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Tue, May 1, 2001

Mas addresses dropout rate

Monica Wolfson, Times Record News - Wichita Falls, TX

Miriam Mas wants to combat the 50 percent high school dropout rate among Hispanic students in Texas.

Mas, an education specialist with Region 9 Education Service Center, spoke to the Rotary Club of Southwest Wichita Falls at a luncheon Monday.

She said the dropout rate is not just the Hispanic community's problem, but a national crisis because as the Hispanic population grows, there will be fewer educated workers in the U.S. to support all the aging baby boomers.

"The Census (2000) figures show what the Hispanic community has known for many years, that the Hispanic population has grown rapidly," she said.

Mas works with area school districts, helping them with Hispanic and migrant children. Mas, a past president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said she's been working to improve the situation in the Hispanic community, especially with education.

"The Texas Education Agency determines the dropout rate at 12th grade," Mas said. "What we know is not many (students) drop out in 12th grade. We need to know how many drop out between ninth and 12th grade."

Illegal immigrants from Mexico and Latin America are coming to the U.S. to work, Mas said, but they aren't concerned with getting their children educated.

"I think we are losing valuable capital when our young people drop out of school," Mas said.

That is why she supports an initiative in the Texas Legislature to allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition to attend Texas colleges.

She also mentioned how Austin has a "safe zone" where illegal immigrants are allowed to work without fear of getting arrested by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

"I'd like to see Wichita Falls join in what's happening in the rest of the state," Mas said. "If you want to see immigration stop, then the economy must go down and there will be no more jobs."

Dentist Glenn Beck objected to allowing illegal immigrants circumvent the immigration system.

"I don't know why we need to house, feed, clothe and educate (illegals)," Beck said. "Your response about (illegal immigrants) paying in-state tuition, but they are still illegal. Colleges are subsidized by taxpayers. That's why out-of-state tuition is triple. I don't think taxpayers should subsidize illegals. We have an immigration problem we are subsidizing."

Mas said ideally the U.S. shouldn't have illegal immigrants, but that's not the reality.

"You have a lot of employers hiring illegal workers. If they didn't hire them, the workers wouldn't come," Mas said.

Despite illegal immigrant hardship, Beck said the U.S. is a law-abiding nation.

"What other laws should we ignore?" Beck said.

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