The Dallas Morning News reports that Hispanics now make up 51% of all students enrolled in Texas schools and have become the majority ethnic group in the state’s K-12 education system. The growth is expected to continue well into next decade and has already brought many changes to the state’s classrooms as schools are dealing with a student population that is increasingly non-English speaking but is also mainly low-income.
Researchers warn that unless the state takes aggressive steps to adjust to the new classroom realities, Hispanic students could upon graduation not be prepared to enter college and will instead be doomed to low-income jobs — or worse, be forced to rely on Texas’ already overtaxed social service system.
This means that the state will need to get proactive in raising the high school graduation rates of Hispanic students, which currently stands at about 60% of adults over 25, according to the 2010 Census. In comparison, only about 8% of white adults over the age of 25 living in Texas don’t have a high school diploma.
Experts cite many reasons why Hispanics are dropping out: inadequate funding for school programs in Hispanic neighborhoods; teachers who don’t know Spanish; and some Hispanic parents having little time or money to invest in their children’s educational success. Hispanic immigrants often end up working in low-wage jobs that define where their children go to school, said Kandace Vallejo, who has been a leadership coordinator for the Workers Defense Project, a nonprofit with offices in Dallas and Austin.
Vallejo said that currently schools around the state lack qualified teachers, solid academic materials and funding for an enriched curriculum designed to help overcome the unique challenges of the Hispanic student community, especially when compared to the resources available in richer, whiter school districts. Vallejo decried the fact that when compared to kids from higher-income families, students from low-income, working-class or immigrant backgrounds get fewer education opportunities.
About 23 percent of Texas schools have a Hispanic student population of at least 80 percent. Fifteen years ago, it was 16 percent. About 25 percent of Hispanics live below the poverty line. Over a two-year period starting in 2010, the the number of low-income Hispanic students in Texas public schools increased more than 76,000 — the largest number for any racial or ethnic group.
According to the data, of the ten school districts that have experienced the biggest growth of Hispanic students in the past 15 years, five are located in large urban areas in the state such as Houston and Dallas.