There are 15 states listed in the South.
Four - GA, LA, MS & TX - public schools have majorities of their student bodies that are both minority and poor (qualifying for free and reduced lunch). Only VA does not have a majority of either.
The South has long had an over-representation of poor children, but the increase in minority percentage is a factor of increasing numbers of Hispanics, 20% of whom according to Pew attend schools with Hispanic populations exceed 90% of the student body.
There are LOTS of implications that come from these demographics.
- Minorities tend to score lower on standardized tests. That is in part because standardized tests tend to correlate with family economic status, and minorities are more heavily weighted at the lower end of the Socio-Economic Status ladder.
- The South already spends less per pupil overall, and clearly less per disadvantaged student. That compounds the problem.
- read the following:
In some of the larger cities in the South, school districts and courts have begun to dismantle school desegregation orders, said Gary Orfield, the co-director of the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles. He said many of those actions follow a 2007 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that limited the use of race in pupil-assignment plans.
- The percentage of Hispanic students is growing rapidly. In North Carolina and Georgia it has exploded, from around 1/2 of 1% (1/200) in 1986 to 10% now. Many are English language learners, with families that speak Spanish at home and in which it is possible neither parent is fluent in English. That will mean additional resources will be required to bring those students up to standard in English, and until they are there are real problems under NCLB: it is basically impossible to ever meet the 100% proficient goal for this subgroup because as students become fluent enough in English to be able to perform sucessfully on the required tests they are move out of the subgroup and their success is no longer counted.
Schools are dominated minority and/or poor students. These need more services. But states are under pressure, and are looking to cut expenses. People are reluctant to pay taxes for services from which they do not benefit. Part of the history of underfunding public schools stems directly from the Brown decision in 1954, which as it was finally being implemented led to whites withdrawing from public schools in some communities and then slashing the funding for public schools, further disadvantaging minorities students, who were already disadvantaged by their low economic status.
No Child Left Behind, and its bastard offspring now being pushed by this administration, Race to the Top, do little if anything to address the problems that such a situation entails.
And as racism is again becoming not only tolerated, but inflamed by some in this nation, I have little doubt that the crisis of public education is about to become very much worse.
And that is even without the idiocy of Texas, whose new social studies standards will require people to learn the great things of Ronald Reagan, the Contract with America, Phyllis Schafley and maybe even the McCarthy was right and treated unfairly, while no longer learning about Cesar Chavez and many others from minority backgrounds.
I write this sitting in my classroom at the end of another school day. The rest of this short week is consumed by testing, most of which is ultimately meaningless to my students' learning, but which is required from outside the building. At least I can do things to offset the opportunities to learn. Our school district is heavily minority, and we have our pockets of poverty, but Prince George's County is the wealthiest majority black political jurisdiction in the nation, and even though we spend less per student than surrounding jurisdictions (none of which except DC are majority minority in population) and we have sufficient funds to do at least an adequate job of education our students. Yet we face financial straits, as house prices drop (a high rate of foreclosures in the county) and state aid is being slashed.
Still, I read a story like this and I wonder if we will begin to see abandonment of commitment to public schools?
After all, the demographic issue you see in the South is one that is spreading across the country: the author of the report in question at least implies that the rest of the country is going to start to see this within a decade. Yes, there are districts in almost every state that already have such demographics, but it looks as if the demographic shift will soon be applicable statewide outside the South.
And then what? Even though within a few decades the nation as whole will no longer have a white majority - something already true in several states - we do not yet, despite an African-American President, see a willingness to address what this means for the nation, except for those extremists who use it as an issue of demagoguery, to inflame some voters. And if they continue to be successful, might we again see racial conflict? Might we move to abandon what is left of the New Deal and the Great Society?
Schools can be the canaries in the coal mine of American Society.
That's why I took the time to write about this report.
And I hope my final salutation is still valid: