Education

Growing Population of Older Citizens Impacts Public Schools

By Michele Molnar — August 31, 2012 1 min read

What does it mean when the grandparents and elderly adults in a school district outnumber the school children?

That question may be more pressing as time goes on. The demographics in many school districts is changing as Baby Boomers age and fertility rates decline, according to a thought-provoking Education Week article by Sarah D. Sparks.

To date, more than 900 counties are home to this sort of “senior” weighting, with more residents who are 65 and older than are school-aged.

“Out of more than 3,000 counties and county equivalents nationwide, seniors outnumber schoolchildren by more than 2-to-1 in 33 counties, recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau show. Educators in such counties are grappling with ways to keep the older community engaged in and supportive of their schools, from bringing older residents into classes to reframing education issues to address safety and economic concerns.

Senior citizens often continue to favor spending on public education—after all, many have had children who benefitted from it, and better schools translate into stronger real estate values—but their funding interests tend to diverge as time goes on. Public safety is a concern, as is lowering taxes for those on a fixed income.

“Giving older residents a sense of ownership in the schools can prevent school budgets from becoming simply a battle over resources,” say the experts Sparks interviewed.

Read the complete article here.

Do you know the demographic distribution in your school district, and how it is trending? What do you think will happen if the population pendulum tilts away from school-aged children and toward senior citizens?

A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.