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New report says more investment is needed in educating North Carolina's Latino students

Ricky Hurtado, left, and Zamantha Granados listen to their LatinxEd colleague Elaine Utin speak during the organization's summit in September 2022.
Kayla Young
WFAE/La Noticia
Ricky Hurtado, left, and Zamantha Granados listen to their LatinxEd colleague Elaine Utin speak during the organization's summit in September 2022.

Latino students and families continue to face significant equity gaps in North Carolina’s education system, according to a report released Tuesday by LatinxEd, an education nonprofit that serves the Latino community.

Over the course of a year and a half, the team at LatinxEd conducted interviews across the state. They wanted to understand the barriers and opportunities facing Latinos in North Carolina’s education system.

On Tuesday, they released their findings, based on interviews with 250 people across 36 counties. Among the top concerns was underinvestment in culturally competent education, explained senior advisor Ricky Hurtado.

“As demographics have shifted and as our schools begin to change how they look and sound, resources and support for those communities in schools hasn't kept up,” he said. “When we talk about chronic disinvestment … we're making sure that our schools and staff are bilingual and bicultural.”

North Carolina’s Latino student population has grown significantly over the past two decades. In 1999, Latino students made up 4% of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the report says. Nearly 25 years later, they now represent 27% of the district.

Community impact manager Zamantha Granados said that, despite the growth, many Latino students and families still rely on their peers, rather than the school system, to find the support they need.

“They oftentimes take matters into their own hands,” Granados said. “Whether it was advocating [to address] a gap that they were seeing at the front desk or with information that was going from the school to the home, people really took it upon themselves to make some of those challenges known. And they've been doing that for a long time.”

For Latino students who were brought to the United States as children, the barriers to higher education remain immense, Hurtado added.

Undocumented students who graduate from North Carolina high schools do not qualify for in-state tuition. Current high school students are also excluded from the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, which provides temporary protections for some undocumented residents.

“Students who would be eligible for DACA are not qualifying because that program is frozen due to the continued action at the federal level and the court systems,” he said. “There's a lot of immigrant students who've been locked out of opportunity in North Carolina because they no longer have access.”

The report makes a series of recommendations to help the state improve how it serves Latino families. Solutions can also be found, Granados said, by leveraging community efforts. The report highlights a number of organizations that have already made progress toward promoting Latino education in the state.

“I'm hoping it connects some of those radical thinkers and doers so that we can see more of those promising practices, best practices in many parts of the state,” she said. “Take this report and see what someone maybe in the county near you is already doing and ring them up and say, ‘hey, what would it take for me to try this here?’”

The report also proposes investments in improving teacher diversity across the state, expanding language access in schools and providing more immigrants access to driver’s licenses, so they can get to school.


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Kayla Young is a Report for America corps member covering issues involving race, equity, and immigration for WFAE and La Noticia, an independent Spanish-language news organization based in Charlotte. Major support for WFAE's Race & Equity Team comes from Novant Health and Wells Fargo.