Posted on February 22, 2005

White Flight Follows Influx of Hispanics into Schools

AP, Feb. 21

LINCOLN, Neb. — Dick Eisenhauer is tired of watching white families take their children out of the schools in his Nebraska district and enroll them in smaller, outlying ones, where there are virtually no poor or Hispanic students.

Like many of Nebraska’s school systems, the Lexington district where Mr. Eisenhauer is superintendent has seen an influx of Hispanics, largely because of jobs at the meatpacking plants, and an accompanying exodus of white students to public elementary schools just outside town.

And there is nothing Mr. Eisenhauer can do about it. Nebraska law allows students to switch schools without giving a reason.

“It bothers you when people come into your town and make comments like ‘You’ve got lots of Mexican kids,’ ” he said. “I feel distressed if they would opt out for that reason.”

The situation in Lexington and elsewhere in Nebraska has caught the attention of the state Legislature, which is considering a bill to thwart what some say amounts to de facto segregation in the schools.

The proposal would force the outlying elementary-only schools to merge with larger kindergarten-through-12th-grade districts. That could mean the closing of the smaller schools.