NHLA 2016 Hispanic Public Policy Agenda

ECONOMIC SECURITY AND EMPOWERMENT

Latinos face a wealth gap that leads to poorer socio-economic outcomes for Latino families. The NHLA proposes a range of policies to close the wealth gap.

Principal Policy Recommendations

Enact Fair Federal Budgets:

The NHLA calls for a fair approach to the federal budget that permanently eliminates the arbitrary across-the-board cuts known as sequestration, increases investments in growing our economy, and reforms tax policy to generate greater revenues that can be invested in domestic programs and de cit reduction.

Expand Workforce Opportunities:

Greater investment is needed in workforce training programs – especially for youth and women – as well as English instruction, and the inclusion of community-based organizations in these programs’ implementation.

Promote Policies that Reward Work:

Policies must be implemented to improve living standards for Hispanic workers in low-wage occupations, including increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020 and expanding tax policies, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, to more people without children.

Increase Retirement Security:

Policies must be created to improve retirement security and combat elder poverty, including expanded access to 401(k)s and IRAs, the creation of federal savings plans, protecting Social Security from cuts, and increased funding for the Older Americans Act’s programs.

Improve Working Conditions:

Policy solutions must increase federal enforcement of worker protections, including in fissured workplaces where convoluted subcontracting arrangements make it difficult to protect workers’ rights. The NHLA also recommends enactment of the Paycheck Fairness Act, guaranteed paid sick and family leave, defending workers’ ability to join unions, and extending worker protections currently denied to farmworkers, care-givers, domestic workers, and day- laborers.

Enhance Financial Access and Protect Consumers:

In order to better protect Latinos from predatory financial services while extending access to credit, measures must be taken to increase access to small-dollar loans, individualized financial counseling, improved accuracy of credit reports, and maintain the role of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Support Homeownership:

Multiple measures must be taken to reverse the downward trend in the Hispanic homeownership rate, including strong implementation and enforcement of the CFPB servicing standards rules and increased housing counseling, while also addressing the need for farmworker housing.

Promoting a Fair and Orderly Solution to Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Crisis:

As this publication goes to press, efforts to address Puerto Rico’s financial crisis are in flux, but the need will likely remain for policymakers to provide Puerto Rico with the tools necessary to stabilize its economy, and accord the people of Puerto Rico their equal treatment as U.S. citizens, including full parity with the states of the union in the provision of services and funding for all federal programs.

Expand Access to Affordable Broadband and Mobile Phone Services:

In order to overcome high costs that depress Latinos’ access to broadband, policymakers should:

  • Modernize the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Lifeline Program to subsidize broadband services;
  • Launch bilingual digital literacy campaigns;
  • Ensure competition in the broadband and mobile phone markets; and
  • Continue the FCC’s E-Rate Program, among other measures.

EDUCATION

With Latinos comprising more than 25% of the public school student population, future U.S. economic competitiveness depends in great part on Latinos’ educational attainment. While progress has been made, much work remains to be done.

Principal Policy Recommendations

Early Childhood Education:

  • Institute universal pre-school.
  • Expand existing Head Start programs.
  • Support training programs to develop more culturally and linguistically competent teachers.

Elementary and Secondary Education:

The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, which reauthorized the civil rights-focused Elementary and Secondary Education Act, provides great discretion to states and localities, which have a mixed track record that underscores the continued need for strong federal leadership. The U.S. Department of Education must issue strong federal regulatory guidance, and states must ensure vigorous implementation and enforcement, to ensure the academic success of Latino students. These measures include:

  • Collecting disaggregated data on student and school progress.
  • Offering culturally and linguistically appropriate curricula and assessments.
  • Providing resources to address academic disparities.
  • Establishing goals to reduce achievement gaps.
  • Holding schools accountable for the progress of all students.

Higher Education:

Latino enrollment in higher education has surged to 49% of 18-24 year olds, yet less than a third earn a four-year degree. To improve college completion rates, policymakers must:

  • Strengthen financial aid programs.
  • Enact the DREAM Act.
  • Increase funding for Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and college preparation programs.
  • Ensure for-pro t institutions meet quality standards.
  • Incentivize community colleges to transfer more students of all backgrounds to four-year institutions.

School-to-Prison Pipeline:

Policymakers must reform overly harsh school discipline policies that lead to suspension, expulsion, or criminalization, as these policies contradict the goal of equal educational access, especially as they disproportionately impact Latino students.

Teachers, Counselors, and Administrators:

In order to ensure Latino students in public schools receive quality instruction and guidance, policymakers should:

  • Strengthen the requirements for cultural and linguistic competency of teachers and administrators, including appropriate assessments and certifications.
  • Support teacher preparation programs at Minority-Serving Institutions, which prepare most teachers of color.
  • Encourage the hiring and retention of Latinos in higher education.

Veterans Educational Opportunity:

In order to reverse the underutilization of the Montgomery G.I. Bill by Latino veterans, the federal government should launch a more proactive awareness campaign about G.I. Bill benefits to Latinos that enlist in the armed forces, their families, and those veterans already in college.

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