DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006--Continued -- (Senate - October 27, 2005)
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Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I rise today to support an amendment introduced by Senator Bingaman to increase funding for education programs for Hispanic students. This important group of Americans has long been underserved by our public schools, and the actions proposed in this amendment are an important remedy.
In America, the promise of a good education for all makes it possible for any child to rise above the barriers of race or class or background and achieve his or her potential. We live in a world where the most valuable skill you can sell is knowledge. Yet we are denying this skill to too many of our children.
This denial has grave consequences, with those consequences falling inequitably on children of color. Of every 100 white kindergartners, 93 graduate from high school, and 33 earn at least a bachelor's degree. But for every 100 Hispanic kindergartners, only 63 graduate from high school, and only 11 obtain that college degree. The school age population of Hispanic students is growing five times faster than the student population at large. If we fail to do better in educating deserving Hispanic youth, this failure will have grave consequences for us all, not just with increased unemployment but in missed opportunities for innovation and competitiveness.
This failure of our education system is not easy to address. There is no single, simple solution. This amendment recognizes this fact by proposing a variety of programs to help Hispanic students. Among these programs, Support for Hispanic Serving Institutions will help those colleges that now grant diplomas to over 50 percent of all Hispanic graduates. Language Acquisition Grants address those students who struggle to learn because they do not yet have full fluency in English, a number which includes nearly half of the Hispanic students in our public schools. The School Dropout Prevention Program addresses one of the most significant problems for children of color. In Illinois, only 53 percent of Hispanics graduate from high school, compared with 83 percent of whites.
We must do better. We must not lower our standards. Instead, we must increase our support for those students who are eager to succeed. In many situations, it is clear that children of color, when provided appropriate support and effective teachers, can rise to meet our expectations and fulfill their hopes and the dreams of their families. I am proud to support Senator Bingaman in this effort.