percentage of Hispanics ages 25 and older who have completed high school is more than 13 percent higher than in 1975, the completion rate for that group remains just 51 percent, the report says.

In addition, the gap in the completion rate between Hispanics and other racial and ethnic groups has widened, the report notes. Two-thirds of blacks and four-fifths of whites have completed high school. Dropout rates for Hispanics are more than double those of other groups.

La Raza billed its report, "The State of Hispanic America 1991: An Overview," as its first to summarize current research on how Hispanics are faring in such areas as education, income, employment, civil rights, and demographic growth.

Though it expresses aggregate data for Hispanics, the report cautions that the findings vary significantly among Mexicans, Cubans, and other Hispanic subgroups.

Paul Yzaguirre, the group's president, asserted that the report shows that many government programs are failing to equitably serve the needs of Hispanics, and that "our support for the liberal social agenda cannot be taken for granted."

For example, few Hispanic children attend the preschool programs viewed as a means of increasing educational success; only 30 percent of Hispanic 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool, compared with 40 percent of black children and nearly 50 percent of white children.

The report said Hispanics also are under represented in programs for disadvantaged youths and dropouts.

The report also notes that fewer than 1 in 10 Hispanics has completed college, compared with more than 1 in 9 blacks and 1 in 5 whites.

Tests of reading, writing, and computational skills have put the functional illiteracy rate of Hispanic adults as high as 56 percent, compared with 44 percent for blacks and 16 percent for whites, the report says.

The report also concludes that Hispanics remain undereducated because more than 90 percent attend urban schools, which tend to be underfunded; that Hispanic segregation has increased; that Hispanic parents often lack the resources to help their children in school; that fewer than 3 percent of elementary and secondary teachers are Hispanic; and that Hispanics are likely to be held back or tracked into classes that do not prepare them for jobs or college.

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