President Obama Signs Executive Order Renewing the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

October 19, 2010

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

President Obama Signs Executive Order Renewing the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

In a ceremony in the East Room of the White House today, President Obama signed an Executive Order to renew and enhance the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics so that it better serves communities across the country by engaging them in the process of improving the education of Latino students.

Among the changes, the new Executive Order provides a better structure for the Initiative to take action and forge partnerships between the public, private, and non-profit sectors in local communities nationwide. An enhanced inter-agency working group and a 30 member Presidential advisory commission will now work with the Initiative to bring the voice of the American people into the policy making process. The presidential advisory commission will be Chaired by Eduardo Padrón, President of Miami Dade Community College.

“Making sure we offer all our kids, regardless of race, a world-class education is more than a moral obligation, it’s an economic imperative if we want America to succeed in the 21st century,” said President Obama. “But it’s not something that can fall to the Department of Education alone. It’s going to take all of us – public and private sector, teachers and principals, parents getting involved in their kids’ education, and students giving their best – because the farther they go in school, the farther they’ll go in life.”

The new Executive Order is based on feedback gathered by the Initiative in more than 100 community conversations across the country with experts in education, community leaders from more than 30 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and from comments from more than 10,000 Americans on how to develop real solutions to the challenges confronting the Hispanic community in education.

As the nation’s largest minority group, Latinos number more than 11 million students in America’s public elementary and secondary schools and constitute more than 22 percent of all pre-K–12 students.  More than one in five students enrolled in America’s schools is Latino.

“To reach the ambitious education goals President Obama has set for our nation and ensure America’s future competitiveness in a global economy, we must raise Hispanic education attainment at every level,” said Juan Sepulveda, Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, who carried out the community conversations over the past year and a half.  “This new executive order will place a high priority on the type of action needed to do exactly that.”

The signing ceremony follows a National Education Summit and Call to Action hosted by the U.S. Department of Education that began on Monday bringing Administration officials together with experts in education and Hispanic community leaders from around the country on issues ranging from early childhood learning to higher education.

Background On the Initiative:

First established in September of 1990, the Initiative was created to advise the Secretary of Education on issues related to Hispanics and to address academic excellence and opportunities for the Hispanic Community.

Hispanic students face educational challenges of crisis proportions.  Fewer than half of all Hispanic children participate in early childhood education programs, and far too few Hispanic students graduate from high school; of those who do complete high school, many are not adequately prepared for college. Only 13 percent of adult Hispanics have a bachelor’s degree, and just 4 percent have completed graduate or professional degree programs.

At the same time, large numbers of Hispanic adults lack the education or literacy skills they need to advance their careers; they also are less likely than members of other groups to have taken job- or career-related courses, with the exception of basic education classes, such as English as a second language.

In May of 2009, Juan Sepúlveda was appointed as Executive Director to the Office of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics under the Obama Administration, with the charge of taking the Initiative to a higher level with greater community input and coordination of education policy and programs impacting the Hispanic community.

Since then, the Initiative office has engaged in community conversations with 90 communities in 30 states with over 10,000 participants between June and December 2009.  The community conversations brought to the forefront key challenges and priorities of the education system with respect to the Hispanic community, enlisted individuals and organizations to join the Initiative’s national network, and partnered with others across the country to work on key issues.  The new Executive Order, to supersede previous ones, reflects the new initiatives.

A copy of the Executive Order is attached and a fact sheet on the Administration’s efforts to improve education at every level can be found HERE.