By Dr. Roberto R. Calderón, Associate Professor of History at the University of North Texas
Texas’s future Latino majority is already reflected in its known current and projected public school enrollments. These numbers are widely available. A brief analysis of these numbers reveals the basic contours of Texas’s current and near-term future ethnic demographic changes. The state’s prosperity resides in the near- and long-term success of its Latino public school students. Education is a key battleground to no one’s surprise.
Here are the numbers we know and with which we prepare this analysis:
In a recent interview given to The Texas Tribune, Steve Murdock sketched some brief but important demographic projections where the Texas school population pre-K to 12 is concerned. Murdock as many know is the former longtime Texas State Demographer and later under the second George W. Bush presidency was appointed Director of the US Census Bureau for a time. The key projected data were offered in two short paragraphs by reporter Morgan Smith. She wrote:
But geography aside, Texas public schools may increasingly find more in common with the South Texas district. In 2011, the state 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.
Based on these projections there will be an estimated 5.94 million Latino students in the public schools of Texas by 2050. This represents two-thirds of the nine million projected by that date.
This is an increase of about four million above and beyond today’s statewide five million public school students. Stated differently, there will be one million more Latino public school students by 2050 than the total number of Texas public school students today. That is, the overall student population in Texas is projected to grow by about 80 percent between 2012 and 2050.
Within this overall growth trend Latinos will account for some 86 percent of the total increase of public school student enrollments. Blacks, Asians, and others will account for the remaining 560,000 public school student enrollment increase. As evidence of a far more Latino or Mexicanized Texas society specifically these projections are quite compelling.
Similarly, if today thirty percent of the five million public school student population is White (or about 1.5 million students statewide), by 2050 this number will have been reduced by half to 15 percent of the total of nine million.
This means that there will about 1.35 million White students by 2050 statewide in this age grouping. White student enrollments in this age grouping will not increase between now and 2050 and will in fact decrease slightly by an estimated 150,000 students. White students in this population grouping constitute a static growth category that will decrease by 10 percent between 2012 and 2050, according to the projections cited.
Conversely, Latino students will experience an altogether different trend in the age category indicated. While such students today constitute half or about 2.5 million students of the state’s five million students in the pre-K to 12 student population, by 2050 they will have increased their number by an additional projected 3.44 million. That is, Mexican American and other Latino students will have increased their number by a percentage of 137.6 percent (or 138.0%). Projected Latino public school student enrollments constitute the most active growth category in Texas bar none.
The remainder of the one-third of our Texas pre-K to 12 students by 2050 will be comprised by Black, Asian and other student cohorts. Taken together these student cohorts will comprise 19 percent of the total such number or equivalent to about 1,710,000 students.
Texas has far and away the largest and fastest growing actual and projected public school student population after California in the nation. This is both challenge and opportunity where Mexican American and Latino students as a whole are concerned.
Such historic increases in public school student enrollments will not occur in a vacuum. Every institution will be affected. From the standpoint of the Texas Latino community we can certainly raise several questions: Whither employment and promotions, authority, budgets, resources, etc., for Latino staff, teachers, and administrators? Will two-thirds of the state’s public school positions across the board including staff, teachers and administrators, as well as school board members and superintendents be Latino by 2050? In other words, what do these projected public school enrollment figures represent for the community that is most directly affected?
What will happen on the journey getting there from where we stand today? Will we be able to construct a multiracial society premised on equity and parity that may become the norm in our society? Is it possible to grow and build such a progressive consciousness in our society in the short space of four decades? Or will we simply be reproducing more of the same of what we’ve known for the past four decades as the Occupy movement made manifest, a period in US history wherein we have generated increased social inequality at every level. Public resources and budgets, it’s as basic as it gets.
In practice equality should be a plural concept in every sense of the term. Short of it, the worst of our history surfaces instead and racism is the outcome which tends to limit the perks available in society to a privileged few or at best selected cohorts in society. What about shared governance and the effective equitable democratic practice of shared power? Commensurate with said socially conscious practices our society needs desperately to embark on a history- changing project to challenge and eliminate poverty and extant inequalities. We need leadership that is prepared to walk this path. We need leadership that is unafraid to face the wrath of those who would covet and hoard all power, a trajectory that is fundamentally anathema to the highest ideals of every would-be democratic society in the world including our own.
Moreover, what will the Texas public higher education establishment—community colleges and four-year universities—do to widen, create and extend existing and new success and achievement opportunities for the growing non-White student population going forward toward 2050 in light of such a scenario? And because Mexican American and Latino students will comprise two-thirds of the total of such students statewide in that future that is ours already, what specifically will be our policy toward this particular community? Is the expectation of racial, social and economic justice too much to hold?
Clearly, in order to create a more prosperous and equal society Texas needs to significantly expand rather than contract its available funding of public education at all levels including higher education. The mood, however, for such a progressive turn in policymaking following on the heels of the recent neoliberal retrenchment in such funding for the first time since 1949 is up in the air. It’s a political throw of the dice and a game of chicken all rolled into one. The mood on the right politically is plain ugly and beholden to all sorts of self-serving and anti-democratic corporate interests. In Texas being a conservative also means being subservient to a racialized view of our world that is status quo and thereby reactionary by definition. It’s a posture that conveniently denies contemporary historical developments. It’s a posture that’s determined to hold onto all privilege and power until whenever.
For those who believe in social justice and live the principles of equality espoused in the documents of our nation and its society, there is no other possible alternative but to seek and work toward building the equitable society that will benefit all the state’s residents now and in the future. That fight is being waged daily. And it will be in play certainly in the upcoming Texas Legislature’s biennial session scheduled from January to May of 2013.
Texas’s current and future prosperity resides in the collective fortunes of its public schoolchildren. And with Texas Latino public school students already comprising the numerical majority today and more so going forward during the next four decades, it is their educational success and economic achievements, their combined effective equitable social and political capital that will assure the prosperity of the second most populous state in the Union. All Texas residents will win. Let us join and make it happen.
[Image Via AnonMoos]