Report by Lauren Rozyla
LAS VEGAS – Minorities in the Las Vegas valley are up against huge barriers especially when it comes to sending kids to school who don’t know English.
Education policy groups, advocates and educators gathered Monday at the Kenny G. Guinn Center for Policy Priorities. This was the first major event at the bipartisan center and focused on the center’s policy report titled The State of Latinos in the Intermountain West. The report looked at issues faced by Latinos in Las Vegas and other western states.
Andres Ramirez fought to start his business in the beginning of the recession. Years later, he still sees Latinos struggling to get back to work.
“The job market in Las Vegas has been so competitive, unemployment has been so high,” Ramirez said.
Latinos have some of the highest unemployment rates in southern Nevada. Those who know the job market best say Latinos often lack the skills needed to re-enter the job force.
The goal of the report is to bring together experts to improve the well-being of local Latinos.
Education policy groups at the event pushed for more science and technology training in elementary and middle school and more English language funding for schools.
Education groups would like to see more tablets and computers be put in schools, especially those schools with high minority populations.
Hispanic kids make up nearly half of the valley’s students and advocates say there are very few minority teachers.
“If they’re not exposed to professionals that look like them, whether it’s in the teaching fields or in any field, it does have a huge impact,” said Nory Angel, the executive director for SER Jobs for Progress.
Assemblywoman Lucy Flores wants full-day kindergarten so kids are exposed to English sooner. In addition, she would like to see programs funded to get parents and kids reading together:
“Many of these parents either one don’t understand that process, or are working two full-time jobs or not in the home and aren’t able to give the support that those kids need at home,” Flores said.
And when it comes time to re-enter the workforce, Nevada state Senator Mark Hutchison says he wants to ensure Latino business owners get access to funding and loans by directly connecting them to investors.
“Bringing those two communities together to provide that funding, that capital, resources necessary to start a business,” he said.
It’s hoped if some of the obstacles are tackled, children and their families will be in a better position to succeed.