Hispanic children in the United States suffer a disparity in education that could affect Social Security and Medicare as Latinos come to shoulder the cost of caring for an aging baby boom generation, a report said Tuesday.

The National Council of La Raza, the leading Latino civil rights organization, said Hispanics tend to score lower than other American children on reading, writing and math tests as early as elementary school and later drop out of high school at higher rates than their non-Hispanic peers."Taken together, these indicators result in a troubling portrait of Latino educational progress," NCLR said in a status report on education.

"More than one-third of Latino students do not complete high school, only one-half of the Hispanic population has a high school diploma and only about one in 10 Hispanics is a college graduate."

As a result, Hispanic workers are likely to continue to find employment in lower-paying jobs with little upward mobility into the next century until education standards improve.

"As the Baby Boom generation enters retirement, it will be increasingly dependent on Latino workers to support Social Security, Medicare and other social insurance systems," the NCLR report noted.

So-called baby boomers will begin to retire in 2007, two years after U.S. Hispanics are projected to surpass black Americans to become the largest minority in the United States. Since 1990, the Hispanic population has grown 29.6 percent to encompass nearly 30 million people of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban and South and Central American descent.

At present there are three workers for every Social Security recipient. By 2010, there will be only two, according to projections by the federal government.

The NCLR report blamed flagging Hispanic education on poorly financed, overcrowded schools and a U.S. poverty rate that classes two out of five Hispanic children as poor, despite a pronounced rise in the Latino middle class.

On Monday, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton told a packed NCLR luncheon that the White House backed a $600 million educational plan for Hispanics that would include bilingual training for Spanish-speaking children.

"The 21st century will be ruthless in its demands that all of us do what we can to have the education and skills necessary to compete in the global economy," she said.