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New MPI Report Examines the Education Challenges of Rapid Population Growth in Nevada
Press Release
Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New MPI Report Examines the Education Challenges of Rapid Population Growth in Nevada

WASHINGTON – Nevada, the fastest growing state in the United States due to immigrant and native-born population growth, is facing significant challenges when it comes to education and future economic competitiveness, according to a report released today by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI).

The report, Gambling on the Future: Managing the Education Challenges of Rapid Growth in Nevada, identifies additional English language instruction for the rapidly growing English language learner (ELL) student population as a clear area of needed investment. Nevada’s ELL population surged 208 percent between 1994 and 2006, compared to a 61 percent ELL enrollment growth nationally. Yet federal funding for Nevada ELL students fell sharply in 2007, and Nevada, unlike most other states with large ELL populations, doesn’t allocate additional state funds to districts with high ELL enrollment.

“Nevada faces real risks if it continues to ignore the importance of educating English language learners and the children of immigrants,” said report co-author Michael Fix, who is co-director of MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. “Failure to do so could jeopardize future growth in Nevada’s economic productivity.”

Though Nevada’s labor market has been exceptional in providing middle-class wages for low-skill jobs, the state’s economic and diversification plans will require attracting more high-skilled workers to Nevada or producing more skilled workers in the state.

Yet, Nevada’s elementary and secondary education system is stressed and can be viewed in many ways as underperforming by national standards. The report, authored by MPI Research Assistant Aaron Terrazas and Fix, notes that Nevada:

  • Ranks 50th among states in the number of high school graduates who enroll in college.
  • Has the lowest high school graduation rate in the nation, and
  • Ranks 44th in public education spending

At the same time, Nevada’s total school population grew faster than any other state’s between 1994 and 2005, rising 52 percent. To keep pace with the growth, the Clark County School District (which includes Las Vegas) opened an average of one new school each month between 2004 and 2006.

With one out of four workers in Nevada an immigrant, and the children of immigrants accounting for one of every three Nevadans under age 18, the state faces key challenges – and opportunities.

“Because of its demographic, educational and labor-market exceptionalism, Nevada offers a powerful, if distinct, laboratory for immigrant integration,” Fix said.

The report is available online here.