May 05, 2013

Hispanics Now Largest Ethnic Group in Texas Public Schools

Students at Adelfa Botello Callejo Elementary School in the Dallas Independent School District. In a sign that Texas public education is resegregated, less than 5 percent of students in the Dallas district are white. Photo by Mona Reeder/Dallas Morning News.


By Yvonne Marquez and Luke Winkie
For InvestigaTexas and The Dallas Morning News

Hispanics have passed whites as the largest ethnic group in Texas schools, making up almost 51 percent of public school enrollment.

The influx of Hispanic students, many from poor families, has brought about many changes in classrooms, with more expected as that population continues to grow.

Some schools already struggle with how to teach an increasing number of poor children who don’t speak English. Others are preparing for a day when their enrollment primarily is made up of low-income students, most of them Hispanic.

Demographers, educators and others warn that if schools don’t deal with the shifting demographics and poverty, Hispanics may be exiled to low-wage jobs or dependency on already overtaxed social services. And that will have ripple effects throughout the state’s economy.

Close to 40 percent of Hispanics 25 or older didn’t complete high school, compared with 8 percent among whites, according to the 2010 census.

Experts cite many reasons why Hispanics are dropping out: inadequate funding for school programs in Hispanic neighborhoods; teachers who don’t know Spanish; and some Hispanic parents having little time or money to invest in their children’s educational success.

Hispanic immigrants often end up working in low-wage jobs that define where their children go to school, said Kandace Vallejo, who has been a leadership coordinator for the Workers Defense Project, a nonprofit with offices in Dallas and Austin.

Those poorer neighborhoods lack good teachers, learning materials and extracurricular activities that can be found in wealthier school districts with a majority white student population, she said.

“From the start, immigrant and working-class families and people of color don’t have the same opportunities,” Vallejo said.

 See the full report by Yvonne Marquez and Luke Winkie at

Key Findings:

About 23 percent of Texas schools have a Hispanic student population of at least 80 percent. Fifteen years ago, it was 16 percent.

About 25 percent of Hispanics live below the poverty line. Over a two-year period starting in 2010, the the number of low-income Hispanic students in Texas public schools increased more than 76,000 — the largest number for any racial or ethnic group.

Of the 10 school districts with the highest percentage increase in the percentage Hispanic students over the past 15 years, half are around the largest urban areas — including Dallas and Houston.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a special report on resegregation and disparity in Texas public schools. The rest of the report includes articles on magnet schoolsprivate schoolsstate funding and crime in schools. The report is also available at The Dallas Morning News.