Hispanic Population Growing, Hispanic Educators Hard To Find

By Diette Courrégé Casey — December 02, 2011 1 min read
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Hispanic communities are on the rise in rural towns throughout the Great Plains, while across the country, Hispanic educators are hard to find.

Two stories, one in the New York Times and another in the Washington Post, talk about those trends separately, with the latter delving into the implications for schools.

The New York Times article, Hispanics Reviving Faded Towns on the Plains, explored the phenomena of the increasing number of Hispanic families in America’s heartland in states such as Kansas, Montana and Nebraska.

Here’s an excerpt from the story:

For generations, the story of the small rural town of the Great Plains, including the dusty tabletop landscape of western Kansas, has been one of exodus -- of businesses closing, classrooms shrinking and, year after year, communities withering as fewer people arrive than leave and as fewer are born than are buried. That flight continues, but another demographic trend has breathed new life into the region. Hispanics are arriving in numbers large enough to offset or even exceed the decline in the white population in many places. In the process, these new residents are reopening shuttered storefronts with Mexican groceries, filling the schools with children whose first language is Spanish and, for now at least, extending the lives of communities that seemed to be staggering toward the grave."

The article highlights the small, rural town of Ulysses, Kan., where about half of the 6,161 residents now are Hispanic. And across the rural western half of Kansas, most counties have seen double-digit growth in Hispanic populations, according to the story.

One Kansas-born Princeton professor interviewed talks about how this could be the future for many rural communities in the Great Plains.

The story doesn’t delve into what this means for schools, although it does mention one Kansas town, Bazine, that closed its high school a few years ago and was contemplating doing the same to its elementary school. The increase in Hispanic families has caused a spike in its population growth—the first time that’s grown in more than 50 years—and its school enrollment is on the rise.

The other story in The Washington Post, With Hispanic students on the rise, Hispanic teachers in short supply, doesn’t focus on rural schools, but it does talk about the severe shortage of Hispanic teachers and what that means for students.

According to the story, more than 21 percent of students are Hispanic, compared to 7 percent of teachers, making it the widest gap for any racial or ethnic minority groups. And the percentage of Hispanic students is expected to continue growing. Why does that matter?

“Research suggests that a more diverse faculty might lead to better attendance, fewer suspensions and higher test scores,” according to the story.

Schools struggle to find Hispanic teachers, a challenge that’s likely more difficult for rural communities that already have a hard time hiring high-quality educators.

I’d be curious to know more about what rural schools in the Great Plains are doing in response to the growth in Hispanic students, as well as how (or whether) they’re trying to hire Hispanic educators.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.