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Uncharted: Spanish as a Second Language makes sense

LAUSD should mandate Spanish as a Second Language in core course work in L.A. schools The influx of undocumented immigrants into the U.S. over the past two decades has created a number of problems in large

LAUSD should mandate Spanish as a Second Language in core course work in L.A. schools

The influx of undocumented immigrants into the U.S. over the past two decades has created a number of problems in large cities in Texas, Arizona, and California. In addition to overcrowding in urban areas in cities like El Paso, Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, and Los Angeles, upsurges in crime, and competition for housing and jobs has made life a little more than challenging.

ComptonHerald.com | Uncharted

“Uncharted” is commentary by Jarrette D. Fellows, Jr.

In Los Angeles, for instance, competition for blue-collar jobs like fast food worker, janitor, housekeeper, and grocery checker between African-Americans and Latinos has fallen largely to the advantage of Latinos.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, unemployment in the urban core in Los Angeles hovers at 15 percent, 7 points higher than the national average, which at last count was 8 percent. In L.A., Latinos are hiring on at low-wage jobs at double the rate of African-Americans. One reason is due to the fact that many recent Latino high school graduates in the urban core are bilingual, having been encouraged to learn English as a Second language (ESL) in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

That brings a decided advantage when competing for low-wage jobs like grocery checker or fast-food worker. Ask yourself who gains the edge when interviewing for jobs, or filling out the application, and the question arises: “Do You Speak a Second Language,” or, “Are You Bilingual?” All things being equal, the Latino applicant answering “Yes” has a decided advantage over the African-American answering “No.”

Employers might not admit to this discrepancy in hiring, but the fact that more Latino young people are employed than African-American youth in the urban core appears to illustrate the problem.

Given the probability, the LAUSD should mandate Spanish as a Second Language (SSL) in core course work in L.A. schools, or young Black people will always have a disadvantage acquiring employment here, and in other cities in the west with large Latino populations.

It only makes sense. Who do you hire in areas with large non-speaking undocumented populations? Those who speak both English AND Spanish. That makes sense from a management point of view. Hire the person that brings more to the table.

Given that reality, it also makes sense to empower the person with the disadvantage — lacking a skill such as the ability to speak Spanish. That levels the playing field in the inner city.

It only makes sense. I hope the LAUSD, Compton Unified School District, and Inglewood Unified School District heed and act on this message.

Jarrette Fellows, Jr. is Publisher and Editor of Compton Herald. He attended junior and senior high school in Compton, and is an alumnus of California State University, Los Angeles.

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