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La Liga de Las Americas

Funding is OCHLA’s biggest limitation, hampering the ability to effectively represent Latinos in Ohio

By Marcus Tito Atkinson,
Special to La Prensa


Columbus: When the new Democratic governor of Ohio takes office next month, the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs (OCHLA) plans to make a tremendous push to increase its budget in order to better serve Latinos in Ohio.


That was the commitment made at last Friday’s monthly, and year-end, meeting. OCHLA met Friday, Dec. 8, 2006, in Columbus to review their status for 2006.


The seven members who were in attendance also agreed that more funding is needed to reach out to those they represent, and to improve the educational opportunities of Latinos in Ohio.

Ezra C. Escudero


“The budget needs to be at least doubled from when we started,” said V. Anthony Simms-Howell, senior member of OCHLA, and finance chairman.


“Twenty-nine years ago, the commission had a budget close to $300, 000,” said Richard Romero, who chaired the meeting.  “Here we are celebrating our 30th year and we’re looking at a budget of about $180,000.”


While the budget has fallen almost 50 percent, the Latino population has more then tripled in Ohio in the past three decades.


“It’s really a sad state of affairs,” Romero said.


Ezra C. Escudero, Executive Director of OCHLA, is planning to meet with members of Ohio’s newly elected Governor Ted Strickland’s transition team within the coming months in an attempt to get more funding for OCHLA in the 2007-2008 fiscal year.  The state legislature will receive a budget proposal from Strickland’s team in about three months and OCHLA wants an increase of funding included in the budget.


“We are putting forth a plan to get OCHLA properly funded,” said Romero.


Escudero said funding is OCHLA’s biggest limitation. “I’m half of my staff,” Escudero lamented.


With more funding, a legislative liaison would be hired, as well as staff to implement educational and leadership development programs. 


The money would “help up-and-coming Latino community leaders acquire important leadership skills about serving on boards and leading organizations,” Escudero said.


Better education for the Latino community is also a priority according to Escudero. 


At the meeting, OCHLA swore in the new chairman of education, Chris Rodríguez, from Whitehall, Ohio. Rodríguez, a city council member of Whitehall, replaced Cassandra Caballero Wyssbrod, who resigned. 


Rodríguez and OCHLA hope to work with the Oho Department of Education to better serve the Latino communities in Ohio.  Goals are in place to help make college more realistic for Latinos,


“We’re looking into community groups to take some leadership, in terms of working together to close the academic achievement gap,” Escudero said.


Raul Soto, from the Ohio Department of Education, will work with Rodríguez to make sure the needs of Latinos are met in terms of education.


“We look forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with the commission,” said Soto. 


As the achievement gap widened, the Ohio legislature was in the process of drafting an English-Only bill, as well as an immigration law—OCHLA lobbied hard to strike down these proposed bills. 


The immigration law has been put in the backseat for now according to Escudero, and he does not see the status of that changing.  The English-Only bill also does not seem to be reaching reality.


“The English-Only law is no longer a priority in the legislature,” Escudero said, adding it could come up in the future however.


OCHLA now will concentrate on preparing its annual report.  The report is used to help see what it needs to do in the future.  A prepared report will help them lobby for the programs they believe Ohio Latinos need.


“The annual report for 2006 is a high priority to help lobby government for more money,” Escudero said. “We want to make sure 2006 is a tool we can use, when we meet with policy makers for 2007.






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