Hispanics still are showing up for school in Georgia after immigration law

Hispanics still are showing up for school in Georgia after immigration law

October 4th, 2011 by Mariann Martin in News

A group of Little Bloomers form a line for the first time in their schooling career at Blue Ridge Elementary School.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

As anecdotal evidence of Hispanics leaving Georgia trickled in to school officials all summer, schools with large Hispanic populations prepared for enrollment numbers to plummet this fall.

The drastic drop in enrollment didn't happen.

In fact, school systems in Hall, Gwinnett and Gordon counties and Dalton and Marietta had slight enrollment increases. Enrollment in Cobb and Whitfield counties decreased slightly, but that continues a trend over the last several years, officials said.

"Like everyone else, we weren't sure what the impact [of the Georgia immigration law] would be, but we've actually picked up a few students," said Marietta City Schools spokesman Thomas Algarin. "We expected to see a change, but the numbers have shown differently."

Marietta City Schools had a Hispanic enrollment of about 30 percent last year.

School systems have conducted unofficial 10- and 20-day counts, but do not submit official numbers to the state's education department until later this month. The official count also will include demographic makeup for each school, but most of the schools said they had not yet completed demographic counts.

In Dalton, school board members and school officials have said they have not been able to determine why enrollment did not drop, despite stories of many Hispanics leaving the area. Last year, Whitfield County had a 38 percent Hispanic enrollment, while Dalton had a 68 percent Hispanic enrollment.

City officials have said it appears bread-winners, particularly men, may be leaving to find work in other states, leaving children and women in Dalton.

The shift of men leaving and women and children staying behind is similar to what happened during the original immigration to Whitfield County over the last 20 years, according to David Boyle, a social work professor at Dalton State College.

Initially, men moved into the Dalton area to find jobs and housing before bringing their wives and children. Now, primarily for economic reasons, some Hispanic men have left to look for work elsewhere.

"Some part of the families have stayed in the Dalton-Whitfield area, keeping the kids in school," Boyle said.

It does not appear that either Hamilton or Bradley counties in Tennessee had large influxes of Hispanic students this year.

Hamilton County had an increase of about 100 students in the category in which Hispanic students are counted, according to Carol McDowell, executive assistant to the superintendent. Those students may not have been all Hispanic because the category includes other demographics such as Native American.

Bradley County schools had a slight drop in enrollment this year.

Staff writer Perla Trevizo contributed to this story.

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