A New Diverse Majority: Students of Color in the South’s Public Schools

2010 – The report finds for the first time in history, public schools in the American South no longer enroll a majority of White students. African American, Latino, Asian-Pacific Islander, American Indian, and multi-racial children now constitute slightly more than half of all students in the 15 states of the South. The South is the first and only region in the nation with a majority of low income and minority students enrolled in its public schools. These students come from more challenging backgrounds, lag behind in student achievement, graduation, and attend schools with significantly lower funding levels. With this high concentration of low income and minority students, the report argues that raising funding levels and student achievement for public schools in the South is pivotal to the future of the region and the nation as a whole.

Major Findings:

  • For the first time in the nation’s history, children of color constitute a new diverse majority of those enrolled in the South’s public schools. This shift is largely due to a dramatic increase of Latinos, Asian Pacific Islanders, and other population groups in the region. More students in this new majority are also low income.
  • The South is the only region of the country to have a majority of both low-income students and students of color in public schools. The students who now constitute the largest groups in the South’s public schools are the students who are scoring lowest on state-mandated tests and the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Southern states also have some of the nation’s lowest rates for on-time high school graduation.
  • The South lags behind the nation in per pupil expenditures. Most students of color and low-income students receive the fewest educational resources to support their success in the region’s public schools.
  • These changes in Southern education are reshaping the imperatives for education and the economy in the 21st century and will require a fundamental transformation in how the South finances public education for all children and how it helps the new, diverse majority of Southern public school-children to realize their full potential.