(Washington, D.C.) - Today U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) expressed her support for the Hispanic Education Opportunities Act.
Murray also discussed a summit she held in August with Hispanic leaders from across Washington State.
Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I am proud to cosponsor the Hispanic Educational Opportunities Amendment which will help address the challenges facing Hispanic students from coast to coast. I thank Senator Reid and Senator Bingaman for offering this amendment, and today I want to highlight how this bill will help so many people in our communities.
Just last month in Washington State, I saw once again how important education is to our entire state and especially to the Hispanic community.
On August 11, I had the opportunity to hold a day-long summit of Hispanic leaders in Yakima, WA. The turnout was overwhelming. In one room, we brought together Hispanic elected officials from across the State, along with public and private-sector leaders, on a host of issues. Congressman Ciro Rodriguez, the chairman of our Congressional Hispanic Caucus, served as a cohost, and shared his national perspective on the issues. We had also had international leaders, including Peruvian Consul Miguel Velasquez and Mexican Consul Jorge Madrazo.
I am especially proud that we had more than a dozen panelists who shared their expertise and led our discussion. I publicly thank each of our panelists for their time not only at the summit, but for dedicating their lives to helping the community.
Many of them had to overcome significant barriers in their own lives, and today they are working to knock down barriers for all Hispanics. Their participation that day was just one example of the leadership they show every day of the year.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to print the names of the panelists in the Record.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
Miguel Puente, CAMP Director at Heritage College, Toppenish; Ricardo Sanchez, LEAP Director, Seattle; Armondo Mungia, student at Eastern Washington University, Cheney; and Elizabeth Padilla Flynn, Pasco School District.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PANELISTS
Luz Bazan Gutierrez, President & CEO, Rural Community Development Resources, Yakima; Veronica Yzquierdo, Executive Director, Pasco Downtown Development Association; Jesse Farias, Employment and Security, Wapato; and Gilberto Alaniz, State Director, Opportunities Industrialization Center.
CIVIL RIGHTS PANELISTS
Lupe Gamboa, United Farm Workers; Roberto Maestas, El Centro de La Raza, Seattle; Polo Aguilera, Grupo Mexico, Yakima; and Kevin Diaz, Attorney, Columbia Legal Services.
Teresa Mosqueda, Sea Mar Representative, Public Health, Seattle; Kimberley Klint, Ph.D., Director of Mason Matters; Vickie Ybarra, Director Planning and Development, Yakima Farm Workers Clinic; Marisela Guzman, ConneX student, Toppenish; and Jesus Hernandez, Lead Access Coordinator/Program Manager, Community Choice, Wenatchee.
Mrs. MURRAY. I thank each of them for their leadership, and today I am on the Senate floor supporting this amendment to help carry out the agenda we discussed at the summit.
I can tell you that even though we covered a host of topics, including economic development, civil rights and healthcare, the No. 1 topic people talked about was education.
I was astounded to listen as leaders in the community, elected school board members, and city council members told me that when they were growing up, very few people, if any, looked at them and said: ``You know, you can be a success. You can pass first grade.'' Or that, ``You can go on to college, and you can become something in this country.''
If we adopt this amendment, we will tell a generation of young students: We need you. We need you to be the next generation of engineers. We need you to be the next generation of teachers. We need you to be the next generation of C.E.O.s.
Today we are missing out on an entire young population, and what they can give back to this country someday in leadership, in economics, in paying taxes, and in being successful members of the community. This amendment will help knock down the barriers facing Hispanic students, and we must adopt it.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing is that the underlying Labor-HHS bill we are debating cuts funding for critical Hispanic programs. That is why we need this amendment to stop those cuts and provide funding for critical services like extra help with preschool, English language acquisition, tutoring, mentoring, and financial aid. I want to highlight how this amendment will help in areas like Headstart, migrant education, and language skills.
