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West To Be Hard-Hit By School Enrollment Boom

Surging enrollment during the next decade, particularly in the West and Southeast, will require about 6,000 new schools and 190,000 more teachers nationwide, the Education Department says.

About 51.7 million students will enter public and private schools this fall, surpassing the 51.3 million postwar baby boomers who were in school in 1971.

“We are only at the midpoint of a long, slow, rising wave,” Education Secretary Richard Riley said Wednesday in releasing state-by-state enrollment estimates for the next decade. “By the year 2006, America’s schools will have to educate 54.6 million children - almost 3 million more than today.”

Enrollment is expected to rise during the next 10 years in 33 states. The enrollment boom, however, will not be seen in all areas of the country. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia are forecast to have enrollment declines by 2006.

California is expected to see the largest growth in the number of students in public elementary and secondary schools - 1 million more within the next 10 years, the report says.

“I think the important thing is that in September we’re not going to turn children away. But … you need to look at the numbers and believe them,” said Mamie Starr, chairman of the Coalition for Adequate School Housing of California. “The kids are out there. I can attest to it and more are coming.”

Other states forecast to have the largest increases in the number of students within the next decade include: Texas (298,000), Washington (133,000), Georgia (113,000), Virginia (110,000), North Carolina (110,000), New Jersey (109,000), Florida (98,000), and Maryland (92,000).

States forecast to record 11 percent to 19 percent increases in enrollment are: Delaware, California, Washington, Alabama, Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon and Maryland, the report says.

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