By Brian Kaberline – Editor, Kansas City Business Journal, March 24, 2020
“I was born in Miami where being Latino is super amazing. I got to speak Spanish everywhere. I got to interact with folks from 33 Latin American countries. And life was good,” Edgar Palacios said to kick off a recent presentation to LeanLab Education.
“And then, in sixth grade, my parents decided we would move to Spokane, Wash. … And from that moment on in my life story, my education story, I did not have one Latinx educator in front of me.”
Palacios is working to change that as founder and CEO of Latinx Education Collaborative. The Kansas City nonprofit works to recruit and retain Latinx educators. The larger aim, Palacios said, is to boost the educational achievement of Latinx students by exposing them to teachers who look like them — and, ultimately, to build up the bench of Latinx leaders.
The organization uses the term Latinx to include people from all Latin American communities, backgrounds and identities.
Palacios said he had been involved in nonprofit work in Kansas City for about 10 years — at such organizations as Truman Medical Centers, Central Exchange and Blue Hills Community Service — when he volunteered for what was then Kauffman Scholars. As he became more aware of the shortage of Latinx educators, he started looking for organizations working to address the problem.
When he didn’t find any, he founded his own.
The numbers show the need. In Kansas City Public Schools, Latinos make up 27% of students, but just 5% of educators. In Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools, 52% of students are Latino, but just 6% of educators.
Changing the numbers is going to be a long haul, Palacios said. Two-thirds of educators leave the profession in the first five years. It’s worse with Latino teachers.
“If they have a bad first year, they don’t just leave the building, they leave the profession,” he said.
Latinx Education Collaborative had been making progress. It’s 2018 conference drew about 40. This past year, it was up to about 220.
But the stay-at-home measures taken to blunt the spread of COVID-19 are putting a crimp in the organization’s work, Palacios said, since it primarily is a convener of groups and people. COVID-19 is a disease caused by a strain of coronavirus.
He’s spent the past couple of weeks working with his board to find resources for teachers, material in Spanish for students, help for parents and ways for Latinx educators to stay in touch and support each other.
“COVID-19 was not part of the plan,” Palacios said.