Education chief, Sen. Clinton differ on federal help for Latino students
Associated Press
Jul. 19, 2005
Erin Texeira
PHILADELPHIA - U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said Monday that the "achievement gap is beginning to close" between Hispanic and Anglo students, while Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton countered that she is not convinced the federal government is doing enough to help Hispanic youths get through school.

Spellings and Clinton each spoke at the convention of the National Council of La Raza, a four-day event that ends today.

The two did not dispute statistics that show Latino students have the nation's highest high school dropout rate and the lowest college enrollment rate but diverged on whether the government is fixing the problem.

Praising No Child Left Behind, the education law President Bush signed in January 2002, Spellings pointed to National Assessment of Educational Progress scores released Thursday that show 9-year-olds, including Hispanics, have improved their reading and math scores.

"These results did not come out of thin air," Spellings said. "They came from a commitment to doing something that's never been done before, a commitment to giving every child a quality education.

"The achievement gap is beginning to close."

But minutes later, Clinton told the same group, "You are doing your part, but I don't know that your government is doing its part right now."

Clinton stressed that, though younger students' scores have improved, 17-year-olds have made virtually no gains since the tests were first given 30 years ago.

"I'm not sure that we are doing everything we should to make your job easier, to make sure that the opportunity society is alive and well for everyone," she said.

Washington-based La Raza was founded in Phoenix in 1968 as a Mexican-American civil rights group and now is the nation's largest advocacy group for Hispanics. It represents 4 million members in 300 affiliates across the country.