One program that I have seen bring help--and hope--to families for decades is Head Start. This amendment will expand access to Head Start programs for migrant and seasonal working families. Migrant and seasonal farmworkers work hard every day so that you and I can put affordable food on our tables. It is a good deal for us, but most of those families earn less than $10,000 a year. Many of their children pay a price beyond poverty. When families don't have access to child care, they are forced to take their children into the fields with them, exposing them to equipment and other hazards.
Migrant and Seasonal Head Start programs meet the needs of these families, keeping their children safe while preparing them for school. Nationwide, 60 percent of children are being served by Head Start, but for migrant children, it is just 19 percent and for children of seasonal workers, it is just 2 percent. That is unacceptable.
This amendment will boost the funding so we give more children of migrant and seasonal workers a place in Head Start so they can start school ready to learn. This amendment does more than just increase funding to serve more children. It also makes sure that vulnerable children are not cut off from the help they are counting on.
The President's budget request slashed funding for the High School Equivalency Program, HEP, by 43 percent. The appropriations bill before the Senate implements the President's cut, with a $10 million cut to HEP. It also cuts funding for the College Assistance Migrant Program, CAMP, by $400,000.
The funding cuts in the HEP program would eliminate the 23 oldest and best performing projects in the program, two of which are in Washington State. I have met with the leaders of HEP and CAMP programs in Washington state. They are doing critical work at Heritage College and Washington State University HEP programs.
HEP provides education and counseling services to migrant students who have dropped out of high school so they can pass the GED examination. Some of the 23 projects that could be closed down have been providing services for 30 years. As a whole, 73 percent of their students received GEDs, an amazing success rate for a population of students who have already dropped out of school.
The CAMP program is also critical. It recruits talented migrant high school and GED graduates, who want to go on to college, but don't have the resources. These programs introduce parents and students to campus during the summer before their freshman year. It helps those students in their first year of college with personal and academic counseling, mentoring, and stipends.
Before we created CAMP programs, there was no record of a migrant child having completed college. Since then, nearly three-quarters of all CAMP students have graduated with baccalaureate degrees. Without HEP and CAMP, access to college would be out of reach for the vast majority of migrant students.
The funding levels in this bill ignore the amazing successes we have had through HEP and CAMP. Because migrant children move around, they don't have a local school, a school district, or even a State that is responsible for their education. We need to keep this safety net at the Federal level.
Currently, funding for the 102 HEP and CAMP projects can serve only 15,000 students, a small fraction of those who desperately need help. The Department of Education has estimated there are now over 750,000 school-aged migrant children.
Since migrant children have the highest dropout rate in the Nation, with nearly 60 percent failing to complete high school, that means that over the next 5 years, 170,000 of these children will drop out of school and be eligible for HEP services.
Over the next 5 years, 140,000 students will become eligible for CAMP services. It makes no sense for this bill to take away funding when so many students need help.
Another area where our country cannot afford to make the cuts in this appropriations bill is in the English Language Acquisition program. This bill cuts the program by $20 million. That is unacceptable. This amendment would restore that funding.
It will also increase support for limited English proficient, LEP, students to $750 million. The number of LEP students has almost doubled over the past decade. It has increased at nearly eight times the rate of total student enrollment. The teachers who are serving those students could use more preparation to teach students with limited English proficiency. This amendment will help provide Title III dollars so that these teachers can receive ongoing professional development.
The Reid-Bingaman amendment will help students overcome barriers at almost every level of school.
Congress has a proud tradition of ensuring that our most disadvantaged kids get a shot at the American dream. It is what we did when we passed Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It is what we did when we created Head Start. And it is what we did when we started giving out Pell Grants.
We need to carry on that tradition today, not out of charity, but because we recognize that these children are our bridge to a successful future.
I urge my colleagues to vote for this amendment and give Hispanic students in Washington State and around the country a chance at the American dream and a better life.
Update: A revised version of this amendment on Hispanic Education was agreed to in the Senate the following day. Details