American Renaissance

Minority Students a Slim Majority in Florida’s Schools

Florida becomes the sixth state to cross a demographic threshold: Minorities now make up a slim majority — 50.3 percent — of students in its public schools.

herald.com, Feb. 28

ST. PETERSBURG — (AP) — Minority students now make up a slim majority in Florida’s public schools, state officials said.

Last fall, an annual head count found 50.3 percent of the state’s 2.6 million students are minorities.

Florida is the sixth state to cross that threshold, joining Hawaii, New Mexico, California, Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana. Minorities are also the majority of the student population in the District of Columbia.

In Florida, whites are still the largest group, with 49.8 percent of Florida’s public school students. Blacks make up 23.9 percent of the population, Hispanics comprise 21.7 percent, multiracial students 2.3 percent and Asians 2 percent.

Hispanics are the fastest-growing group. They have added nearly 500,000 students to Florida’s classrooms since 1977.

Demographers credit an influx of young immigrant families and higher birthrates among Hispanic and black women for the increase in minority students.

But a disproportionate percentage of Florida’s white students attend private schools, contributing to the shift. In 2000, nearly one in six white Florida student was enrolled in private schools, according to the U.S. Census. By comparison, one in 11 Hispanic students, and fewer than one in 20 black students attended private school.

The shift also raises questions about how schools will close the longtime achievement gap between white and minority students. In every Florida school district, minority students score lower than white students on tests measuring reading and math skills.

“The changing landscape and look of Florida is not so important as that all children are learning,” said Florida Education Commissioner Jim Horne. “The emphasis is on all.”

Florida’s counties feel this trend to different extents. South Florida and urban areas have seen the biggest demographic changes, and schools in Hernando, Citrus and Pasco counties are still more than 80 percent white. In west central Florida, only Hillsborough County’s public schools have reached the minority milestone.

Some demographers say in the long term, the trend will also be felt outside school systems.

“As those populations age, they will have a greater impact on the racial and ethnic imprint of the entire state,” said Stan Smith, a demographer at the University of Florida.