Original URL: http://www.arizonarepublic.com/arizona/articles/1011dropout11.html

Hispanic dropout rate top priority, 2 candidates say

By Daniel González
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 11, 2002

Superintendent of public instruction candidates Jay Blanchard and Tom Horne
agreed Thursday that increasing educational success among Hispanics poses a
major challenge that should be given top priority, but they differed over how they
would address the issue.

The two candidates were responding to just-released Census Bureau data
showing the number of Latinos who dropped out or never attended high school
surged in Arizona during the 1990s.

Of the total number of people ages 16 to 19 who were not high school
graduates, not enrolled in school and not in the armed forces in 2000, the
percentage in Arizona who were Hispanic was 57.7 percent, according to the
Census Bureau. In 1990, that figure was 39 percent.

State Sen. Blanchard, the Democratic candidate, said the high percentage of
Hispanics in Arizona without high school diplomas "cannot be tolerated" but a
"one-size-fits-all solution" to the problem doesn't exist.

If elected, Blanchard outlined three changes he would make to reduce the
dropout rate in Arizona. First, he would provide high school students with more
choice by adding night, weekend, Internet and other alternative high school

He also would expand vocational opportunities for high school students that lead
to higher paying jobs for graduates, and he would create a pub lic education
campaign similar to the state's anti-tobacco campaign.

The campaign would target younger students, and would incorporate Hispanic
role models to reach Hispanic students.

"The campaign would show it's not cool to drop out of school and it would
include Hispanic leaders," he said.

Horne, the Republican candidate, said he also was concerned about the high
number of Hispanics in Arizona without diplomas and vowed to do something
about it.

"It's obviously something that's going to have to be among our highest priorities,"
Horne said.

If elected, "I will consult with relevant groups to come up with a comprehensive
program," said Horne, a construction lawyer and board president of the Paradise
Valley Unified School District.

A primary focus of that program, however, would be making sure Latino
students who don't know English learn English as quickly as possible, he said.

"Once they learn English, they can soar academically," he said.

John Zajac, the Libertarian candidate, said he does not believe the state should
single out ethnic groups for special treatment. To reduce the number of students
dropping out of school, Zajac favors privatizing the public school system through
a school voucher system.

"We can tailor the solutions a lot more effectively under a privatized school
voucher system," he said.

The surge in the number of Latinos in Arizona who dropped out or never
attended high school in the 1990s is not surprising, said Louis Olivas, chairman of
the Arizona Minority Education Policy Analysis Center.

"There are more Hispanics 16 to 19 years of age in Arizona than ever before.
That's because of immigration," he said. "When immigrants come here, they come
for economic gain, not for an educational gain."

Reach the reporter at daniel.gonzalez@arizonarepublic.com or (602)
444-8312. The Associated Press contributed to this article.