The next generation of Hispanic Texans cannot, strictly speaking, be called a “minority” as Hispanics are now the majority ethnic group in Texas public schools, according to the Dallas Morning News .
Statistics released by the Texas Education Agency for the 2010-2011 school year show that there were approximately 2,480,000 Hispanic students enrolled in the Texas public school system, which represented 50.2 percent of the total of 4,933,617 students enrolled in the state. This is the first time on record that Hispanics have become the majority in Texas schools. That number edged slightly higher in the 2011-2012 school year to 2,541,223 students, or 50.8 percent, of the 4,998,579 total students. Anglo enrollment was surpassed by Hispanic enrollment in the 2001-2002 school year and continues to decline.
The Dallas Morning News points out that this trend brings a particular set of challenges. An increasing number of students don’t speak English and schools are struggling to provide teachers for students who speak English as a second language. The TEA reported that in the 2011-12 school year, 60.3 percent of students were identified as economically disadvantaged, most of Hispanic descent. The funding for school programs in Hispanic neighborhoods, which are growing in metropolitan hubs like Houston and Dallas, is insufficient.
These factors contribute to Hispanics dropping out of school before graduation. According to the 2010 census, nearly 40 percent of Hispanics who are 25 or older didn’t finish school. This leads an inordinate number of Hispanics to work low-paying jobs or to depend on social services for assistance. In other words, it’s in every Texan’s interest to make schools better for Hispanic Texans, especially a politician’s.
Politicians in Texas and Washington have recently fixed a hungry eye upon the Hispanic population, especially since the national Hispanic vote went overwhelmingly blue in 2012. They would be wise to make education a priority if they hope to secure those votes. According to a recent survey conducted by the Texas State Teachers Association, a large number of Hispanics are concerned with the state of education in Texas and view it as a priority in their lives. Over 90 percent of Hispanic parents want their children to graduate from college, with 85 percent saying they would rather see their children pursue higher education than to take a full-time job straight away. The poll also shows that more than 67 percent of Latino Texans are concerned about the billion-dollar cuts that the Texas legislature has made to the education budget in the past few years.
President Obama has committed himself to overhauling national immigration policy after winning 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in his reelection bid last November. It also seems that Republicans are finally ready to come to the table after witnessing the humbling voting power of an ethnic caucus that sometimes hinges on single issues. And while immigration is no doubt important to Hispanics in Texas and beyond, many are citizens with deep American roots, and they expect their children to have equal opportunities for a quality education.