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Hispanics at forefront of ‘The Texas Dropout Epidemic,’ Sen. Elliot Shapleigh says
February 24, 2010

With the skyrocketing population of Hispanics in Texas also leading in the number of high school dropouts, many lawmakers are worried that the future workforce of Texas will be less educated, earning lower wages and salaries then the present workforce – which may have a negative impact on future economic resources.

Written by Nathan Batoon, Austin Headlines Examiner


With the skyrocketing population of Hispanics in Texas also leading in the number of high school dropouts, many lawmakers are worried that the future workforce of Texas will be less educated, earning lower wages and salaries then the present workforce – which may have a negative impact on future economic resources.

In an e-mail entitled “The Texas Dropout Epidemic,” State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, said “no group has a greater interest in ensuring a prosperous tomorrow for Texas than the group that will soon make up a majority of the state: Hispanics.”

Hispanics make up about 37 percent of the state, and experts predict Texas will be majority Hispanic by 2035, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This growth is evident in the amount of first grade enrollments at major school districts across the state.

Out of the 7,499 enrolled first graders in the Austin Independent School District, 61.9 percent are Hispanic, with almost half that percentage classified as limited English Proficient, according to theTexas Education Agency. Nearly half of Hispanic freshmen in the state of Texas will not graduate high school.

“When 42 percent of Hispanic freshmen fail to reach their senior year of high school, the situation has become an absolute crisis,” Shapleigh stated in an e-mail.

And what does it mean for the generations of tomorrow if the teenagers of today don’t graduate?

Steve Murdock, former Texas State Demographer, cautioned that if the state continues on its current path, the next generation will "not only be poorer, less well educated, and more in need of numerous forms of state services than its present population – but also less able to support such services."

A recent report released in 2009 by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Alternative Schools Network in Chicago, Illinois, states that “over a working lifetime from ages 18-64, high school dropouts are estimated to earn $400,000 less than those that graduated from high school. Due to their lower lifetime earnings and other sources of market incomes, dropouts will contribute far less in federal, state, and local taxes than they will receive in cash benefits, in-kind transfers, and correctional costs. Over their lifetimes, this will impose a net fiscal burden on the rest of society.”

And with AISD currently facing a $15.7 million budget shortfall in fiscal year 2010, the funds for helping teenagers re-enroll will continue to spiral downward.

The 2009 report notes that the “absence of new funding at the federal and state level since the 1980s has led to decades of disinvestment in re-enrollment programs across the country.”

With Texas’ population growing more diverse daily, and political races right around the corner, Texas finds itself on the precipice of change – for better or for worse.

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