Springdale, AR: Embracing Demographic Change in the School District

The League has promoted improving education through civic engagement for more than a century. At the 109th Conference on Local Governance, one of our three tracks is focused on Youth and Education. Investing in equitable educational opportunities for youth and adults creates a strong foundation for a thriving community. For this track, education goes beyond just the school system to include all learning opportunities a community can provide for youth and adults from libraries to monuments to arts spaces and more. This track will also explore the strategies and programs that create spaces for youth to be leaders in the community. The vision for this track is a thriving, learning community that provides equitable, culturally responsive educational opportunities that lead to meaningful work.

Healthy, thriving communities use all sectors to make better health possible for all residents. Whether it’s access to fresh food, green space or affordable housing, local governments, nonprofits, school districts and businesses all have a role to play. This track will focus on creating a complete picture of health, from physical environments and planning to strategies for promoting mental health. Equity will be a connecting focus throughout the conference, with a focus on eliminating disparities and a vision of creating a community in which demographics or a zip code do not determine residents’ health outcomes.

Recently, Lilian Ndangam wrote the following article about Springdale, AR for the 2017 Winter Issue of the National Civic Review:

In 1989, close to 97 percent of the 7,691 students at Springdale School District were Caucasian. By October 2016, the district had 21,507 students, 35.4 percent of whom were Caucasian, 46.4 percent Hispanic, 12.3 percent Pacific Islanders, and 3.1 percent black. A further 2.8 percent fell in the category of “other.” The district, located in the northwest corner of Arkansas, is the state’s second largest school district and one of its most diverse.

Immigrants currently make up 5 percent of the population of Arkansas—up from 2.8 percent in 2000. The changing demographics is reflected in Springdale, where, according to 2010 census data, one in four residents are foreign born. Mexico, El Salvador, India, and the Marshall Islands are the four largest origin countries of foreign-born residents of Arkansas. Nationally, many communities are experiencing these demographic changes. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Latino, African American, Asian, and Pacific Islands students surpassed non-Hispanic whites in public schools in 2014. In the case of Springdale, the school district went from being a majority white school district to majority Latino.

Driven by the economic boom of the 1990s, many immigrants arrived to work in companies in Springdale and surrounding areas where the poultry industry provided stable jobs. A majority of those who arrived were Mexicans. However, a Compact of Free Association act (COFA) between the United States and the Marshall Islands in 1983 paved the way for citizens of the Republic of the Marshall Islands to migrate to the United States. Under COFA, citizens of the Marshall Islands are admitted to the US indefinitely without visas. As nonimmigrant legal residents, they are able to live and work in the country but are neither entitled to any social benefits nor citizenship. Children born to Marshallese parents are automatically US citizens.

Read the full article, here…

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