By Michael Romain
According to a Chicago Sun-Times report published last Friday, “35 Chicago area school districts have seen a change in the ethnic or racial makeup of their largest group of students during the last 10 years” — and District 89 is one of them. The report is based on the latest Illinois School Report Card data, which was released last Thursday.
The Sun-Times article goes on to note that “Whites lost their No. 1 status to Latinos in 19 suburban districts spread across the six-county area of Cook, DuPage, Will, Lake, Kane and McHenry. Blacks were displaced by Latinos as the leading group in nine other districts, including the city of Chicago.
“This year’s school report card shows that minorities make up nearly half the students in Illinois public schools. And, of those minorities, Hispanic students have eclipsed blacks over the last 10 years as the largest minority, 24 percent.”
The Sun-Times article specifically mentions the growth of Latinos in Maywood as a primary factor for their growth in the District 89 school district.
“[E]nough Latinos have moved into Maywood to push the Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview School District 89 from 58.2 percent black to 59.1 percent Hispanic over 10 years.”
District 89 Superintendent Michael Robey said that the demographic reversal reflected the fact that as more and more blacks move out of Maywood, Hispanics take their place.
Dr. Robey’s observation reflects a broader trend. Maywood’s demographic landscape — one that is becoming older, less privileged and more diverse — is undergoing a deeply entrenched transition.
According to the latest U.S. Census, between 2000 and 2010, Maywood lost nearly 3,000 residents, a more than 10 percent drop. During that decade, the number of retired age residents in the Village grew by more than 9 percent, while the number of working age residents (18 to 64) dropped by nearly 9 percent and the number of children (persons 5 to 17) have dropped by 21 percent.
During that decade, however, the population shifts haven’t been uniform across ethnic and racial lines, with every ethnic/racial population, except for Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders and blacks, experiencing growth. In ten years, for instance, the black population in Maywood dropped by nearly 20 percent, while the population of Hispanics grew by 76 percent. The future of Maywood, it seems from the data, is browner and much more bilingual — a reality whose political and cultural reverberations are being felt already.
Just this election cycle, former Maywood trustee Gil Guzman, a Hispanic with deep roots in Maywood, may well have been the ‘x-factor’ in the April mayoral race, finishing a strong third behind current Mayor Edwenna Perkins and former Mayor Henderson Yarbrough, who ran neck-and-neck. In an exit interview, Yarbrough said that Guzman’s presence may have cost him the election.
Culturally, the schools are on the front-lines of the transition. According to the Sun-Times, “As a result [of the demographic transition], ‘every single building’ in [District 89] now has some kind of bilingual or English Language Learning program, [Dr. Robey] said. In addition to the district trying to help Spanish-speaking students understand English, Robey said it’s an opportunity for English-speaking students to learn Spanish.” The Superintendent described the cultural transition as a “win-win opportunity.”
Rising Suburban Poverty
The data also showed that nearly half of Illinois’s schoolchildren are now low-income, a phenomenon that reflects the fact that America’s middle-class is swiftly becoming an extremely large underclass, with mass poverty threatening the very demographic and the very place once thought impervious to its effects — whites and the suburbs.
According to researchers at the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, “poverty grew in almost every Congressional district during the 2000s, affecting nearly equal numbers of Republican and Democratic districts. Specifically, poverty grew in 388 of the 435 districts, most of which include a portion of the suburbs within the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas.”
Between 2007 and 2011, those living below the poverty line constituted 17.4 percent of Maywood’s population, more than 4 percentage points above the State average. VFP