Why are we sharing your stories on this issue? The voices in this series by Arizona Luminaria aim to shed light on the struggles and successes — amid years of discrimination — that Latinos have faced fighting for an equitable and ethical education in Arizona.

Arizona Luminaria prioritizes journalism that illuminates issues in underrepresented communities that have historically had to advocate for representation in political, social, economic and educational systems.

Readers say they want more in-depth news with context that helps them understand complex issues and take action. They say they want to live in Arizona communities where everyone thrives.

Share your stories

Are you seeking answers or working for solutions? If you’re a parent, student, teacher, counselor, school administrator, education researcher, advocate or anyone connected to the education system, we want to hear from you. Send a note to info@azluminaria.org

Arizona Luminaria’s commitment to these values is a hallmark of a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to truly local news and community-centered journalism.

The Arizona Community Foundation supports this in-depth journalism for and with our communities. The grant is helping fund explanatory and investigative reporting that seeks answers about how to best serve and support Latino students, as well community-based projects such as an advisory board.

We are grateful to community advisory board members who are holding us accountable to keep our promise of hearing directly from people invested in making things better for all children in Arizona schools. Board members provide feedback on reporting, share insights and offer ideas for the Latino Voices for Education Equity series.

It’s important to state that all reporting and any efforts connected to this journalism project remain independent.

Given the growth of Latino students in K-12 schools, we are offering readers reflections and insights from Arizonans who care about strengthening education. The leadership of Latino teachers is increasingly relevant, as more Latino students seek education role models who understand their experiences.

Latino students make up nearly half of Arizona’s 1.1 million K-12 students, but there are opportunity gaps in academic success, university enrollment and degree attainment between Latino students and White students.

About 45% of students in grades pre-K through 12 identify as Latino/Hispanic, but only 16% of Arizona teachers and administrators are Latino, according to Arizona Department of Education data analyzed by the nonprofit organization All In Education for its report, MAPA: The State Of Arizona Latinos Education, Power, and Influence, published in 2021-2022

Of the 39,626 Latino students who entered high school in 2020, only 29,725 graduated, according to the study.

Only 6,472 Latino students enrolled in an Arizona university, and of those students, only 3,471 completed their bachelor’s degrees, according to the study.

In 2021, Latino third-graders showed a 23% reading proficiency rate compared to 50% for White students in the same grade. Latino eighth-graders showed a 16% math proficiency rate compared to 39% for White students. For that same period, Latino students graduated high school at a rate of 75%, while White students graduated at a rate of 83% — a persistent gap of 8 percentage points.

By 2026, Latino students are expected to make up more than 50% of the student population in Arizona, according to the Helios Education Foundation. Nationally, the percentage of students enrolled in grades pre-K through 12 who identified as Latino/Hispanic increased from 22% to 28% between 2009 and 2020.

For decades an array of federal lawsuits have ruled Arizona state education laws and policies as unconstitutional for discriminating against students on the basis of race or national origin. Educators, as well as immigrant families and students themselves, have grappled with the responsibility of defending the rights of Latino and other children of color to learn.

Many civic, community and business leaders have united around solving the challenges, calling for systemic changes in investments in education to stem a looming economic crisis in a state with an uneducated workforce and electorate.

Those efforts are aimed at benefiting all Arizonans. Increasing the number of people graduating from college adds $660,000 per student to the Arizona economy, including through higher incomes, paying more taxes and less reliance on social services, according to an analysis by Education Forward Arizona.

Increasing the number of people of all ethnicities and races, particularly Latinos, who graduate from college to the same number as the White graduating population, would result in $2.3 billion dollars in economic and social gains for each graduating class, according to the study.

The voices in this series are working in Arizona to build a better world, starting from the classroom. While we are centering Latino voices on the future of education in Arizona for Latinos, you will hear from people of all backgrounds invested in educating children in our state.

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Beatriz Limón es una periodista independiente que fue corresponsal en Arizona y Nuevo México de la Agencia Internacional de Noticias EFE. Licenciada en Ciencias de la Comunicación, fotógrafa profesional...