Million-Dollar Carnegie Grant To Aid Hispanics' Education

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A small, Denver-based organization that specializes in the educational needs of Hispanic children and their parents, has received a $1-million grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York--part of which will be used to launch a new national center for Hispanic-education leadership.

The nonprofit organization, called Western Services Systems, was founded 10 years ago for the purpose of working on a grass-roots level to involve Colorado's Hispanic parents more fully in the public-school system, said the organization's president, William Rosser. About 15 percent of Colorado's students are Hispanic, and in the Denver public schools, Hispanics and blacks outnumber whites, he said.

Frederic A. Mosher, Carnegie's program officer for secondary and elementary education, said the size of the grant "is unusual," and reflects Carnegie's belief that there are few other donors interested in funding Hispanic educational needs, compared with the needs of other minority children.

'We think they [Western] set an example as an advocacy group," said Mr. Mosher, adding that the grant was one in a series that Carnegie has made to advocacy groups concerned with the rights of minority children in public schools.

Other large grants to such groups include $1 million to the Children's Defense Fund in 1981, and $510,000 to the Federal Education Project in 1981, he said.

The agency plans to use the Carnegie funds for a three-part program that will address Hispanic educational needs on the local, state, and national levels.

On the local level, the organization will focus on the need for better mathematics and science teaching in schools with heavy Hispanic enrollments. "There's a fear [among their parents] that Chicano children will be left out and that only wealthy districts will get the new technology," said Mr. Rosser. The local program is called the Chicano Education Project.

The new funds will also be used to give parents some 'hands-on' training with computers and in the selection of software, Mr. Rosser said.

On the state level, the organization will launch a program, called Public Education Partnership, aimed at involving Colorado's business leaders in education issues, Mr. Rosser said.

"When people ask, 'Who is the leadership in Colorado on education?' no one has an answer," Mr. Rosser said. The partnership hopes to identify new leaders.

And on the national level, the group will establish the Center for Hispanic Educational Leadership which will hold conferences on Hispanic education issues and will send out advisory teams to schools in other states that request help with issues involving Hispanic students.

In 1975, the founders were instrumental in drafting Colorado's bilingual-education law, the only state law that requires schools to offer teaching about a child's native culture and a full day of bilingual instruction each week, Mr. Rosser said.

Western has an annual operating budget of about $750,000. In the past, it has received grants from the Erwin Sweeney Miller Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation as well as from the Carnegie Corporation. The new grant was announced last month and will be spread over a three-year period.--ha

Vol. 02, Issue 25

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