WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama signed an executive order Tuesday intended to boost Hispanic education achievement, a priority for a key voting bloc two weeks ahead of critical midterm elections.
The measure is intended to widen the scope of a long-standing White House initiative on Latino education by increasing partnerships with the private sector and soliciting more input from the community. The objective is to focus on the educational challenges faced by the Hispanic community in order to increase enrollment and outcomes.
In a ceremony in the East Room, Obama noted that Latinos make up the largest minority group in the country's public schools, accounting for more than 1 in 5 students, but are likelier to attend low-performing schools and drop out.
"This is not just a Latino problem. This is an American problem. We've got to solve it," the president said. "Because if we allow these trends to continue, it won't just be one community that falls behind. We will all fall behind together."
Tuesday's announcement broke little new policy ground but allowed the White House to showcase an issue important to the Hispanic community ahead of midterm elections that will determine whether Democrats maintain control of Congress. Hispanic leaders and educators were invited, and were greeted by a mariachi band in the Grand Foyer outside the East Room.
Hispanics were 9 percent of all voters in 2008 – similar to the 8 percent they represented in 2006 and 2004 – and account for an even larger share of the electorate in several states where key Senate races are under way, including California and Nevada.
And, Hispanics put a higher premium on education than Americans overall do, according to an Associated Press-Univision Poll conducted earlier this year. Eighty-seven percent of Hispanics said a college education is extremely or very important, compared with 78 percent of the overall U.S. population.