The nation is aging. While the number of children continues to climb, they are a smaller share of the population than they once were. In 1960, children made up 36 percent of the U.S. population; by 1996, the figure had fallen to 26 percent. By 2025, that proportion is expected to stand at less than 24 percent. In that year, slightly more Americans are projected to be 65 or older than between the ages of 5 and 17.
Part 4 of Education Week‘s series on the demographic forces shaping public education in the new century focuses on this trend. As the largest generation in American history enters its retirement years, educators are facing the specter of schools’ having to compete ever more fiercely for public resources.
One place where the tensions have already surfaced is Volusia County, Fla. Last spring, the Florida Supreme Court decided that the county’s “school impact fees"—charges on new houses to help cover school construction costs—should not apply to seniors-only communities. The ruling stirred strong feelings in northeast Florida and around the state.
Yet the aging of the population portends not just hard choices, but new opportunities as well. This installment of the series also looks at the older teachers who could help staff the classrooms of the future.
- Shades of Gray. With the nation’s population growing older, U.S. schools may well face tougher competition for public resources in the years ahead. Tensions have already surfaced in one Florida county. Includes the charts “Advancing Age” and “Projected Costs of Caring for Elderly People.”
- Rethinking Retirement. Older teachers and potential retirees opt to stay in the classroom to help ward off teaching shortages.
About This Series. Read about other installments of this special series.
A version of this article appeared in the November 29, 2000 edition of Education Week as Shades of Gray: Overview