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Better Data Sought on Latino Children

October 18, 2002|Jose Cardenas | Times Staff Writer

A Latino civil rights organization called Thursday for better demographic research by the statewide commission that oversees the spending of tobacco tax revenues earmarked for childhood development programs.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund addressed its proposals to the California Children and Families Commission, which held its monthly meeting in Long Beach.

The statewide commission was formed to oversee the spending of revenues raised by Proposition 10. It oversees the work of individual county commissions that spend the money locally.

Approved by voters in 1998, the proposition, which put a 50-cent tax on each pack of cigarettes, provides services such as child care and early childhood education to children up to 5 years old.

The organization, urging that the needs of Latino children be considered in the distribution of funds, proposed that agencies offering services funded by the proposition collect data on the races, ethnicities, national origins and languages of children and their families.

The group also suggested research to determine why relatively few Latinas use prenatal health care.

The group presented its findings on Latino children in the 14 counties with the biggest Latino populations, including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Santa Barbara.

The report said that, in eight of the counties, at least 60% of all children up to 5 years old are Latino. The report said many of their parents work in low-paying jobs that limit their ability to pay for early-childhood development programs.

Only 24% of eligible Latino children are enrolled in preschool or kindergarten, compared with 57% of eligible whites and 43% of black children, the group said.

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