NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Fastest Growing Counties See Student Populations Exploding

April 2, 2001

Overall, the nation's population grew 13.2 percent from 1990 to 2000 -- to 281 million. The growth in the ranks of school-age children was about 14 percent.

But in some counties the growth in the number of school-age children -- 17 or younger -- doubled over the decade. In Douglas County, Colo., it nearly tripled. School officials in these areas are struggling frantically to keep up with educational demands. Often the growth in the number of children exceeds that of adults.

Ten counties experienced growth in the number of school-age children that was seven to more than 14 times the national rate.

These six counties registered more than a doubling of student populations in the 1990s: Douglas and Elbert counties in Colorado; Forsyth, Henry and Paulding counties in Georgia; and Loudoun County in Virginia.

Here is what growth in education demand has meant for Douglas County, which covers about 900 square miles between Denver and Colorado Springs:

  • The school-age population there increased by 196.4 percent in the 1990s, as young couples with children moved into bedroom communities -- and then proceeded to have more children.
  • The district hires around 500 new teachers a year -- and it has opened five new schools this year, with plans to open 10 others and renovate nine next year.
  • Douglas County runs year-around schools at the elementary level -- which has allowed it to save more than $125 million in construction costs.

Year-around utilization means, in effect, that it gets four schools for the price of three.

Multiple counties in Texas, Georgia and Colorado experienced student population gains of more than 72 percent since 1990.

Source: Tamara Henry, "Counties Struggle to Educate Rising School-Age Population," USA Today, April 2, 2001.


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