U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley announced in August that 1996 school enrollment would eclipse the prior enrollment record set in 1971. His report on the tidal wave of new students is entitled, The Baby Boom Echo and in it he states
Twenty-five years after the baby boom generation set a national record for school enrollment at 51.3 million students, the record is about to be broken. lt is fitting that the children of the baby boomers are doing the record breaking. Demographers call this phenomenon the baby boom echo.
The Secretary also indicated that immigration and high birth rates among minorities partially fueled the enrollment surge.
But the following exercise in looking at the Department's own statistics will show that Secretary Riley's assessment of the nation's over-crowding of schools is clearly wrong. Baby boomer parents are not
primarily responsible for the rise; it is immigration that accounts for nearly all of it.
During the press conference releasing the report, Secretary Riley had Tom Snyder at his side, a statistician with the Department of Education. The Department of Education's statistical section, called the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics, publishes an annual report called the Digest of Education Statistics; this section also compiled the data for The Baby Boom Echo. As this article will show, the Department of Education has the data to explain correctly the enrollment spike.
Where is enrollment changing? The Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1995 answers this question. Table 248 in this compendium is entitled, "Public Elementary and Secondary School En-rollment, by State 1980 to 1983." The source for Table 248 data is U.S. National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statis