US President Joe Biden has signed a new executive order aimed at improving educational and economic outcomes for Latinos, with US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona at its helm.
In a statement, the White House said that the new initiative - called the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics - will address "systemic causes" of challenges faced by Latino students.
As part of the move, 24 cabinet departments and other federal agencies will form a working group, with the Education Department providing support "to the extent permitted by law and within existing appropriations."
"We must enable Hispanic and Latino students to reach their highest potential through our Nation's schools and institutions of higher education," the order says. "The Federal Government must also collaborate with Hispanic and Latino communities to ensure their long-term success."
The White House statement also noted that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic "has laid bare and exacerbated" many of these inequities.
"These and pre-existing disparities have led to declines in student achievement for Hispanic students," the statement noted. "Latino students, once the fastest-growing group of undergraduates in the United States - have seen a decline in undergraduate college attendance amidst the Covid-19 pandemic."
These barriers, the White House said, also exist in the workplace.
"Hispanic workers are overrepresented in industries that have been hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic, and they have faced disproportionate losses in employment," the White House said. "Hispanic and Latino workers often face discrimination in hiring, pay, and consideration for promotions among other challenges."
The statement added: "they need greater access to work-based learning opportunities such as mentorships, internships, and registered apprenticeships that not only guide employment seekers to a career, but provide the experience needed to secure well-paying jobs," the White House added.
The initiative comes as the Biden administration steps up efforts to woo Latino voters ahead of the 2022 and 2024 elections. Latinos helped Biden narrowly win 2020 victories in Arizona, Wisconsin and Georgia, which were crucial to his victory in the election.
An LPO source with knowledge of Democratic strategies ahead of the upcoming election said he believes that the move forms part of a wider strategy.
"Anything that can help reach Latinos will help at this point," the source. "There's growing concern about how successful the Republicans will be with Latino voters going forward."
"Education is going to be a key part of that message," the source added. "We can't just talk about immigration. Schools, the economy, that's the key, I think."
Data shows that Republicans have performed particularly well among Latinos with lower levels of education. Data from the Pew Research Center shows that while Biden won "69% of college-educated Latino voters, compared to Trump's 30%. Among Latino voters with "some" college or less, however, Biden's lead shrank 14 points with 55% of the vote, compared to 41% for Trump."
Republican operatives have repeatedly said that they believe education - and the economy - are messages they believe will resonate with Latinos going forward.
"These people have real concerns," Giancarlo Sopo, the former Director of Rapid Response for Spanish-language media of the Donald Trump campaign, said in an interview with LPO. "I think it's very important that the [Republican] party continue communicating this blue collar, conservative message."
"That clearly resonated with a wide cross-section of the Latino electorate, and other demographic groups as well," he added.
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