All of these data help put the recent massive mobilizations in Dallas in perspective. Steve Murdock, our state demographer indicates the following about demographic trends: "And state demographics show that Hispanics in Texas, on average, are a full decade younger than the state's Anglos. (Blacks fall near the middle, and figures for Asians are not available.) It's not just that Hispanics are having more kids – it's that a much greater percentage of Hispanics are having kids now....while Hispanics now make up 36 percent of the state's total population, they account for nearly half of its infants."
"Dallas ISD enrollment grew by 30,000 students, to 160,000 during the 1990s.
"First it was Dallas. ... Now it's the inner-ring suburbs, places like Garland and Irving and Grand Prairie," Mr. Harner said. "In a couple of years, it's going to be McKinney and Carrollton-Farmers Branch and Rockwall ..."
More school construction in different places is what's needed.
Schools rising to meet needs
Influx of Hispanics driving construction in aging neighborhoods
08:03 AM CDT on Tuesday, September 5, 2006
By ANDREW D. SMITH / The Dallas Morning News
Daugherty Elementary School sits on Miller Road in Garland amid a forest of 50-year-old bungalows. For decades, its 800 seats sufficed to serve the whole neighborhood, but no longer.
These days, with nearly 1,300 elementary-school-age children living right around the school, the Garland school district must bus hundreds of them elsewhere.
New houses? No, new Texans.
Old schools are overflowing – and school districts are building – in many of the region's aging neighborhoods, thanks largely to the influx of Hispanic families, which tend to be larger and younger than their black, Asian and Anglo counterparts.
"It's a classic American story. Immigrants always have higher fertility rates than natives. The Irish did. The Germans did. The Italians did. And the Eastern Europeans did," said Steve Murdock, the state demographer of Texas.
"The differences have always disappeared in two or three generations, and I'd expect them to in this case. But until that happens, school districts should probably anticipate more construction costs than they otherwise would."
U.S. census data and studies released by Dr. Murdock's office show that in Texas, Hispanic women have an average of three children, while Anglo women have an average of two. Black women average 2.25 children. Figures for Asian women in Texas are not available, though the national average is 1.9.
And state demographics show that Hispanics in Texas, on average, are a full decade younger than the state's Anglos. (Blacks fall near the middle, and figures for Asians are not available.) It's not just that Hispanics are having more kids – it's that a much greater percentage of Hispanics are having kids now.
Size and age matter
These two phenomena – the size and age of Hispanic families – explain why school demographics are changing far faster than the overall numbers.
In Dallas County, the total number of Hispanics increased 26 percent from 2000 to 2005, but the number of Hispanic students enrolled in Dallas County school districts jumped 35 percent.
In just those five years, percentages of Hispanic students jumped from 27 to 37 in the Garland ISD, 46 to 57 in the Grand Prairie ISD and 45 to 61 in the Irving ISD. And the trend will continue, because while Hispanics now make up 36 percent of the state's total population, they account for nearly half of its infants.
"The fertility rate alone is slightly more than 50 percent higher, but the other factors are probably just as important," said Dr. Murdock, who went on to highlight the 10-year age gap.
"In demographic terms, that's a world of difference," he said.
Imelda and Leoncio Zavala happily typify the trend.
Mr. Zavala works for a window company. His wife works from their Garland home and keeps an eye on the couple's three daughters, two of whom go to Daugherty.
Mr. and Mrs. Zavala say they live in a quiet and pleasant neighborhood, and aside from their disappointment that Garland now allows some alcohol sales, they're happy with the city.
As for the school district: "They try their best to educate our kids. The teachers really seem to care," Mrs. Zavala said. "Garland is a nice place to live."
There are, to be sure, other factors driving school construction, even in established neighborhoods.
Developers have squeezed in new houses here and there. Landlords have several families sharing some single-family homes. Development elsewhere can change school attendance zones. But changing demographics are a bigger consideration, demographers say, in districts such as Dallas, Garland, Mesquite, Grand Prairie, Irving and Richardson.
Surging student numbers in Garland's older areas helped necessitate expansions at elementary schools including the aging Davis and Cooper. This summer alone, the Garland district expanded four more.
With other old neighborhoods changing, further expansions are likely.
MELANIE BURFORD / DMN
Classrooms are being built onto Roach Elementary School in Garland as surging student numbers in the city's older areas necessitate expansions.
"The issue is how ... [the neighborhoods] are going to transition," said Marvin Roden, an administrative assistant who projects Garland enrollment. "Are they going to transition into higher-density families or into families that are still low in the numbers of people they have per household?"
Administrators across North Texas are asking similar questions. They are also building lots of classrooms in unexpected places.
In 2003, voters in the Grand Prairie district approved an $86 million bond package. The plan was to build three elementary schools near new developments in the southern end of town, but the district wound up building one in and one near central Grand Prairie, where student numbers shot up despite a lack of new construction. The third is being built now, in the south.
"In many housing units where you may have had two kids per housing unit, you are now seeing far more children per housing unit," said Sue Harris, the district's executive director of planning.
The changing classroom (.pdf)
The trend has extended deep into some suburbs.
"We have a couple of schools that have been impacted," said Brant Buck, the Lewisville district's assistant superintendent for student services.
"They were the second- and third-oldest schools in the district. By adding an addition and extensive renovations, we were able to continue to serve the neighboring population."
Lewisville ISD has added about 250 seats to Central Elementary, built Lillie Jackson Early Childhood Center for pre-kindergarten programs and is rebuilding an elementary school to add a couple hundred seats.
Other districts have done much more.
The Dallas district has built several schools to serve older neighborhoods that suddenly produced record student numbers, said Dennis Harner, an Austin-based demographer who has worked with 75 school districts, including Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, Garland, Grand Prairie, Rockwall, McKinney and Red Oak.
Most of the Dallas construction took place around Love Field and in the Five Points area of northeast Dallas.
Officials in area districts, while acknowledging the importance of family size, say the population influx is just one of several growth drivers.
"We've built three new schools over the past five years," said Whit Johnstone, the Irving district's director of planning, evaluation and research.
"One of those schools was needed, primarily, because of increasing family density in the southern part of town. The other schools had more to do with new construction."
Anglo numbers fall
State figures show that while hundreds of thousands of Anglos moved to the Dallas area in the last decade, the number of Anglo students in area public schools declined.
Texas Education Agency figures show that in 1995, there were 393,875 Anglo students attending 65 school districts around Dallas and Fort Worth. In 2005, the number was 393,385. Black student enrollment simultaneously climbed 40,000, to 179,410, while Asian student enrollment grew 20,000, to 47,443.
In those same years, the number of Hispanic students more than doubled to 324,438, agency figures show. The growth in Hispanic student numbers accounted for 70 percent of enrollment growth in the region over that decade.
"Excepting very unusual places like Highland Park, there are two types of Dallas-area districts: those where immigrant family size is currently a big issue and places where it will soon be a big issue," Mr. Harner said.
Dallas ISD enrollment grew by 30,000 students, to 160,000 during the 1990s.
"First it was Dallas. ... Now it's the inner-ring suburbs, places like Garland and Irving and Grand Prairie," Mr. Harner said. "In a couple of years, it's going to be McKinney and Carrollton-Farmers Branch and Rockwall ...
"Districts like that should be ready to see more children per house than they've ever seen before, and they should be ready to build a lot of new classrooms to accommodate them."
AVERAGE NUMBER OF CHILDREN PER WOMAN
*Asian fertility rates were not calculated for Texas
SOURCES: 2000 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Texas State Data Center
Online at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/education/stories/090506dnmetmoreschools.33d50a2.html