For nearly three decades, a White House commission created to help boost Hispanic student achievement has advised four presidents and their secretaries of education. The advisory panel, however, is set to expire on Sept. 30 unless President Donald Trump issues an executive order to keep it going, according to Patricia Gándara, a commission member who is rallying to preserve it.
The lack of action by the White House has prompted more than a dozen commission members – education leaders and advocates ranging from the singer Shakira to the leader of a charter schools network — to issue a joint statement calling on Trump to meet with them and renew the commission.
“For more than a quarter of a century, through both Republican and Democratic administrations, the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics has strived to shine a light on the educational challenges and assets in the Hispanic community,” the commission members declared in a statement this month. “Twenty-nine commissioners have put aside their day-to-day responsibilities of running colleges and universities, conducting cutting-edge research, and heading up major corporations and nonprofits to work on issues affecting the education of Latino youth. And we have seen progress, but not enough. Much is left to be done.”
Commission members who signed on include:
- Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the National Education Association;
- Jo Ann Gama, the president and superintendent of IDEA Public Schools, a charter schools network;
- Kent Scribner, the superintendent of the Fort Worth, Texas, school district; and
- Patricia Gándara the co-director of the Civil Right Project at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Missing from the list of signatories, however, is Eduardo J. Padrón, the chairman of the commission and the president of Miami Dade College.
The Trump administration did not respond to a phone call and written request for comment about the Sept. 11 statement.
Many Vacant Posts in Trump Administration
President George H.W. Bush issued an executive order in 1990 creating the commission. Since then, it has been re-established by executive orders from presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Members of the commission say they also would like President Trump, or someone from his administration, such as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, to appoint a new executive director for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
That post has been vacant since the last executive director, Alejandra Ceja, resigned in January, when President Obama left office.
The Trump administration still has many key leadership posts to fill across the federal government, including numerous senior staff positions at the U.S. Department of Education.
That said, one of the few slots that has been filled is held by Jose Viana, an assistant deputy secretary and the director of the Office of English Language Acquisition.
Gándara said, at the very least, commission members would like Trump to “review the materials we have produced that indicate what can be done to support Hispanic education” and hear “suggestions for moving education forward for Hispanic students.”
She said it is critical to continue improving Hispanic academic achievement. For example, more are graduating high school and enrolling in college. But Hispanic students are still struggling in college and failing to earn degrees. Others are taking too long to graduate or are racking up too much debt. And more of them are needed in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
Commission members are committed to finding solutions, according to Gándara.
“The entire nation greatly depends on us figuring this out,” she said.