Children of baby boomers crowd classrooms
Clinton calls for more spending as enrollment rises
From Correspondent Jonathan Karl
August 19, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As summer draws to a close and classrooms open across the nation, many schools are setting enrollment records for the fourth straight year, and the Clinton administration is calling for more education spending to handle the ongoing boom.
"This academic year, 53.2 million students will fill our elementary and secondary schools," President Clinton, himself a baby boomer, said Thursday. "That's nearly half a million more than last year."
The nation's education chief said more students are coming.
"A simple but profound fact: There is no end in sight for the increase in young people attending our nation's schools," said Secretary of Education Richard Riley.
The temporary classrooms popping up at schools across the country are for the so-called "baby-boom echo" -- a population bulge made up largely of the children of the baby-boom generation.
The increase in enrollment hits high schools the hardest. During the past 10 years, public high schools have had to make room for more than 2.2 million additional students, an increase of about 19 percent.
During the next 10 years, an increase of more than 1 million, or about 8 percent, is projected.
The figures are part of a report unveiled by Clinton on Thursday.
"This report gives our nation an important assignment: To make the investments necessary to meet the demands of the future and our obligations to these children," Clinton said.
The Clinton administration used the report to attack the Republican tax-cut plan and to make a case for increased spending to hire more teachers and build new schools.
"Many of our schools are overcrowded and will stay that way," Riley said in statement. "And the situation will only get worse if we don't act quickly to build new schools and fix old ones."
School construction and repair spending reached a record $17 billion last year.
But conservatives question the significance of the new report on enrollment.
"Enrollment increase is clearly regionalized, clearly it is lumpy, it is uneven from place to place," said former Assistant Secretary of Education Chester Finn Jr. "And that makes it even more peculiar that we would think of the federal government getting deeply involved."
The enrollment boom is most dramatic in the South and West.
Enrollment projections over the next decade include the following:
But the boom does not affect every state, with six expecting an enrollment decrease: North Dakota, Iowa, Ohio, Louisiana, Maine and West Virginia.
In a related trend, America's teachers are getting older, which means as schools get hit with more students, they will also be hit with a wave a retirements, creating a shortage of teachers.
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