To Education Sec. Nominee Betsy DeVos: Don't Let Hispanic Kids Fall Through the Cracks

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(Photo: REUTERS/Mike Segar)U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) stands with Betsy DeVos after their meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016.

Betsy DeVos,

On behalf of the Faith and Education Coalition of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, we congratulate you on your nomination to be the next Secretary of the Department of Education.

As advocates for students — especially poor and minority children — we are grateful for and celebrate your commitment to improving the education of all American children. We stand ready to support the Department's vital mission of promoting "student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access."

As you prepare for your confirmation and then begin your work at the department, we want you to know that we will be praying for you and your staff. To have a woman of faith serving our nation in this role is a deep blessing to us all.

Sharing the same spirit, we wanted to flag the fast-growing segment of American students — the more than twelve million Hispanic children enrolled in public schools. Hispanic students now represent the largest ethnic minority group in public schools, and their numbers are growing. Unfortunately, these students are particularly at risk of an inadequate educational experience, due to language issues, poverty and inconsistent academic standards. The impact these factors have on a Hispanic child's education is enormous: 

1. English Language Learner challenges: more than 9 million ELL students attend public schools, and the vast majority speak Spanish as a first language. These families are often highly mobile, therefore inconsistent education standards from state to state or district to district present an enormous challenge to mastering English in addition to content (thereby impeding academic success).

2. Poverty challenges: more than half of public school students are low-income students, and the poverty rate for Hispanic families exceeds the national average. Hispanic families are very supportive of education, so they are highly aware of how academic standards vary between schools and how it limits their children's success.

We work to make certain Hispanic kids do not fall through the cracks and that they become prepared for successive grades and then higher education and careers. Through the promotion of high and consistent education standards across
the country — whether they are the already state-adopted Common Core or similarly rigorous standards — our organization seeks to help every child reach his or her God-given potential, recognizing each has been created in the image of God, with a unique destiny that each must fulfill.

It would be our joy and honor to work with you to guarantee this essential component for the success of all children. We would gladly volunteer and offer our expertise in an advisory capacity to help ensure a quality education for ethnic minority and ELL students.

When Hispanic parents enroll their children in a local public school, the quality of education shouldn't be determined by their zip code — a message you have reiterated often, thank you. Rigorous and consistent academic standards are needed to ensure that we do not inadvertently create a subpar educational experience for these students. English Language Learners especially need the rigor of high standards, along with additional supports, to succeed academically and excel in two languages.

Again, congratulations, thank you, and many blessings upon your leadership!

Signed,

Dr. Andrea Ramirez, Executive Director, Faith and Education Coalition – NHCLC

Dr. Carlos Campo, Founder, Faith and Education Coalition – NHCLC, President of Ashland University

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference/Conel