Experts say education gap in Ariz. could impact economy

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- A new report paints a grim picture of Arizona’s minority children, and the state’s success could hinge on them catching up.

The “Race for Results” report published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation examines children in 12 indicators that measure success from birth to adulthood.

Arizona’s Latino and Native American children ranked among the worst in the country, scoring 356 and 282, respectively, out of a possible 1,000.

Demographics show the majority of Arizona’s children are minorities.

The director of the Morrison Institute Latino Public Policy Center at Arizona State University said if the minority children fail to close the performance gap, the state’s economic future is in jeopardy.

“We're not talking about Latino issues; we're talking about Arizona issues,” Joseph Garcia said. “We need to get that understanding thoroughly through the minds of policymakers, community leaders, business leaders, educators, everyone.”

The Children’s Action Alliance agrees.

“That’s our future,” Joshua Oehler said. “Our state’s future depends on how well all children do in Arizona.”

Oehler fears an undereducated population will not be able to maintain highly skilled, high-paying jobs, which could potentially lower the median income and be a turn-off to businesses.

Garcia said the report should be a call to action.

“This is sounding the alarm but you have to ask yourself, 'How long do you sound the alarm before you respond to the fire?' " he asked.