This is astounding. Latino students make up 3.1 million students out of 6.2 students statewide (total no. of students), as compared to 1.7 million whites, 526k Asians, and 424k Blacks (and 335k others). Texas, Florida and many other states are rapidly headed in this direction. We increasingly need enlightened policies that take into consideration the cultural, social, and economic situatedness of this group.
Latino kids now majority in state's public schools
Will Kane, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Latinos now make up a majority of California's public school students, cracking the 50 percent barrier for the first time in the state's history, according to data released Friday by the state Department of Education.
Almost 50.4 percent of the state's students in the 2009-10 school year identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino, up 1.36 percent from the previous year.
In comparison, 27 percent of California's 6.2 million students identified themselves as white, 9 percent as Asian and 7 percent as black. Students calling themselves Filipino, Pacific Islander, Native American or other total almost 7 percent.
While the result was no surprise to educators, experts say the shift underscores the huge impact Latinos already have on California's politics, economy and school system.
That influence will only grow as Latino parents - now in the majority - realize many of the schools their children attend are underfunded, said Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at UC Berkeley.
"It turns upside down how we think about California students," he said.
"A lot depends on the extent to which Latino parents come together and organize," Fuller added. "These are parents who historically have not had much political power. But as they are coming together and feeling their oats, they may organize around education."
It's no surprise that Latinos make up the new majority in California schools, considering that their numbers have grown by leaps and bounds in recent decades. In 2009, Latinos made up 37 percent of the state's population, a number that continues to increase, according to the California Department of Finance.
But their electoral sway has not grown by similar amounts, because almost 40 percent of adult Latinos in California are ineligible to vote, said Lisa Garcia Bedolla, an associate professor at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education.
The challenge, she said, is finding ways to get Latino parents involved in schools when they cannot vote for members of their local school board.
"How do we come up with constructive ways to do that, considering the limitations on how these parents can participate? That's the question from here," she said.
In San Francisco, where an estimated one-third of public school students have a parent who was not born in this country, voters were asked this month to allow noncitizens to vote in school board elections. While Proposition D lost, 45 to 55 percent, the support the ballot measure received from civic leaders showed the growing concern about the role of immigrant parents in local schools.
While underrepresented on the voting rolls, Latino voters are an increasingly important factor in California elections.
In this month's gubernatorial election, Republican candidate Meg Whitman's firing of an undocumented immigrant housekeeper who worked for her for nine years, and her handling of the controversy after the employment was disclosed, was seen as damaging her standing among Latinos and hurting her at the polls.
In that election, 16 percent of likely voters were expected to be Latino, according to a Field Poll released the day of the election. Latinos now make up 22 percent of the state's registered voters, according to the same survey.
California schools need to do a better job of reaching out to that increasing number of Latino students, said David Gomez, president of the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators and a school superintendent in Ventura County.
Nearly 1.5 million students are English language learners, but many more still struggle in the classroom with difficult, subject-specific terms, he said.
"For example, if you are studying social science, understanding words like 'justice' and 'beauty' can be difficult," he said. "In math, it can be even harder."
Fuller, the UC Berkeley professor, suggested state educators look at language education in an entirely new way.
"If the majority of the population is becoming bilingual," he said, referring to the growing Latino population learning English, "why shouldn't the white minority also become bilingual?"
latino students by the numbers
Hispanic or Latino students now make up a majority of public school students in California. Here is the statewide breakdown compared with major Bay Area school districts.
The full report can be found at the California Department of Education website at sfgate.com/ZEFD.