State’s Latinos, Seniors On Rise

Jennifer Coleman, AP, Nov. 23

SACRAMENTO—By 2020, California will be more crowded, its population older and its racial composition dominated by Latinos, according to a report released Tuesday.

The changes will pose challenges to state lawmakers, who will have to grapple with the additional pressures on already-strained schools and health-care systems, according to the report by the California Budget Project.

In just 15 years, one in seven Californians will be age 65 or older, the state will add 10 million residents, and Latinos will account for 43 percent of the population, with whites accounting for about 34 percent.

The white and Latino populations are expected to become equal in 2010, when each is projected to account for 39 percent of the population, said Barbara Baran, associate director of the organization and the report’s author.

The report, “Planning for California’s Future,” examined Census data and figures from the California Department of Finance. While it doesn’t offer recommendations, its intent is to warn lawmakers of the coming shifts.

“The message here is really that this is what’s coming. This is what’s in front of us,” Baran said. “This is the beginning of another budget cycle, and we need to take an approach that is longer term, that doesn’t look at isolated issues.”

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The education system will be affected by changes to both racial and age demographics, the report said.

Enrollment in public schools is expected to increase by 7.3 percent, or about 430,000 children, by 2020. But that is a slower pace than the previous decade, when it jumped by 21 percent between 1990 and 2000.

More than half of California’s school-age children will be Latino by 2014, with a “significant minority” expected to be English-language learners, researchers found.

Standardized tests have shown a stubborn gap between white and Latino students in academic achievement, the researchers noted. The 2005 Standardized Testing and Reporting program found that 25 percent of Latino students scored proficient or better in English, while 58 percent of white students hit that mark.

That discrepancy, coupled with Latinos’ growing political clout, probably will result in calls for greater investment in public education, the report said.

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