TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Growth in the state’s Hispanic population is fueling a steady increase in overall enrollment in Kansas public schools, according to a report by the Kansas Association of School Boards.
The report said enrollment will grow by as many as 25,000 students in the next five years, pushing the overall school population to more than a half-million students for the first time since 1970, The Lawrence Journal-World reported.
“Most of that is due to births (among Hispanics), as opposed to any kind of migration into the state,” said Ted Carter, a researcher at KASB who authored the report. “We’re seeing a lot of births in the Hispanic community throughout the state.”
Enrollment in Kansas schools has been steadily increasing since the 2006-2007 school year but without growth among Hispanics, total enrollment would have been declining since the late 1990s. The report notes that in the last five years, births in Kansas have reached the highest totals for the past 30 years, and the 2010 U.S. Census said 68 percent of the state’s population growth was in the Hispanic population.
Carter estimates that within five years, Hispanics will make up 22 percent of Kansas’ total student population, an increase from less than 5 percent in the early 1990s. At the same time, the proportion of white students will drop from 85 percent in the 1992-93 school year to 60 percent. The proportion of black students is projected to stay near 7 percent.
The trends will require changes in state budgets, particularly in school funding, experts said.
Kansas school funding is based not on strict population numbers but on “weighted” enrollment that counts some students more than once, depending on factors such as poverty status and English language proficiency.
When those weighting factors are considered, the additional 25,000 students will require funding for roughly 35,000 additional students, or another $135 million, Mark Tallman, a lobbyist for KASB, wrote in a blog after the report’s release.
“This would be the cost of simply keeping the base state aid per pupil at the same level, with no adjustment for inflation or expanded programs,” Tallman wrote.
A broader impact will occur across the state because student population growth indicates what the adult population will eventually look like, said Emily Rauscher, an assistant sociology professor the University of Kansas.
Because many Hispanics have lower incomes, the state’s overall poverty rate could increase, causing more need for social services, she said. But the long-term positive impacts could include reversing the state’s usual loss of its young population.
“Kansas and other states or areas of the heartland tend to lose a lot of their young people, contributing to an overall brain drain,” she said. “To have more young people will help boost the economy and innovation. Demographers talk about this a lot, the issues of an aging population. Getting some of the youth back would be good.”
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