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California Sen. Alex Padilla Introduces Legislation to Expand Higher Ed Opportunities for Latino Students

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, California Senator Alex Padilla introduced legislation initiatives to expand opportunities for Latino students in higher education and highlight Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI).

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Senator Alex Padilla meets with then-Supreme Court Nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson
Senator Alex Padilla meets with then-Supreme Court Nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.

By Magaly Muñoz
Post Staff

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, California Senator Alex Padilla introduced legislation initiatives to expand opportunities for Latino students in higher education and highlight Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI).

The first part of the bipartisan legislation is being supported by Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J) to establish the week of September 11th as National Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week, according to a press release from Padilla’s office.

Hispanic Serving Institutions make up about 23% of all colleges in California with another 47 emerging institutions. Colleges have to have 25% of their population be Latino or Hispanic students to be considered an HSI.

The second part of Padilla’s legislation, co-led in the House of Representatives by Representatives Joaquin Castro (D-Texas-20) and Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico), is the Hispanic Educational Resources and Empowerment (HERE) Act that looks to give resources to Latino students to bridge the educational gap.

Twenty-eight percent of Latinos have an associate’s degree or higher compared to that of their white counterparts with 48%. At two-year institutions, Hispanics’ graduation rate was five percentage points lower than that of their white, non-Hispanic peers and at four-year institutions, Hispanics’ graduation rate was 13 percentage points lower than that of their white, non-Hispanic peers, according to Exelencia in Education.

Padilla said the grants are tailored to help students through the application and transition process for college. The grants would also be put toward non-academic needs that deter students from achieving success in higher education.

“Our current education system has failed to sufficiently support Latino college recruitment and retention – just 28% of Latino adults have an associate’s degree or higher,” Padilla said in an email to The Post. “My legislation invests in both the educational and economic success of the next generation of Latinos in the workforce by creating a new federal grant program to fund partnerships between Hispanic-Serving Institutions and school districts with significant Hispanic and Latino enrollment to improve college readiness and completion.”

Some universities in California are already making changes to reflect the focuses that the HERE Act is looking to make.

San Francisco State University has a 36% population of Hispanic students enrolled in the school and initiatives are being made by leadership to help foster success for them.

SFSU President Lynn Mahoney said coming back to post-pandemic, in-person instruction in 2021 made her reflect on what more the university could be doing. She said being an HSI shouldn’t just be because of the chance of demographics, it should come with intention, and the campus should reflect the students’ needs.

“We recognize that students need to have faculty, staff and administrators that reflect their own ethnic and racial backgrounds. And this has not been easy in some cases. The pipeline is small,” Mahoney said.

Latinos makeup only 16% of staff and administration, and 9% of faculty, according to Robert King, the director of Communications at SFSU. Mahoney said STEM-related majors are where they’re lacking the most Latino and Hispanic representation.

Mahoney said some of the programs they have on campus are the Latino Student Success Center. Established in 2022, Spanish language orientations and a Center for Equity and Excellence in Teaching and Learning welcome educators to learn how to become culturally competent in their teachings when they have such a diverse class makeup.

“The future of California is our first-generation students of color, and Latinx students are the fastest-growing population here,” Mahoney said. “This state will only continue to be the best place in the world, if, in fact, we get college degrees into the hands of our Latinx students. So this is an investment that the state and every single citizen has to make.”

PIQE, or Parent Institute for Quality Education, is an organization that works primarily with high school students and parents, but has programs that address major gaps in education like STEM and offer transitional tools to help with higher education.

Andrew Ferson, the director of Policy and Partnerships at PIQE, said their “Family Bridge to College” looks to address what they call the “summer melt.”

“Summer melt is this idea that you have students who are accepted into and then intending to enroll in higher education, but then in the summer, for whatever reason they basically stopped going to or ended up not going to college,” Ferson said.

He said the program works with the districts and colleges to bring in families during the summer to foster the relationships early on and keep students on track with what they need for higher education. They’ve also partnered with UC San Diego to bring in professors and counselors to familiarize parents and students with resources and tools that the university offers.

Ferson said although they work primarily with high school families, a lot of the needs that parents are worried about – like digital divide and financing– can also be seen in college family concerns. He added that legislation, like what Padilla is introducing, is “smart policy” and addresses the relationship that colleges should have with families.

“I certainly hope that that bill gets passed and funded,” Ferson said. “But in the meantime, it’s on all of us to be actively reaching out to families and forming those relationships and meeting them where they’re at so that all of our students can succeed.”

Magaly Muñoz

Magaly Muñoz

A graduate of Sacramento State University, Magaly Muñoz’s journalism experience includes working for the State Hornet, the university’s student-run newspaper and conducting research and producing projects for “All Things Considered” at National Public Radio. She also was a community reporter for El Timpano, serving Latino and Mayan communities, and contributed to the Sacramento Observer, the area’s African American newspaper.

Muñoz is one of 40 early career journalists who are part of the California Local News Fellowship program, a state-funded initiative designed to strengthen local news reporting in California, with a focus on underserved communities.

The fellowship program places journalism fellows throughout the state in two-year, full-time reporting positions.

A graduate of Sacramento State University, Magaly Muñoz’s journalism experience includes working for the State Hornet, the university’s student-run newspaper and conducting research and producing projects for “All Things Considered” at National Public Radio. She also was a community reporter for El Timpano, serving Latino and Mayan communities, and contributed to the Sacramento Observer, the area’s African American newspaper. Muñoz is one of 40 early career journalists who are part of the California Local News Fellowship program, a state-funded initiative designed to strengthen local news reporting in California, with a focus on underserved communities. The fellowship program places journalism fellows throughout the state in two-year, full-time reporting positions.

