Former U.S. Rep. Herman Badillo, once a champion of federal education programs benefiting Latinos, has stirred a storm in his home state of New York with his claim that Hispanics do not care as much about education as do other immigrant groups.

In 1970 Badillo became the first Puerto Rico-born member of Congress. As a liberal Democrat, he was a founding member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

In his just-released, largely autobiographical book, “One Nation, One Standard: An Ex-Liberal on How Hispanics Can Succeed Just Like Other Immigrant Groups,” 77-year-old Badillo maintains that the key to Latino educational achievement lies not in the government but in the community itself.

He expounds: “To be blunt, educating Hispanic school children is not the duty of the governmental school system. Whenever a child is left behind, it is not the fault of the teachers, or the principals, of the school chancellor, or the mayor, or the president. It is their fault.”

Badillo defines the problem, “Education is not a high priority in the Hispanic community. Hispanics have failed to assume responsibility for their children’s welfare.”

The words have stirred considerable editorial criticism from fellow Hispanics.

A Dec. 21 editorial in New York’s El Diario-La Prensa claims that “Badillo falls back on a tired model minority argument to excuse the failures of the public school system and the neglectful educational policies emanating from Washington and, instead, blames hard-working Hispanic parents for the educational inadequacies of today’s youth.”

In a Jan. 4 interview with Hispanic Link News Service, Badillo emphasized that parents need to become more involved in the education of their children. He said he hopes the book “will wake up the community to get more involved. It’s not an attack on the community. It’s a call to the community to wake up and take action.”

Based on an analysis of the data Badillo presented, Angelo Falcón, founder and president of the New York-based National Institute for Latino Policy, concluded that Badillo’s claims appear unsubstantiated.

Falcón stated in a review that although the Latino dropout rate is “unacceptably high,” Badillo’s claim that more than half of Hispanics dropped out of high school in 2005 is “difficult to verify.” He pointed to other “statistical irregularities” in the tome.

“This is not nit-picking, because they are significant discrepancies, given the importance of these statistics to his basic argument, and raise serious questions about the integrity of all his assertions in the book,” Falcón writes.

Promoted by the Washington, D.C.-based think tank The Manhattan Institute, the book includes the reasons for Badillo’s shift to the Republican Party in June 1998. Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who joined Badillo when he announced the switch, wrote the book’s foreword.

“Herman Badillo is a true leader who doesn’t flinch from expressing difficult truths,” commented fellow Republican Linda Chávez, chair of the Center for Equal Opportunity in Washington, D.C., in an editorial review. “His own amazing story provides inspiration and the moral authority that allows him to advocate hard choices for American Hispanics.”

The book’s description promotes the idea that the Latino community’s solution to overcoming poverty relies on hard work, education and achievement.

However, Falcón emphasized a basic problem lies in its over-generalizations.

“Politically correct or not, Badillo’s attribution to the entire Latino community of anti-education attitudes and behaviors is classic stereotyping,” He wrote. “While he obviously tries to convey a positive message of hope, in the end he presents a picture that inspires despair and anger instead that is polarizing.”

The 240-page book published by Sentinel, “One Nation, One Standard: An Ex-Liberal on How Hispanics Can Succeed Just Like Other Immigrant Groups,” (hardcover) is available for $23.95.