Hispanic students for the first time make up slightly more than half of Texas public school children.
Enrollment data from the Texas Education Agency show that this school year Hispanic students reached 50.2 percent of Texas' 4.9 million public school children, compared with nearly 49 percent last year.
Anglo students stopped being a majority several years ago and continue to decline in number.
Hispanic students in prekindergarten through high school now total 2.5 million in Texas. The group is 90 percent of the student population in the El Paso region.
"This is a continuation of a trend that's been developing for a number of years," said Debbie Ratcliffe, spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency. "Our Hispanic population is our fastest-growing group of students."
Two of every three public school children in Texas are minorities, according to the data.
Steve Murdock, a former U.S. Census Bureau director and past state demographer, estimates that Anglos will make up only one-fifth of the public school population in 2040.
Murdock often says that if the state does nothing to change the education system, the average Texas household in 2040 would be at least $6,500 poorer than it was in 2000 and about 30 percent of workers will not have a high-school diploma.
Budget cuts to public education in light of a budget shortfall of up to $27 billion would worsen that projection, he previously said.
"The future of Texas, for anyone looking at this, is tied to our minority population and our young population, and how well they do is really how well Texas is going to do," Murdock recently told lawmakers about the demographic changes the state faces.
In the 1999-2000 academic year, Anglos made up 43 percent of the state's student population. Hispanics and blacks made up 40 percent and 14 percent.
State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, said that if Texas is to compete, it will have to invest in education. "The greatest challenge (is) how do we provide the educational opportunities for these Hispanic students, the future labor force of the state," he said.
Hispanics have historically lagged in high school and college graduation rates. Those rates are among the nation's worst along the Texas-Mexico border.
In December, the U.S. Census released data showing that counties on the Texas-Mexico border had high school graduation rates behind the rest of the state and nation. Those counties have mostly Hispanic populations.
Of the nation's 3,147 counties, the three least-educated counties were Starr, Presidio and Maverick -- all on the border.
Using data from 2005 to 2009, census estimates showed 46.5 percent of adults in Starr County had a high school diploma. The figures were 50 percent in Presidio County and 53.7 percent in Maverick County.
In El Paso County, nearly 70 percent of adults had a high school diploma.
"The rapid growth of Hispanic families should be a catalyst for serious reform in Texas' education system," said Salvador Balcorta, CEO of Centro de Salud La Fe, which runs La Fe Preparatory School in the Segundo Barrio.
"For too long, the funding needs of our teachers, aging schools and students in low-income areas have been neglected," Balcorta said in a statement. "Hispanics have become the first in our nation to drop out and the last to head to college."
Balcorta said Texas must work to eliminate the economic, language and technology-access barriers that hamper Hispanic children and eventually force many to drop out of school.
"The voices of anti-immigrant fear are already trying to convince us that this rise in Hispanic population is due to the undocumented," Balcorta said. "The nation's Hispanic population is gaining numbers and strength because our community is young and hardworking."
Regardless of ethnicity, the state's budget crisis will mean deep cuts in funding for schools and educational programs, lawmakers said.
"I think priorities stay the same, maintaining the funding we need to prepare all Texas students to compete globally," said state Rep. Marisa Marquez, D-El Paso. "I don't think the fact our students are Hispanic changes the argument we need to fund education."
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