More Latinos will serve in Congress than ever before

A record 42 Latinos are set to serve in Congress next year following Tuesday's midterm elections, the most representation ever reached by the demographic on Capitol Hill, according to an Associated Press analysis

Thirty-three Latino Democratic candidates and seven Republican candidates won their races this week, with only one race remaining undecided as of Thursday evening. Democratic House candidate Gil Cisneros is still trailing Republican Young Kim in Orange County, California.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) and Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto(D), both Latino lawmakers, were not up for reelection on Tuesday. 

Around 64 percent of Latinos voted for Democratic congressional candidates while 33 percent voted for Republicans, the AP reported. Young Latinos were more likely to vote for Democrats, the outlet noted.

Latino women were more likely to vote for Democrats than Latino men, 68 percent to 59 percent. Younger Latinos leaned more Democratic than their older counterparts, with 68 percent of those under age 45 voting for Democrats compared with 59 percent of those age 45 and over.

The AP Votecast surveyed 116,792 voters between Oct. 31 to Nov. 6, with a margin error of plus or minus 0.5 percentage points. 

Hispanic legislative representation has continued to grow over the past 40 years but is not proportional to the U.S. Hispanic population. 

Vouchers are Pell Grants for students under 18

Democracy relies on extending education to all people, not just the children of people who can buy homes in communities with good public schools, or who can afford private school tuition.  For the wealthy, the real estate market is their school choice program.

Vouchers help families in non-rich communities, whose zip code often traps them in the heavily unionized public school monopoly.  Democracy is not served when schools fail to educate a growing segment of urban, low-income and minority children. Offering all children the opportunity to learn is vital to our democracy, essential to success in life, and the foundation of the prosperity of this country.

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We Need Accountability, Not More Funding Debates

Accountability has been glossed over by many who defend under-performing schools, as well as school boards that are apparently driven more by politics than facts. Accountability is the key element missing from discussions here in Washington state—where I live—as well as across the nation.

CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE NOT THE PROBLEM

Poorly performing schools abound in the public education system and have for generations, especially in communities of color. In an attempt to address these shortcomings, charter schools have offered innovative approaches to educate our children. And it is essential that we hold these schools accountable for teaching our children.

Latino parents consistently favor school choice, and that makes sense in light of the decades of failures they have experienced.

The Latino population in Washington nearly doubled between 2000 and 2014. Unfortunately, Latinos have the lowest four-year college attendance and graduation rates.

If these trends continue, the economic future of Washington is in jeopardy. It is important to understand the sizable economic contribution the Latino community offers the state.

  • Latinos paid $1.1 billion in state and local taxes in 2013.
  • In 2014 Latino buying power totaled $18.3 billion, an increase of 806 percent from 1990!

As these numbers increase, the future success of our community and our state won’t be as bright if Latinos are left behind by the public education system. We must recognize the urgency that Latinos have to receive the best possible education, whether it be in a traditional public school or in a public charter school.

NOT AN AFTERTHOUGHT

Public education spending in Washington is at its highest level in nearly 30 years, but without accountability we squander that investment and continue to fail students and communities that can afford it the least.

ACCOUNTABILITY FOR TRADITIONAL AND PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS CANNOT BE AN AFTERTHOUGHT.Accountability for traditional and public charter schools cannot be an afterthought. It is the foundation of well-performing schools. It allows transparency into how teachers, administrators and school district officials perform their responsibilities in and around the classroom. It allows us all to assess where strengths and weaknesses exist and develop corrective action.

It allows us to know whether English-language learners are making needed progress and have allocated funds for that purpose. When public officials, educators, parents and communities have the information they need, we will be able to make better decisions, unlike the current prevailing “wisdom” that money is the only factor in student success.

Everyone in this state has a stake in ensuring that children are getting a quality education. Our community needs and deserves an educational system where equal opportunity is not simply a slogan but a reality. That won’t happen without accountability.

Bill needed to improve access to technology

Advanced telecommunications and broadband services improves lives, helping teachers give students access to new ideas and learning opportunities, enabling emergency responders to communicate patients’ conditions to doctors, and allowing small businesses to locate and compete anywhere.

Legislation (SB 5711) under consideration in Olympia will correct three major problems and encourage telecommunications and broadband investment in Washington.  Correcting these problems is especially important for underserved communities and rural areas.  

Since 2013, when federal funds to support telecom services in small rural communities began drying up, Washington State established a universal service fund to fill the gap.  This fund provides $5 million a year for rural telecom services and is set to expire in 2020.  The legislation eliminates this sunset date.  

The legislation would also stop local governments from charging prohibitive fees for carriers to attach equipment to light and power poles.  Public Utility Districts (PUDs) claim they are simply covering costs incurred from these attachments but they are charging many times the actual cost and many times what private utilities, whose rates are set by a state formula, charge.   

The final problem is that many cities are subjecting small cell siting to the same time-consuming and expensive land use permit process used for major cellular towers.  Small cells are unobtrusive panels or canisters a few feet in total area, but are extremely important in making existing networks function better and in laying the foundation for future deployment of fifth-generation (5G) services.  

The bill maintains local control and ensures public input by subjecting small cells to cities’ right of way agreements.  But requiring small pieces of equipment to go through full-blown land use review, complete with notification signs larger than the cells themselves, is bureaucratic overkill, with serious implications for a state that prides itself on being a technology leader.

“If siting a small cell takes as long and costs as much as siting a cell tower, few communities will ever have the benefits of 5G.” says former Federal Communications Commission chair Tom Wheeler. Similarly, the Association of Washington Cities recognizes that “Every community wants a faster cellular network; it’s good for citizens, businesses, government operations, and the economy.”

While their words provide support, the actions of many cities stand in the way of providing telecom services to those who need it most.  Current practices may pad their budgets or help manage their workloads, but they clearly aren’t in the best interest of the people they’re supposed to serve.  

Washington’s telecommunications companies stand ready to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce broadband inequality, improve existing network functionality, and prepare for the new and exciting world of 5G telecommunications services. All citizens of Washington deserve those benefits.

When local governments erect financial or permitting barriers to that investment, those dollars go to other communities.  Without this legislation, Washington will lose the broadband race.