Learning from Arizona
PHOENIX—There are times when Marco Ruiz feels powerless in his own school. As principal of J.B. Sutton Elementary, Ruiz presides over a student body that is 94 percent Hispanic and in which 95 percent are poor enough to qualify for subsidized meals. More than 70 percent of his incoming kindergartners can’t speak English when they arrive, and a large share have parents who don’t speak it, either. Children have to navigate between two worlds, while teachers—prohibited from speaking Spanish—struggle to communicate. And on top of it all, there is fear.
Ruiz estimates that 40 percent of the children are either illegal immigrants or have parents who are illegal. Since Arizona began its illegal immigration crackdown last year, he has seen anxiety rise and students disappear. “We have lost families due to raids in the area,” he said. “There are rumors, ‘Don’t send your kids to school.’ ”
Phoenix may be an extreme case, but it is also the future. Nonwhites, particularly Hispanics, are fast becoming the majority in the United States. The experience of Arizona’s educational system foretells that of a nation where whites are becoming the minority.
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