“Demographic Exceptionalism” in Nevada

By Mary Ann Zehr — September 17, 2008 1 min read
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One in three children in Nevada under age 18 has an immigrant parent, according to a report released today by the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute. The report, “Gambling on the Future: Managing the Education Challenges of Rapid Growth in Nevada,” urges Nevada to provide more support for English-language learners in schools. From 2000 to 2006, the state’s immigrant population increased 50 percent, which the report characterizes as “demographic exceptionalism.”

From 1994 to 2006, Nevada’s ELL enrollment grew by 208 percent, compared with an increase of 61 percent nationwide.

While Nevada’s schools receive some federal funds to serve ELLs, the report points out that Nevada doesn’t provide additional state funds to school districts for such students.

The report says that the state ranks 50th nationally in the number of its high school graduates who enroll in college and has the lowest high school graduation rate in the nation. Nevada also ranks 44th in public education spending. I came across a similar picture a few years ago when I wrote about ELLs in Nevada for Education Week‘s 2006 Quality Counts report.

I’m wondering if any advocates of English-language learners have tried to force Nevada to provide additional funds for ELL programs. Arizona, for instance, allocates several hundred dollars in state funds for each ELL student beyond what is provided for other students, but that level of funding still hasn’t satisfied federal court judges in the long-running case, Flores v. Arizona.

The authors of the Migration Policy Institute report, Aaron Terrazas and Michael Fix, write that it’s “troubling” that in Nevada “almost half of ELLs in secondary schools are second- and third-generation natives who we assume have been educated in U.S. schools.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.