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Report on Hispanics and Schooling Released

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Almost a year overdue, the presidential commission studying Hispanics and education has issued its main report.

The report of the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans documents the general gap in academic performance between Hispanics and other groups. It attempts to explain why the gap exists and recommends steps to take to reduce the disparity.

The 24-member panel, which includes educators, business leaders, civil rights leaders, and others, is charged with bolstering Hispanics' participation in federal education programs and targeting ways to eliminate educational inequities. President Clinton established the panel and its duties through a 1994 executive order.

By 2030, nearly one in four school-age children in the United States will likely be of Hispanic origin, according to federal estimates.

Findings and recommendations from the 108-page report, "Our Nation on the Fault Line: Hispanic American Education," include a call for federal agencies to work with community-based groups to bolster participation in early-childhood programs. Fewer than 15 percent of all Hispanic children participate in preschool programs. The importance of such programs is underscored by a major foundation report being released this week. ("Carnegie Offers Reform Strategy For Ages 3 to 10," in This Week's News.)

The Hispanic commission's report also recommends increasing Hispanic participation in school-to-work programs.

'A Call for Action'

A detailed inventory of federal services and programs for Hispanics, as called for in the executive order, will be available separately, said panel chairwoman Ana Margarita "Cha" Guzman. The report notes that some federal agencies, however, had not responded to the panel's request for data.

Critics through two administrations--President Bush created the first commission in 1990 under pressure from Hispanic groups--have charged that the panel has lacked adequate funding and support. ("Chairman's Resignation Latest Upset for Hispanic Panel," April 24, 1996.)

Raul Yzaguirre, the president of the Washington-based National Council of La Raza, resigned in April from his post as the chairman of the presidential panel, charging that it lacked the political independence and resources needed to do its job.

"We welcome anything that brings attention to the plight of Hispanic education," Lisa Navarrete, a spokeswoman for La Raza, said last week. "[But] this report is long on rhetoric and short on substance. And it basically lets the federal government off the hook on a lot of issues."

Ms. Guzman said the commission will create an action plan with time lines later this month when members meet with President Clinton to formally release the report.

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