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State Representative Carlos Mariani

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100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
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Posted: 2009-10-07 00:00:00
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Column/LTE

Mariani: Increasing Opportunities for Latinos in a New American Education Era


Recently I had the opportunity to chair a session on strategies to increase the number of Latinos in health professions at the annual education conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) in Washington, D.C.

This was a wonderful opportunity for a Minnesota Latino to serve as a chair for NALEO, a non-partisan leadership organization of the nationís more than 6,000 Latino elected and appointed officials. Members represent all political parties, all levels of government, and diverse constituencies from metropolitan cities to rural communities across the U.S.

Currently the total number of U.S. trained medical professionals is inadequate to meet the nationís healthcare needs, especially in low-income Latino populated areas. Yet Latinos face some of the biggest health issues in the country. The on-going national discussion on health care reform highlights the emerging implications for shortages in the health care workforce and the imperative need to increase the number of Latinos serving in the medical profession.

We used the session to meet with the U.S. Secretary for Education, Arne Duncan, and his staff to address education obstacles that often limit Latino representation in professional fields and to explore innovative strategies to fill those with the talented minds of our nationís Latino students. As the second largest population group in the United States, with one in five students in our nationís public schools being Latino, the educational attainment of Latino students is inherently connected to our nationís future growth and success.

As Chair of the Minnesota House Committee on K12 Education, I am fortunate to be one among many Latinos who are currently serving in public office throughout the country, making policies and programs to improve the educational opportunities for all students. With this in mind, I welcomed the opportunity to join other officials in this session as part of the NALEO Education Leadership Initiative (NELI). Across our country, Latinos are organizing themselves in more intentional and sophisticated ways as we prepare ourselves to both lead our communities and our entire nation. We are learning to be better advocates and better policymakers.

Today, the leadership challenge for education is considerable. In Minnesota alone we only graduate about 60% of our Latino students from high school. We are entering a new era of American education marked by challenging times that will require a much greater pursuit of innovate approaches to facilitate the educational success of every Latino student.

An educated society will serve to nurture the hopes and dreams of our children that in turn will sustain the economic, social and political fabric of our communities. Given opportunities, Latino students can fill the professional jobs our nation needs in order to be prosperous

In the coming months there will be many discussions on the role public officials from all levels of government will play to ensure that our schools continue to be the key focus of community development. I will keep you informed as we progress into the 2010 Minnesota Legislative Session.

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