The Future Of The U.S. Belongs To Nonwhites. Are Educators Ready?
“This is the last time anyone will try to do this,” a Republican strategist told journalist Ron Brownstein last week, “this” being a near total reliance on white votes to win a presidential election.
According to Brownstein, Romney probably needs to win at least 61 percent of the white vote in order to just squeak out a majority. But future generations of Republican politicians will have to appeal to nonwhite voters who hold far more liberal views about the role of government than does the party’s current base. It’s now or never for the GOP’s white base.
The demographics of the United States are changing rapidly, and one of the best places to see this dramatic demographic shift in action is to visit public schools in Texas, where the Hispanic population is swelling rapidly.
In 2011, for the first time, Hispanics became the majority of public school students in Texas.
By 2050, the number of Texas public school students is expected to swell to nine million from roughly five million now, and nearly two-thirds will be Hispanic, according to Steve Murdock, a demographer and director of Rice University’s Hobby Center for the Study of Texas. The overall percentage of white students will drop by half to about 15 percent.
The Future Of The United States Is Tied To The “Minority”Population
From The New York Times:
“When you look at children, there is no doubt. The future of Texas — the future of the United States — is tied to the minority population,” said Dr. Murdock, a former state demographer and director of the United States Census Bureau. “It’s just mathematically true.”
A quick glance at other student demographics confirms this view.
In the 2010-2011 statistics for California, Hispanic or Latino students make up 51% of those attending K-12 public schools, with White (non-Hispanic) coming in at 27% and African Americans at 7%. The Los Angeles Unified School District is made up of 73% Hispanic students and 10% African American students.
Chicago public schools have a student population of 42% African American, 44% Hispanic and 9% White.
There’s a similar picture in New York City: in 2007, Hispanic students made up 39.4% of the student population, African Americans 32.2% of the student population, and White American just 14.2%.
Let’s go back to those Hispanic students in Texas, where there is an accompanying shift in economic status.
Economically disadvantaged children in Texas classrooms make up 60 percent of all public school students, up from less than half in 2000. Students with limited English skills now make up 16 percent of them. Of about 979,000 children added to the state’s under-18 population from 2000 to 2010, 931,000 were Hispanic.
From The New York Times:
According to state data, Hispanic students are statistically less likely to leave high school with a diploma than their white peers. Of the Hispanic students who do graduate, a minority are prepared for college. In 2010, 42 percent met college-readiness benchmarks in both English and math, compared with 66 percent of white students.
Among economically disadvantaged students and those with limited English proficiency, the gap continues to widen. Thirty-eight percent of students who came from low-income households did well enough on their Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills or college entrance exams to qualify as “college ready.” Only 5 percent of those with limited English language skills did so.
Stop Blaming The Kids!
Patricia Lopez, a research associate at the University of Austin’s Texas Center for Education Policy, is sick of hearing how the students are to blame for all that’s wrong with education these days.
“It’s more common to hear things like kids take poverty into schools, kids take broken home into schools,” she said, “but people who are educators also take their baggage into schools.”
According to Lopez, a shift in perspective needs to happen in the way policy makers at the state and district level think about educating Hispanic and low-income students. And if that were to happen, the possibilities are exciting.
From The New York Times:
If Texas can adequately educate the new student majority, Dr. Murdock said, the potential reward is large. As a state with a population that is, over all, growing younger rather than older, its work force would be competitively poised to replace a generation of retiring baby boomers, he said, taking advantage of the accompanying economic opportunity and higher incomes.
The United States has always been a nation of immigrants. This is a significant part of our demographic history – how our population has grown to 300 million people. It was the excitement of that promise that caused me to leave my native England and move here over 25 years ago.
And the future of the United States belongs with our so-called “minority” population. Isn’t it time for Republicans and education policy makers alike to sit up, pay attention and stop living in the past? Are they up to the job?
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