Report calls for more investment in NC's Latino students
Elsa Landeros remembers being called to her school’s front office many times as a student in Orange County Schools to help interpret for a new Latino student.
“It would be like, ‘Oh, Elsa, meet so-and-so, they just moved here. We were wondering if you can show them around a bit,’” Landeros recalls.
Landeros does not remember her school ever having a bilingual staff person at the front office, so the duty of orienting Spanish-speaking students often fell on students who spoke the language like herself.
“Honestly, the majority of the time, the student was just confused,” Landeros said. “How are you going to let a child try to teach another child the ropes of what public school is?”
Landeros is now a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill, and is affiliated with the advocacy nonprofit LatinxEd, which recently released a report calling for more state investment in educational support for Latino students.
Latinos are the fastest growing ethnic group in North Carolina schools, growing from less than 1 percent of the student population in 1990 to now 18 percent of public school students. A report by Carolina Demography found that Hispanic students account for nearly all the growth in public school enrollment from 2000-2014.
“If anyone was doubting our presence here, well we are here,” said Zamantha Granados of LatinxEd. “I think it's important for people to take away that investing in bilingual supports or bicultural representatives is worth it.”
As LatinxEd’s partnership manager, Granados led a listening tour across the state to help prepare the report. Staff from the nonprofit conducted interviews and listening sessions with 250 participants, representing 36 counties in North Carolina, to hear about education issues affecting Latino students.
The #SomosNC report calls for recruitment of Latinx teachers and school staff, increased funding for services to support Spanish-speaking students and their families, and removing barriers that prevent undocumented students from seeking post-secondary education.
Granados says she describes “chronic disinvestment” as a lack of bilingual, culturally competent teachers, staff and services.
“Are there Spanish-speaking staff at the front desk? Are there bilingual, bicultural, mental health counselors in a district? How taxed are the interpreters in a district?” Granados lists as examples of measuring investment.
LatinxEd’s report advocates for several state policy recommendations, including to:
- revise the state funding allotment for schools that serve a high percentage of students with limited English proficiency
- launch a state task force to support Hispanic-Serving Institutions, a federal designation for colleges and universities in which Hispanic students make up at least 25 percent of enrollment
- change state law to allow undocumented students with longtime state residency to access in-state tuition at public universities
- reinstate access to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, to allow safe transportation to schools and colleges
The report also highlights many ongoing initiatives across the state — from programs that recruit and support Latino educators, to college advising services for high school students, to school districts that have opened “newcomer schools” that tailor to students who have recently arrived to the U.S.
Granados argues investments like these will serve the entire state, “because it'll help more Latine or multilingual speakers attain that high quality post-secondary degree that eventually is going to continue to fuel the state.”