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Clark County School District: Hispanic Students Outnumber Whites

AR Articles on the Demographic Transformation
Writing on the Wall (Aug. 2001)
Birth Rates: Who is Winning the Race? (Nov. 2000)
If We Do Nothing (Jun. 1996)
More news stories on the Demographic Transformation
Antonio Planas, Review-Journal (Las Vegas), Nov. 18, 2006

Hispanic students outnumber white students for the first time in the 50-year history of the Clark County School District, according to the latest figures from the district.

Hispanics make up 38.8 percent of the district’s student population, with 117,496 students. The district has 113,430 white students, or 37.5 percent.

Last school year, white students accounted for 39.3 percent of the district’s population, compared with 37 percent Hispanic students.

The demographic shift caps a booming Hispanic student population in Clark County that has been on the increase since 1980. That year, Hispanics represented only 5.3 percent of district students. A decade later, the Hispanic population had grown to 12.1 percent.

Superintendent Walt Rulffes approached the development with caution, saying the changing face of the district could place additional burdens on a school system in which many Hispanics struggle to grasp the English language.

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Rulffes said legislators responsible for determining funding for the district should take heed of the demographic change and provide additional support to aid Hispanics who face a language barrier.

Fifty-five percent of the district’s Hispanic students are enrolled in the English Language Learners Program, or ELL, and speak Spanish as their primary language

“We need the funding formula to recognize that we have a new layer of English language learners who are in our system,” Rulffes said. “Since all of our testing is in English, students have to acquire the English-language speaking skills to perform well in high-stakes testing.”

At nearly 303,000 students, the district is the fifth-largest in the nation.

“We’re taking over,” quipped Ron Montoya, a Mexican-American and principal of Valley High School, where about 62 percent of the 3,100 students are Hispanic.

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Clark County School Board member Larry Mason, who also is Mexican-American, said the district needs to step up its efforts to improve the ELL Program.

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Norberta Anderson, co-director of the district’s English Language Learners Program Department, said the program serves nearly 69,000 students, 94 percent of whom speak Spanish as their primary language.

The program assists students from 132 countries who speak 92 languages.

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Anderson said that about 65 percent of the students in the program are American-born, a statistic obtained by the department through paperwork provided by schools. The information is gathered when students enroll in the school system. Anderson said information on student nationality is gathered by her department only for “language purposes,” to identify why a student struggles with English.

“We don’t delve into immigration issues,” she said.

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Original article

(Posted on November 20, 2006)

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