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Obama Signs Latino Education Initiative

President Barack Obama signs the Executive Order on the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Barack Obama signs the Executive Order on the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Nearly half of young Latinos were not enrolled in either high school or college in March 2009, the highest number of all groups in the U.S., according to the Pew Hispanic Research Center.

The group said 48.9 percent of Hispanics ages 16 to 24 were not engaged in any educational institution that month.

As a result of numbers like these, President Barack Obama wants to focus on improving Hispanic educational achievement. In a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday, Obama signed an executive order intended to do just that.

Obama says improving education will help the U.S. compete in a growing global economy. The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics is aimed at helping communities share best practices, strengthening public-private partnerships and ensuring that federal programs meet the needs of Latino students. The order also establishes a government-wide working group and a separate presidential advisory commission.

In the past 18 months, members of the White House have visited more than 90 communities in 20 states, engaging those who are interested in improving the lives of Latinos.  This initiative is intended to not only continue the conversation but to implement the changes suggested by leaders and community members throughout the country.

The initiative will focus on efforts to engage the Hispanic community and anyone working within the education system nationwide as active participants in improving academic achievement for Hispanic Americans, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

 The initiative is headed by the executive director Juan Sepúlveda, a Mexican American and the third Latino ever to be awarded the Rhodes Scholarship.

According to the Department of Education, the initiative was established in September 1990 by President George H.W. Bush to provide advice and guidance to the Secretary of Education on issues related to Hispanics. It was renewed under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

The signing comes two weeks before crucial midterm elections in which Obama is counting on Hispanics to vote Democratic on Nov. 2.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.