No Niño Left Behind

Everyone in Texas understands that educating the emerging Hispanic majority is the most important challenge we face—everyone, that is, except the people we elected to lead us.

Demographics is destiny. So is education, or the lack of it. Together they will determine our future—an obvious truth that hardly needs to be stated, except it is apparently not obvious to the state’s current political leadership. Rick Perry, David Dewhurst, and Tom Craddick have fashioned a system of financing education that does not even allow the public schools to keep up with inflation and imperils their ability to raise future revenue. This has occurred at a time when schools must grapple with the consequences of transformational demographic change. Texas is essentially in a race against time to educate at-risk students, and our leaders have added to that risk.

First, the demographics: Between 1950 and 1960, Texas’s population grew from 7.7 million to 9.5 million, an increase of 24 percent. This was the era of the baby boom, and almost all of that growth, 94 percent, was natural: more births than deaths. The remaining 6 percent was attributable to net migration: more people coming into the state than leaving it. Who, then, could have foreseen what lay ahead? In the intervening years, net migration has exploded. Between 1990 and 2005, Texas added more than 6 million people, and the growth was almost equally divided between natural increase and net migration. Domestic migration outstripped international migration in the nineties, but since 2000, the opposite has been true. This reversal underlies the sudden emergence of illegal immigration as a major political issue.

The implication of these numbers is clear: Inexorably, Texas is becoming a Hispanic state. Although natural increase remains a significant component of overall growth, much of it can be attributed to the Hispanic birth rate. In the nineties, the Hispanic population here grew by 53.68 percent, the Anglo population by just 7.61 percent. Anglos ceased to be a majority of the state’s population in 2005, although they still outnumber Hispanics by some 3.2 million. This will not last. Between 2000 and 2040, Texas’s Anglo population is projected

Tags: POLITICS

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