Activism

Oakland Post: Week of June 12-18, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of June 12-18, 2024

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

More Segregated Than Deep South: ACLU Releases Report on Calif. Public Schools

The 2024 State of Black Education: Report Card was recently published by the American Civil Liberties Union California Action (ACLU California Action). It states that California is the third most segregated state for Black students.  Co-author of the report, policy counsel Amir Whitaker from ACLU Southern California explained the criteria the ACLU use to rank California during the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education held at the State Capitol the day after the Memorial Day holiday.

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Asm. Mia Bonta (D-Alameda) was a guest speaker at the State of Black Education report card briefing at the State Capitol on May 29. CBM Photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
Asm. Mia Bonta (D-Alameda) was a guest speaker at the State of Black Education report card briefing at the State Capitol on May 29. CBM Photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

By Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌, California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

The 2024 State of Black Education: Report Card was recently published by the American Civil Liberties Union California Action (ACLU California Action). 

It states that California is the third most segregated state for Black students.

Co-author of the report, policy counsel Amir Whitaker from ACLU Southern California explained the criteria the ACLU use to rank California during the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education held at the State Capitol the day after the Memorial Day holiday.

“For every state in the Deep South, California (schools) are more segregated,” Whittaker said. “People often think that California is not segregated or unequal as Deep South states and others. The inequalities here (in California) are actually wider.”

New York and Illinois are ahead of California regarding the racial diversity of their student bodies. According to a report May 2022 report by Stanford Graduate School of Education, the Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and New York City school districts are in the top 10 most racially segregated districts for White-Black, White-Hispanic, and White-Asian segregation based on the average levels from 1991-2020.

In bigger school districts, segregation between low-income (students who are eligible for free lunch) and non-low-income students increased by 47% since 1991, according to the Stanford Graduate School’s report.

“That’s why it’s important to look at this data,” Whitaker said. “When you have millions of people living in places like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, the urban areas are a lot more segregated than the south. That’s a big part of it.

A number of factors contribute to the segregation of schools in California such as parents sending their children to private schools, others optioning for homeschooling, and other reasons, Whitaker said.

The Brown v. Board of Education case declared that separating children in public schools based on race was unconstitutional. However, Whitaker pointed to cases after the landmark decision that circumvented that federal law.

According to a 2014 report by the Civil Rights Project, in the 1990s, decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court decision ended federal desegregation orders in San Francisco and San Jose. In addition, court decisions in the state that ordered desegregation in the 1970s were overturned by the 1990s. Legally, California has no school integration policy to adhere to.

“This is why we did this report. There needs to be a report just on this issue (of school segregation),” Whitaker told California Black Media. “Right now, there’s no task force or anything addressing it. I have never seen the California Department of Education talk about it. This is a pandemic (and) a crisis.”

ACLU Northern California hosted an overview of the report and panel discussion at the State Capitol on May 29. California Black Legislative Caucus member Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Alameda) and Sen. Steven Bradford were the guest speakers. Parents, students, educators, and Black education advocates from all over the state attended the 90-minute presentation at the State Capitol.

School segregation is the No. 1 issue listed in among the report’s “24 areas of documented inequality,along with problematic trends of racial harassment, a continuous decline of Black student enrollment, school closures, connection with school staff, chronic absenteeism, low Black teacher representation, and parent participation.

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Art

Mayor Breed, Actor Morris Chestnut Attend S.F.’s Indie Night Film Festival

On June 1, the acclaimed Los Angeles-based Indie Night Film Festival arrived at the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco. San Francisco native Dave Brown, Founder and CEO of the Indie Night Film Festival, has a vision for the film industry that is squarely focused on promoting the many talented producers, actors, and designers contributing to this billion-dollar industry. The festival has been running for 12 years and it’s only up from here, he says.

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(Left to Right) Dave Brown, CEO, Indie Night Festival, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, and actor Morris Chestnut. Photo by Y’Anad Burrell
(Left to Right) Dave Brown, CEO, Indie Night Festival, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, and actor Morris Chestnut. Photo by Y’Anad Burrell

By Y’Anad Burrell

On June 1, the acclaimed Los Angeles-based Indie Night Film Festival arrived at the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco.

San Francisco native Dave Brown, Founder and CEO of the Indie Night Film Festival, has a vision for the film industry that is squarely focused on promoting the many talented producers, actors, and designers contributing to this billion-dollar industry.  The festival has been running for 12 years and it’s only up from here, he says.

A weekly celebration of cinematic artistry designed to elevate emerging talent while providing a platform for networking and collaboration, entrepreneur Dave Brown created Indie Night to bridge gaps within the filmmaking community by fostering connections between like-minded individuals worldwide. The Indie Film Festival currently has over 450 film submissions worldwide, and its cinematic vault only continues to grow.

The festival showcased over 10 short films and trailers, and featured Faces of the “City: Fighting for the Soul of America,” produced by veteran actor Tisha Campbell.  This film is about the vibrancy and legacy of San Francisco. The festival also previewed “When It Reigns,” a trailer by Oakland’s burgeoning filmmaker Jamaica René.

Indie films have not just challenged traditional cinematic norms; they’ve shattered them. These films offer unique storytelling perspectives and push creative boundaries in truly inspiring ways. With their smaller budgets and independent spirit, they often tackle unconventional subjects and portray diverse characters, providing a refreshing alternative to mainstream cinema. As a result, indie films have resonated with audiences seeking an escape from formulaic blockbusters and are increasingly celebrated for their authenticity and originality.

Organizers say the mission of Indie Night is to elevate the craft of independent artists and creators. It also provides a venue for them to showcase their work, network, and exchange information with new and established creatives. It creates a community that values and supports independent art.

For more about the Indie Night Film Festival, visit www.indienightfilmfestival.com.

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