The Unfolding of Latinx Political Power in Nevada: Doubling Down on Urban Education Policy

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Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy



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While the geographic lens on Latinx politics has focused on regions with a history of Latinx population, there is less analysis on states that are on the tipping point of Latinx political coalition building and incorporation. Recent changes in urban-education politics in Las Vegas, Nevada, offered an example of the unfolding of Latinx political power and representation. Las Vegas is a majority-minority metropolis, and its 2.2 million residents make up 75 percent of Nevada residents. By 2013, a new cohort of urban Latinx legislators entered politics and shifted the narrative of who was deemed worthy of policy and public investment. The progressive legislators, primarily from low- or working-income and immigrant backgrounds, brought with them critical perspectives to policymaking and drew from their lived experiences and their urban communities' experiences to inform how they coalesced with other groups, the bills they championed, and how they shaped an education policy agenda. In less than a decade, urban Latinx legislators and their allies introduced, lobbied, and passed $425 million of new public education investments to benefit English language learners (ELLs) and high-poverty students. As the Latinx population continues to grow in urban regions and school districts, there are several reasons to study their experiences and participation in education policy and politics. Navarro and Rosales argued that it is necessary to understand how Latinx political power unfolds in the largest urban regions to see the possibilities and limitations of coalition building, agenda setting, and the evolution of the Latinx presence at a national level.1 Navarro and Rosales suggested that because Latinx groups do not have an overarching historical identity such as the Black/White experience, the Latinx population has been one of political invisibility and exclusion. Moreover, Latinx groups have experienced different political formations, strategies, and political outcomes in different urban settings. Building on frameworks that center race in the study of urban politics, policy, and coalition building2,3 and incorporating Latinx critical race theory,4,5 the purpose of this case study analysis was to examine the growing presence of Latinxs in one urban region and to analyze how they reshaped education politics and policy agendas and organized coalitions to counter deficit education narratives. By centering race, I examine how Latinx advocacy for education evolved over a three-decade period, the motives for Latinx political involvement, and the key components that contributed to the development of a Latinx political advocacy infrastructure in the Las Vegas region.


Public schools; Critical theory; Population; Political activism; Racism; English as a second language; ESL; Legislators; Immigrant students; Social exclusion; Education policy; Political power; Race; Influence; Education; Advocacy; Case studies


Arts and Humanities | Latina/o Studies | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies



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