By Chris Hoenig
For the first time, non-Hispanic whites will make up less than 50 percent of this year’s U.S. public-school students.
The National Center for Education Statistics projects that Latinos, Blacks, Asians and Pacific Islanders, American Indians and biracial students will, when added together, represent 50.2 percent of the 2014–2015 student population.
Whites will continue as the largest racial and ethnic demographic in schools at 49.8 percent of the student body. About 25 percent of students are Latino, followed by Black students (15 percent of the student population), and Asians and Pacific Islanders at 5 percent. American Indian and biracial students combine to round out the remaining 5-plus percent.
The center’s report cites the growth of the Latino school-age population, even though recent Census reports and corresponding analyses have shown birth rates in the Latino population to be slowing, with Asians the fastest-growing population in the United States.
There may be another factor to the shift in the demographics of public-school students, possibly from the intolerance of diversity.
About an hour southwest of Philadelphia, Kennett Consolidated School District Superintendent Barry Tomasetti has had parents opt to send their children to private schools in Delaware, rather than keep them in Kennett’s more diverse classrooms. The district has undergone a significant shift, with local families going from upper-middle-class white to 40 percent Latino.
“We like our diversity,” Tomasetti said, noting that many families seek out his district’s schools “because they realize it’s not a homogenous world out there.”
Tomasetti said the district is absorbing extra costs as part of the demographic shift, including translators for parent-teacher conferences and additional English-language instructors. The work, he said, is all part of a single goal: “Our expectation is all of our kids succeed.”
The changes in school populations reflect the projected shift in the general population of the U.S. By 2043, the Census Bureau estimates non-Hispanic whites will fall below 50 percent of the population, as they already have in four states and the District of Columbia. Roughly 20 percent of America’s children speak a language other than English at home.
But as the population grows more diverse, schools have only grown more segregated—especially in the Northeast and the Midwest. In Louisiana, the use of a school-voucher system—in which 90 percent of the participants are Black—only served to further segregate schools, which has provided a greater disadvantage to young Black and Latino students.