Further Drop in White Enrollment May Shift Integration Approach


A continuing drop in white enrollment might lead San Diego schools officials to recommend changes in its integration program or redefine racial balance, Supt. Tom Payzant said Tuesday.

The latest ethnic enrollment data, released Tuesday, shows continued, substantial growth in nonwhite student population, especially among Latinos, and declines in white enrollment in the nation's eighth-largest urban school system, with 123,503 students.

The percentage of white students in the San Diego Unified School District dropped to 35.4% this year from 37.1% a year ago. The actual number of white students dropped, too, to 43,676 from 44,535. During that time, the number of Latino students increased to 28.8% from 27.4%, to 35,536 students from 32,886.

The percentage of Asian students, including Indochinese, remained constant, at about 10%, while Filipino students rose slightly to about 8%. Black student numbers also stayed at about the same level as last year, at 16.3%.

The trend toward more Latino students is even more pronounced at elementary grade levels, where the district's largest enrollment increases have occurred during the past several years.

Payzant, in an interview Tuesday, attributed the change to higher birth rates among nonwhite groups, to heavy Latino immigration, and to white migration out of San Diego city schools neighborhoods to "North County and to suburban California areas."

"There does not seem to be a dramatic shift in students to private schools," Payzant said. There is no comprehensive data on how many white families have moved out of the district so that their children can attend suburban schools.

The district's Jerabek Elementary in suburban Scripps Ranch, which borders the highly regarded and 81% white Poway Unified School District, is San Diego's most heavily white facility, at 81.6%, and has the lowest number of black students (0.7%) and Latino students (4.4%) of any of Payzant's 180 schools.

Districtwide, white enrollment has declined from 80,000 in 1976 to the current 43,676, while nonwhite totals have skyrocketed from 41,000 to 79,000, almost the reverse of the figures when the first legal complaints were filed alleging segregation in district schools.

The decline compounds the difficulty of finding an ethnic balance for the schools.

Under the district's voluntary integration program, special academic programs ranging from music to marine science have been set up over the past decade in inner-city schools to attract white students. Minority students also are encouraged to bus to schools in predominantly white areas.

But the number of white students attending magnet programs has declined during the past three years, from 25% of the population at magnet schools to 22% this year, or 7,736 students.

Payzant said Tuesday that the district is looking at whether schools should be defined as integrated or segregated solely on the basis of white/nonwhite percentages. Perhaps, he said, they could be considered integrated if they have a multicultural population composed of several ethnic groups.

The district also might loosen its regulations and allow nonwhite students to attend magnet schools as long as they are of different ethnic groups than the area where their school is.

"These are legitimate areas to look at, but I would caution that given how hard it is in just dealing with white/nonwhite integration, it might be even more complicated to try and balance schools with four or more categories," he said.

The district has its work cut out. Six elementary schools--Perkins, Sherman, Washington, Logan, Balboa and Burbank--and Memorial Junior High School all have Latino enrollments at 80% or higher. Two elementaries--Webster and Knox--and Lincoln High School have the highest percentages of black students, about 60% each. Bethune Elementary in Paradise Hills has 74% Filipino enrollment, while Linda Vista Elementary, at 44.8% Asian, has the highest percentage for that ethnic group.

Ethnic Change in Schools

The percentages of Latino and Asian-Pacific ethnic enrollment continues to climb in the San Diego Unified School District while the percentage of white students continues to drop. A comparison over the past five years shows the trends.

Percent Numbers 1986-87 1991-92 1986-87 1991-92 White 44.8% 35.4% 51,365 43,676 Black 16.1% 16.3% 18,428 20,144 Latino 21.0% 28.8% 24,130 35,536 Asian * 9.6% 10.0% 10,979 12,350 Filipino 7.6% 8.1% 8,760 10,046 Other 0.9% 1.4% 1,034 1,751 Total 114,696 123,503

* Asian totals include Indochinese ethnicity, which is often reported separately in state and federal documents.

Source: San Diego Unified School District

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