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The Miami-Dade Public County School district is the 4th largest in the country with over 338 thousand students and over 19 thousand teachers.15  Like many other school districts in urban areas around the country, the system has problems.  The Beacon Council, an organization devoted to economic development in Miami, has identified some of the many obstacles to creating a strong education system:

    • Socioeconomic Factors- 24% of children entering kindergarten come from families living below the poverty level.16  Families living below the poverty level often become excessively burdened with financial concerns.  Oftentimes, parents become forced to spend all their time working and are not able to help children with schoolwork.  It may become more difficult for parents living under the poverty level to support their children the same way parents who do not have to deal with economic hardships are able to.  One might speculate that this puts their children at a disadvantage in public schools.
    • Language - 57.67% of public school students have a home language other than English  Many of these students speak Spanish, Portuguese or Creole, in total over 118 foreign languages are spoken by Greater Miami students.17  While many school districts nationally strive to achieve diversity, it also can be a factor which makes public education difficult to coordinate.  With limited government funds, how can school districts reach out to students from all different backgrounds speaking different languages?
    • Overcrowding - "Many of our public schools are critically overcrowded, resulting in an inferior learning environment for students. Greater Miami also has a high mobility factor, making it more likely that a student's school year will be disrupted."18

Miami-Dade County published the results of a 2002-2003 study which shows the student population in terms of ethnicity from 1988 until 2003 (see below).

Ethnicity in Schools

This chart shows not only a growing student population which makes the overcrowding problem continue and worsen, but also a growing Latino population, mirroring the national trend.  This is important because it shows the increasing number of students who will be able to speak Spanish.  Also important to note: the decreasing "White and Other" population.  It is not simply the percentage of whites decreasing, but the actual number, despite the fact that the population is growing.

What does this say about the education system?  Well, the decrease in Caucasian enrollment may signify that the schools are in fact reaching out more to the majority Latino communities than to "Whites and Others".  The fact that the Latino population continues to grow may be a result of this effort to reach out to the community, but more likely is due to the steady influx of immigrants coming from Spanish-speaking countries.

Site created by Kim Brow, Carmen Lafia, and Umang Malhotra 2004