Teach for America promotes dialogue of Latino inequality

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About 200 Latino students drop out of high school every hour in the U.S., said Sarah Sanchez, UT’s recruitment director for Teach for America, a national organization that commits recent college graduates to serve as teachers in lower-income areas for two years. Four panelists discussed problems in Latino education at the UT Elementary School on Friday, and about 75 people attended. TFA sponsored the forum as part of a series of events the group held last week, including a question-and-answer session, a movie night and a tour of a chartered school system. “The Latino population in our country is growing faster than any other subgroup,” Sanchez said. “We have a really large number of Latinos here, so you can see the Latino education crisis in Texas more.” Charles Graham Jr., a government senior and TFA campus campaign coordinator at UT, said the group planned the week of events to interest students in applying for the 2011 TFA corps before the application deadline on Feb. 4. He said the group also wanted to inform people about the educational achievement gap between students in higher- and lower-income areas. “One in 10 kids from low socioeconomic areas even go into college, and our idea is to teach for all ten,” Graham said. Graham said graduates of the program work to solve the achievement gap even if they do not ultimately become teachers. “Our corps members go on to solve the achievement gap in different areas, whether it’s education policy, investing in education, as well as teaching,” he said. TFA raised its first endowment of $100 million Thursday. TFA spokeswoman Kaitlin Gastrock said the money will fund 2 percent of the organization’s national operating budget. In five to 10 years, the organization plans to increase the number of corps members from 8,200 to 15,000 and the number of communities served from 39 to 60. She said the organization will send members to Fort Worth for the first time this fall. Laura Duran, executive director of the Hispanic Scholarship Consortium, said one of the major problems Latinos seeking education face at the college level is their ability to receive financial aid. “The biggest challenge right now is going to be financial aid and the availability of grants at the state level, potentially later on at the federal level,” she said. Gregory Vincent, UT’s vice president for diversity and community engagement, criticized the state for cutting funds for education rather than the prison system. “Do we want to make a wise investment in communities and schools at a third of the cost that will allow students to graduate from high schools and become productive citizens, or do we want to wait until the school system’s failed them and warehouse them for years on end?” he asked.