News Column

Influentials Coverage: A School-Job Disconnect

October 2005, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Jesús Chavarría, Editor and Publisher


University students often complain about the disconnect between what's taught in the classroom and the realities of their first job. But the Hispanic community suffers from a different kind of school-job disconnect.

This year's 100 Influentials rank "access to education" as the top priority for a national Hispanic agenda. More than three fourths of survey respondents (83.3 percent) cite education as the main priority for advancement.

To see the benefits of education, just look at this issue's cover. Alphonso Diaz recently retired as chief science officer at NASA, the federal agency in charge of the U.S. space program. Reaching that position required two master's degrees. Mr. Diaz provides a living role model for Hispanics interested in science and technology.

Education is the great progressive force for the emerging U.S. Hispanic constituency. It correlates with higher wages and better occupations, according to the HispanTelligence® report "The U.S. Hispanic Economy in Transition: Facts, Figures & Trends." Clearly, there is a school-job connection.

So where's the disconnect? Asked to pick their top priorities for a national Hispanic agenda, many of these same Influentials – opinion leaders for our community – put "affirmative action" on the bottom of the list. Although 66.7 percent of respondents say they have experienced discrimination, and 23.8 percent faced discrimination in school, most apparently don't see this key policy for correcting discrimination and advancing education as a high priority.

The apparent contradiction may reflect a validation of affirmative action in education following the 2003 Michigan decisions. Since affirmative action seems secure, many may see less need to defend it – even though the Supreme Court nominee at this writing, Judge John Roberts, is on record as consistently opposing affirmative action.

Or the contradiction in survey results may reflect a negative connotation "affirmative action" often carries as an unfair advantage – when in fact its goal is to give fair or equal opportunity to groups that have suffered discrimination.

The survey sent to the Influentials didn't define affirmative action or directly ask for approval or disapproval. But, given the wide bipartisan support for affirmative action we know exists in the Hispanic community (see April 2005 issue cover story, "The Case of a Lifetime"), the time has come to recognize what the policy has accomplished.

This year's Influentials present the strongest show of Hispanic success since Hispanic Business started the directory in 1983. Although a mainstream news weekly recently published a cover touting "the 25 most influential Hispanics in America," it named people Hispanic Business has profiled for years.

The success of Hispanics – and the importance of education as an ingredient for that success – has been documented for years, even if the mainstream culture tended to ignore it. So we are pleased to see mainstream magazine titles begin to acknowledge the outstanding Hispanic leaders Hispanic Business has been recognizing since 1983.


At least 85 percent of Hispanic elected officials come from jurisdictions covered by Voting Rights Act statutes, according to the paper "Race, Gender & Descriptive Representation: An Exploratory View of Multicultural Elected Leadership in the United States," compiled by the Gender & Multicultural Project and funded by the
Ford Foundation.

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of non-Anglo elected officials are African American, 33 percent are Hispanic, and 3 percent are Asian.

Almost 50 percent of Hispanic elected officials live in just two states – California and Texas.

From 1985 to 2004, the reported total number of Hispanic elected officials increased 65 percent, from 3,147 to 5,205. The number of federal and state legislators grew 96 percent, from 129 to 253. The number of county and municipal officials grew 56 percent, from 1,316 to 2,059. "The number of education/school board officials grew the fastest, from 1,185 in 1985 to 2,682 in 2000, or by 125 percent," the report states.


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