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Latino Students Fuel Growth in Kansas Schools

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Even in a largely rural state, Latinos are quickly reshaping demographics.

A new report reveals that Kansas public schools are losing white students and adding Hispanic students — fueling enrollment growth.

The new report by the Kansas Association of School Boards projects that by 2018-19, Latino students could make up about 22 percent of the state’s student enrollment, while white students will make up only 60 percent.

The total enrollment is expected to climb to a record of 510,000 students. The report analyzed the number of live births and first-grade enrollments to reach its conclusion.

The Lawrence Journal-World reported that researchers attributed the strong Hispanic growth primarily to high birth rates, not migration.

Without the growth of Latino students, the overall school enrollment would have been in decline since the late 1990s. In the early 1990s, less than 5 percent of students were Latino.

Some academics see the growth as a good sign for the state.

“Kansas and other states or areas of the heartland tend to lose a lot of their young people, contributing to an overall brain drain,” said Emily Rauscher, a sociologist at the University of Kansas. “To have more young people will help boost the economy and innovation. Demographers talk about this a lot, the issues of an aging population. Getting some of the youth back would be good.”