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Long Beach : Latino Dropout Problem

March 20, 1986

Supt. Tom Giugni has agreed to meet with representatives of a coalition of Latino organizations to discuss their demand that the school board initiate a comprehensive five-year plan to deal with the problem of Latino school dropouts.

"The magnitude of the problem is catastrophic," Ramon Cruz told the school board at its regular meeting Monday night.

A former school board candidate, Cruz is education committee chairman of the local League of United Latin American Citizens, which was instrumental in forming the coalition. Representatives of several organizations--including LULAC, Long Beach Area Citizens Involved, the Chicano Political Caucus and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund--addressed the board.

"If this problem were to continue," Cruz said, "we may expect a severe decline in the overall quality of our schools and the economic viability of our local neighborhoods."

Although national and state studies indicate that as many as half of the Latino students in California and the nation do not complete high school, studies on the number of Latino dropouts in Long Beach have never been done, according to district spokesman Dick Van der Laan.

Among its recommendations, the coalition asked that the schools undertake a one-year study, financed by California Lottery funds, to determine the extent of the Latino dropout problem in Long Beach, and to follow that with a comprehensive five-year program to combat the problem. The coalition also recommended the formation of a committee of 15 to 20 representatives from the Latino community to advise the district on the issue of Latino dropouts.

Board members generally reacted favorably to the proposal.

"We have a large job in front of us," Elizabeth Wallace said. "We really recognize the problem and we look forward to working with you."

Added John Kashiwabara: "I'm going to do all I can to (deal) with your concerns."

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