June 05, 2020

New Grants Work for Equity in Latino Education

By: Mirna Loreli Cibrian
Senior Program Officer, Latino Partnership Program

Historically, underserved communities have not had meaningful opportunities to engage and co-create educational systems and practices with the Oregon Department of Education and local school districts. For these communities, this lack of involvement often means that children are not adequately served or set up for success.

Evidence of disparities between children of color and their white counterparts shows up early and persists through graduation. In third grade in Oregon, 32% of Latino students demonstrated proficiency in reading compared with 52% of their white counterparts, and a smaller percentage of Latinos graduate high school in Oregon (76%) than white students (81%).

COVID-19 may deepen these disparities and educational inequities, as we know Latinx students lack access to tools and support systems for distance learning. Hearing and learning from the Latino community about students’ needs—and adapting education to ensure they thrive—is more important than ever.

In 2019, the Oregon legislature passed the Student Success Act (SSA) to provide $1 billion per year to improve access and opportunities for students who have been historically underserved in the education system. A provision in the SSA directs the Oregon Department of Education to develop and implement a statewide Latino Student Success Plan for students in early childhood through post-secondary education. This provision specifically states that school districts must also develop plans to use of their SSA dollars to address education equity.

According to the ODE Student Enrollment Report for 2018-2019, nearly 24% of K-12 students in Oregon are Latino. Recognizing that community voices haven’t always been at the table, OCF's Latino Partnership Program and Education Programs see opportunities for school districts and community-based organizations to build collaborative partnerships. OCF’s new one-time, one-year grant program is providing $300,000 in funding to support community-based organizations as they engage with the development of the Latino Student Success Plan and implementation of the SSA.

Six Organizations with Strong Track Records Selected

In 2020, OCF identified six organizations across the state to apply for funding through the Latino Student Community Engagement Grants program. Awarded organizations have strong track records in engaging Latino parents and families and they demonstrate the ability to collaborate with partners. The following organizations have solid plans and capacity for participating in the Latino Student Success Plan and SSA implementation and have already built partnerships with their region’s school districts.

Working Toward an Equitable Educational System

Improved educational outcomes bring many benefits, leading to greater opportunities and life outcomes. By supporting the involvement of community organizations in the development of the Latino Student Success Plan and implementation of the SSA, this grant program is taking steps to ensure the success of Latino students throughout Oregon.