Questions Seeking Answers
Latinos now make up the majority of public school students in the two most populous states. California, as usual, got there first.
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.”
Texas, ironically California’s polar opposite from the standpoint of mainstream ideology, also became majority latino in its public school system during the previous school year. Texas Republicans have seen the future and it is to their south. Their legislative response? Underfund the growth in public education for the first time. A coincidence?
In 2011, the state [Texas] reached two landmarks. For the first time, Hispanics became the majority of public school students. And to cope with a historic budget deficit, the Legislature did not finance enrollment growth in the state’s schools — something that had not happened since the modernization of the state’s public school system in 1949. Though the first turning point passed quietly and the second with much political strife, they both underscored the challenges ahead as a dramatic demographic shift occurs in public school classrooms statewide.
By 2050, the number of Texas public school students is expected to swell to nine million from roughly five million now, and nearly two-thirds will be Hispanic, according to Steve Murdock, a demographer and director of Rice University’s Hobby Center for the Study of Texas. The overall percentage of white students will drop by half to about 15 percent. Without a change in Hispanics’ current socioeconomic status, that also means Texas students will continue to grow poorer — and their education more expensive — in the next four decades, Murdock added.
State population figures over the last decade show the shift is well under way in the public school system. Economically disadvantaged children in Texas classrooms make up 60 percent of all children in public schools, up from less than half in 2000. Students with limited English skills now make up 16 percent of them. Of about 979,000 children added to the state’s under-18 population from 2000 to 2010, 931,000 were Hispanic
Why are so many white middle class progressives seemingly oblivious to the demographic trend other than to wish defeat upon the political party most identified with latinos at this critical juncture of American, indeed Western, herstory?
Why are we not seeking to affiliate politically with minourities in their homes, joining and voting with them, supporting them with our dollars and our abilities, enhancing the future prospects for this tidal wave that will surely crush every obstacle in its path sometime after the middle of this century?
For this tidal wave represents also the future United States of America of our children and our grandchildren.
The Democrats should also emphasize their commitment to education, which Latinos consistently rate as a top concern. Consider that Latino college enrollment has soared in the last few years, according to the Pew Center, and the number of Hispanics receiving college degrees hit new highs. Democrats can contrast their positions on education – ensuring access to college, more funding for public schools – with the GOP’s focus on spending cuts. Romney’s advice to college students was “borrow money if you have to from your parents.” Ryan’s budget would slash funding for Pell Grants, which roughly 40 percent of Hispanic students rely on to attend college.
Likewise, Democrats should make a strong case for the Affordable Care Act. Gallup polling says that 40 percent of Hispanics are uninsured, the highest of any demographic. In Charlotte, the message must be loud and clear: the president wants to guarantee all Americans access to health care, while Romney has vowed to repeal “Obamacare.”
No less important is the Obama administration’s record on constitutional and civil rights. The Department of Justice has fought anti-immigrant laws in Arizona and Alabama. They have taken Sheriff Joe Arpaio to court for racial profiling, investigated Voter ID laws in South Carolina and Pennsylvania, and challenged discriminatory redistricting in Texas. Democrats need to highlight these legal battles to show that Obama is fighting for Hispanics.
Will a soon to be re-reformed (post-collapse) GOP manage to outflank progressives (yet again!) and gain share the future as they previously did by assimilating the white working class and religious voters during the 1980s?
It is progressives, after all, who naturally would seem to be most supportive of multiculturalism, as you would also expect progressives to support unions and the working class.
Questions seeking answers.