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For the first time in American history, non-Hispanic whites will be outnumbered in public schools

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 26 2014 4:15 a.m. MDT

Teacher Talking To Elementary Pupils In Classroom

monkeybusinessimages, Getty Images/iStockphoto

For the first time in American history, schools are in for a massive demographic shift. This fall the overall number of Latino, African-American, Native and Asian students will outnumber non-Hispanic white students.

This shift is attributed to the growth in the Latino and Asian populations and the steep decline in the white population.

According to the 2010 Census Analysis, Latinos and Asians, the second- and third-largest ethnic groups, respectively, will surpass whites by 2043 — seven years earlier than previous projections.

Though this is not a surprise, the shift concerns educators on a practical level.

“The enrollment milestone underscores a host of challenges for educators,” reported Education Week, “including more students living in poverty, more who will require English-language instruction, and more whose life experiences will differ from those of their teachers, who remain overwhelmingly white.”

In an educational culture that leans heavily on measuring performance via standardized tests, educators and administrators worry over what this will mean not only on local, but global scales.

"Over the decades, we have not managed to reduce the variation in performance between kids of color and white kids, and we haven't closed the gap between advantaged kids and disadvantaged kids," Kent McGuire, Southern Education Foundation, told Education Week, "so now we have to figure out how to do something we've never done before, for the majority."

Others say that the demographic shift will change priorities for the better, refocusing resources on those who need them most.

In light of this summer’s rallies during the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board, some parents and educators believe that the shift will force the country to deal with its disparities.

“This country is not preparing for this momentous demographic shift that will create a ‘new majority.’ The most pressing problem is that today’s minorities are not getting the help they need to fully participate in the entrepreneurial economy,” Dr. Leonard Greenhalgh, professor of education management at Dartmouth, wrote for Diversity Business.

Greenhalgh’s concern is that in order for the U.S. to remain economically competitive on a global scale, the country needs a “growing infusion of knowledge-based ventures to sustain the entrepreneurial economy” that’ll replace the failing corporations of today.

“Despite these growing needs, minorities as a group are not getting the education the country needs them to have,” Greenhalgh said, “nor are their enterprises getting the help they need to survive, prosper, grow to scale, and take their place in the economic system.”

TWITTER: @NicoleEShepard EMAIL: nshepard@deseretnews.com

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