Hispanic student population growing in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) Kansas public schools are about to get a lot more crowded. A new report shows that school enrollment will reach more than 500,000 students soon, and the Hispanic population is booming.

The Hispanic student population has grown 400% in the past 20 years. In Topeka Public Schools? Nearly one-in-three of all student bodies are now Hispanic.

“We could be seeing a record number of students in Kansas,” said Ted Carter, Research specialist for the Kansas Association of School Boards.

The Kansas Association of School Boards says this first ever look at the growth of minority students in the state’s public schools is an eye-opener. One of the major finds? The growth in the number of Hispanic students since the 1990s, 400%.

“Probably the largest growing group out of all the minorities that we have in our school district,” said Aaron Kipp, the Director of Demographics for USD 501.

Surprisingly, most of that growth, state-wide, is from students born in America, but who do not speak a lot of English at home. But in Topeka, “we in fact have some kids that barely speak any English that enroll, a majority are coming from Mexico,” said Kipp.

Topeka’s Public Schools has a special program in place to help a lot of those students who do not speak English as their first language. “We’ve had to expand those, we try to get them into their home schools, there are sites that don’t carry those ELL (English Language Learner) programs, and in that case, we get them to a site real close to home,” said Kipp.

USD 501 offers the program at most schools. All six of the middle schools have it, two-thirds of the highs schools, and 50% of the elementary schools offer the program.

“School boards throughout the state are well aware of these concerns and are trying to make the proper accommodations, but in working with the state legislature, working with the current funding and some of the challenges there, we have a lot of work to do,” said Carter.

The population growth among all students in the entire state is estimated to be about 25,000 students by 2018. That is the size of the third largest district in Kansas, Shawnee Mission.

The study suggests that four years from now, nearly a quarter of all students in Kansas’ public schools will be Hispanic.

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