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Monitor How Federal Aid Serves Hispanics, Panel Urges

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LOS ANGELES--A Presidential commission on Hispanic education will recommend next month that a reporting and monitoring system be created to track how federal education spending serves Hispanics, panel members say.

In a presentation here last month, members of the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans outlined what they see as the panel's "strategic plan'' or "vision.''

Speaking before members of the National Council of La Raza, the country's largest Hispanic advocacy group, commission members said the guiding principles will be offered in the group's September report, which was described as "preliminary.''

President Bush, who created the commission by executive order in September 1990, said he established the panel to help broaden opportunities for Hispanic Americans and assist them in participating in federal programs. Its charter expires in November but is expected to be renewed.

Strategy's Themes

Guadalupe C. Quintanilla, an assistant vice president at the University of Houston and the commission's vice chairman, told the conferees that the strategy for improving educational opportunities focuses on several themes:

  • Expectations for student achievement. "If we don't expect,'' Ms. Quintanilla said, "we don't get.''
  • Accountability. All levels of government should be held accountable for providing opportunities, Ms. Quintanilla said, adding that children's success should be measured by outcomes rather than process.
  • Access to resources that will help students achieve their academic potential.
  • Language empowerment. Hispanic students should learn English in order to participate in American society, "but not at the expense of Spanish,'' Ms. Quintanilla said.
  • Parent involvement.
  • Educational partnerships that bring the private and public sectors together with the Hispanic community.
  • Access to higher education and lifelong learning.
  • Community empowerment that encourages community members' involvement in education.

Peter G. Mehas, a commission member and the superintendent of schools in Fresno County, Calif., told the La Raza conferees that he was "delighted'' with the plan to track education spending by all federal agencies.

"They've never asked the Department of Defense, never asked the Department of Labor'' where education-related money goes, he said, adding that he suspects that Hispanics have been shortchanged.

Raul H. Yzaguirre, the president and chief executive officer of La Raza and a commission member, echoed that sentiment.

"What we're finding is exactly what we expected ... [Hispanics] are grossly underserved,'' he said.

'Investing in the Future'

The commission will also recommend that the federal government track agencies' progress on, as well as their adherence to, the six national education goals agreed to by President Bush and the nation's governors in 1990, John Florez, the commission's executive director, said in an interview.

He said the commission will also focus on, among other topics, early-childhood education; making schools more "user friendly'' and culturally sensitive; and the role job training and adult education plays in making adults more independent and lifting them and their families out of poverty.

The commission hopes to emphasize that "investing in education for Hispanics is investing in the country's future,'' Mr. Florez said.

By 2000, Hispanics will make up 33 percent of the new net growth in the nation's workforce, according to the commission.

Although a representative from the Education Department briefed the commission in June on the Administration's school-choice voucher plan, Mr. Florez said there is currently no plan to mention school choice in the panel's upcoming report.

He said the commission has not yet had time to fully examine or debate the choice issue, though "it may be [addressed] down the line.''

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