Hispanic Immigration Swamping California`s Schools

by Linda Thom:

Lessons From A Short History Of Texas

The maple leaves are turning red
and yellow.

sales abound. As does the annual crop
of stories about

unexpected school overcrowding
—for example, see



I call my grandchildren and hear a
recap of my grandson`s first week in


Because my

live in

, I worry about their education. So many
of the students in that state have special needs. In my
grandchildren`s elementary school, Hispanic students
have test scores in the 20th percentile.

It used to be that our children

California public schools
from kindergarten through
graduate school, and we never worried. Times have
changed, however, and

not just in California.

California public schools are
overrun with Hispanic students. The California

Department of Education
enrollment figures show a
rapid rise in students that is caused almost entirely by
the Hispanic influx.

Change in California School
Enrollment, K-12, 1993 to 2005









6,322,083 1,981,432 505,308 713,239 2,961,067 161,037








  1,054,806 -246,220 49,354 124,605 1,009,489 117,578

In the period from 1993-94 to
2004-2005, California K-12 enrollment increased by
1,054,806 students. Hispanic children accounted for most
of the rise, an additional 1,009,489 pupils. White
enrollment declined—by 246,220 students.

Last year, the Public Policy
Institute of California (PPIC)

released a study
of California`s immigrant
population. According to the study, 19 million, half
of California`s residents, are first, second or
third generation immigrants. Among second-generation
children, over half, 58%, have Mexican fathers. [
Immigrants in California
S. Karthick
Ramakrishnan and Hans P. Johnson May 2005, 20 pp.
Vol. 6, No. 4 (

Latino immigrants are not
well-educated. Fewer than half are high school graduates
and most have had fewer than eight years of schooling.

And this is a problem. Whether they
live in St. Louis or San Luis, children whose

are not well-educated do not perform well in
school. Without a good education, it is much harder to
pull oneself out of poverty.

Many people believe that

learning English is the key
to successful immigrant
assimilation. But simply teaching children English does
not necessarily produce

well-educated adults.
The PPIC report on
second-generation immigrants reported:

generation Asians have

very high levels of education

low poverty rates
, whereas second-generation Latinos
have relatively low levels of education and high poverty

These second-generation adults

all speak English—93%. Clearly, a good
education—not simply the ability to speak English—is the
key. (See the PPIC report above.)

How are the Hispanic children
performing? One measure of school performance – and
therefore successful immigrant assimilation—is the
participation rate in the GATE program (Gifted
and Talented Education
). It demonstrates that while

Asians excel
, Hispanics lag behind. The data are
from the California Department of Education.

2004-05 School Year White Black Asian/Pac Islander Hispanic Other
Percent of Enrollment 31% 8% 11% 47% 3%
Percent of GATE 46% 4% 22% 25% 3%

White children comprise 31% of all
students and 46% of the GATE students. Asian children
account for 11% of students and are 22% of those in the
gifted program.

Hispanics make up almost half of
the enrollment but a quarter of

gifted students.

The second largest school district
in the nation is

Los Angeles Unified
with 747,009 students of whom
541,514 are Hispanic—72.5% of all its students.  And how
do these students perform? Half of the schools in
the district from elementary to high school ranked in
the lowest three deciles and only 15% in the top three

According to the PPIC study,
third-generation Latinos in California have twice as
many high school dropouts, 22%, as they do college
graduates, 11%. In contrast, among third-generation
Asians, 7% have less than 12 years of education and 45%
are college graduates. Among whites, only 6% dropouts
and 35% college graduates.

It`s not just California. The trend
is now nationwide. In its news release,

"Back to School: 2006-2007,"
 [Aug 16, 2006]
the Census Bureau states that 22% of elementary and high
school students have at least one foreign-born parent,
including 5% of whom are foreign-born themselves. Ten
million students speak a

foreign language at home.
For 7 million of those,

that language is Spanish

Most of the U.S.


immigrant households
are Hispanic. According to the
Current Population Survey, students over 18 years old who
have immigrant parents are primarily Hispanic, unless
they are over the age of 45.

Nationally, among young adults aged
18-44 years, Hispanics account for an even larger share
of the population and an even larger percentage have
foreign-born parents, than do the elementary and
high-school age children. Of the 110 million residents
of the U.S. aged 18-44 years, 26.9 million or 24% have
at least

one immigrant parent
and 17% or 18.6 million are

Are many of those with foreign-born
parents, Hispanic? Yes. Are most of students who

did not complete high school
Hispanic? Yes. The
numbers are too close to conclude otherwise:

High school dropouts among
children of immigrants and Hispanics, ages 18 to 44
years, October 2004. 

Population, 18-44 years Not HS grad FB parent, not HS grad Percent of all non-HS grad Hispanic, non- HS grad Percent of all non-HS grad
110,079,000 13,313,000 6,504,000 48.9% 6,510,000 48.9%

[Source: Census Bureau
with calculations by Linda Thom. [Table
. School Enrollment of the Population 3 Years Old
and Over, by Level and Control of School, Race, and
Hispanic Origin: October 1955 to 2004 (Excel

From these national figures, we can
conclude that among 18- to 44-year-olds, Hispanic
immigrants and their children comprise most of the
poorly-educated population.

With such a poorly educated
population, it`s no wonder so many first, second and
third generation Hispanic immigrant households live in
poverty or with low incomes. According to the PPIC
report, “One of every three second-generation Latino
children lives in poverty
” and “Over half the
children in Los Angeles County are second-generation

With so many students coming from
poorly educated households, it`s no wonder Los Angeles
Unified School District

has such low test scores.

And with those kinds of numbers,
it`s no wonder I worry about my grandchildren`s
education in California schools.

My grandchildren are lucky; their
dad is a college graduate and their mom has an advanced
degree. My daughter

advocates for her children
and so Gloria, the
seven-year-old, skipped first grade and is thriving in
the third-grade, gifted program. (Gloria is named after
her other grandmother, a

 Being Mexican is not the problem
in this instance. Being


Importing millions of uneducated
people has long-term consequences for our children and
for our country.

We must do the morally
correct thing. We must feed, clothe and educate our own
children before we invite the neighbors in.

Linda Thom [email
is a retiree and refugee from California. She formerly
worked as an officer for a major bank and as a budget
analyst for the County Administrator of Santa Barbara.