Letter From Rockfordrnhy Scott P. RichertrnJust Another Tequila SunrisernIt ina’ be several years before the resultsrnof Census 2000 are available in anv usablernfonn, but certain trends hae alreadyrnbegun to emerge from the raw data.rnMost siguificanth’, as Chilton Williamson,rnJr., and Roger MeGrath have pointedrnout earlier in this issue, the Hispaniernpopulation in the United States continuesrnto grow at a phenomenal rate —andrndiat trend seems to have been magnifiedrnhere in Rockford. For the first time inrndecades, Rockford’s population lias risen —rna remarkable occurrence in a city thatrnhas weathered severe economic stormsrnand a decade-long desegregation lawsuit,rnwhich pushed our properh taxes to thernhighest in the countrv.rnl\cn more remarkable is the fact thatrnalmost all of tlic growth can be attributedrnto the cliange in our Hispanic poprdatiou.rnhi 1990, Rockford had r^9,426 residents;rnby 2000, that number had climbedrnto 150,11S, an increase of 7.7 percent, hirnraw numbers, Rockford’s population grev’rnb 10,689 residents; the Hispanic populationrnexploded from 5,210 to 15,278, a 193-rnpercent increase, accounting for 94 percentrnof Rockford’s total population growih.rnfor the first time in decades, Rockford’srnpopulation densih’ seems to havernincreased —which would not necessarilyrnhave been a bad thing, if population hadrnstaved constant or fallen. Rockford hasrnengaged in a land grab over die last severalrndecades, gobbling up unincorporatedrnareas of Winnebago County —usuallyrnfarmland or forest. As the strip malls,rnchain restaurants, and tree-less subdivisionsrnbriinming with vinyl-sided ranchesrnhave eaten up our open spaces, populationrndensit has fallen steadily, fromrn4,309 people per sc|uare mile in 1970 torn3,105 per scjuare mile in 1990. Thoughrnlibertarian advocates of paving the eartiirnwould undoubtedly trv, it is hard to arguernthat our qualih’ of life has increased asrnRockford’s centers of commerce and industryrnhav e moved farther awav’ from therncenter of our population, which, despiternthe expansion of the cih’s limits, still liesrnrelatively close to the historic downtown.rnIn odier words, the last decade iiiav’rnhave been the worst of both worlds forrnRockford, as city govcrnjiient has expandedrnits services into formerly openrnspaces (and raised taxes in order to do so),rnwhile population densib,- has risen in thernolder districts of the eih—which, as a resultrnof our past several mayors’ fixation onrnnew development, have been more orrnless neglected. Barring a significant droprnin Hispanic immigration, the prospectsrnfor the future do not look much better.rnWhy has the Hispanic population ofrnRockford increased so dramaticallvrnSome of the growtii can be attributed, ofrncourse, to the general increase in the Hispanicrnpopulation of the United States,rnand some, uudoubtedly, has occurred becausernof our proximitv- to Chicago, whichrnhas been a popular destination for Hispanicrnimmigrants. As widi so many otherrnissues here in Rockford, however, therngrowth of the Hispanic population is alsorninextricably tied to the desegregation suitrnagainst the Rockford School District.rnWlien a group of parents calling dieniselvesrn”People \dio Care” first filed therncase back in 1989, tiicy had a very specificrngoal: the reopening of Rockford’s WestrnHigh School. They were also concernedrnabout a general disparih’ in funding betweenrnschools on Rockford’s poorer westrnside and schools on the rapidly expandingrneast side. The ease can be said tornhave broken along class lines, but certainlyrnnot racial ones: Sixh- percent of thernshidents at West High were white. PeoplernWho Care made the mistake of hiringrnBob Howard, a Chicago attorney,rnwlio tiirned the case into a federal classactionrndesegregation suit. Forced busingrnand court-ordered taxes soon followed.rnRhetorically, the Rockford schoolsrncase has followed traditional paths, withrnmost of the discussion focused on raisingrnthe test scores of black students and busingrnwhite ones. But—altiiough the discriminationrnallegedly occurred largelyrnduring the 1960’s and 70’s —Hispaniesrnwere also placed in the plaintiff class, despiternthe fact that, by the time of die lawsuit,rndiere were still onlv 1,226 Hispanicrnshidents in a district of close to 30,000,rnand Hispanies made up a mere 3.7 percentrnof Rockford’s population.rnDespite the black-and-white rhetoricrnsurrounding the ease, much effort andrnmoiiev were spent on programs purportedlyrndesigned to help Hispanic students.rnRockford now has an extensive Spanish/rnEnglish bilingual program —although,rnat least at the crow n jewel of the programrn(die Barbour Two-Way Language ImmersionrnMagnet School), the emphasisrnis mostl}’ on Spanish: The RockfordrnSchool Dfstriefs website {•H’v’\:rps205 .com)rnnotes that kindergarten students at Barbourrnreceive 90 percent of their instructionrnin Spanish. Bv die fifdi to eighthrngrades, classroom time is supposed to berndivided equallv between English andrnSpanish.rnWith die district providing extensivern(and expensive) programs for Hispanicrnstudents, it is not surprising that theirrnnumber has increased 200 percent overrnthe past ten years, from 1,226 in 1990 torn3,678 in 2000. (Black enrollment, bv’rneontra.st, has increased about 38 percent.)rnObviously, much of the increase in Hispanicrnenrollment is the result of immigrationrnto Rockford (not just births to Hispaniesrnwho are already here), but therninfluences run both ways: Some of thernimmigration was undoubtedly driven bvrndie expansion of programs for Hispanies.rnWliile the desegregation lawsuit is supposedrnto come to an end on June 30,rn2002, formed)^ court-mandated programsrnfor Hispanic students are unlikely to disappear.rnIronically, fliose who are concernedrnabout the balkanization of ourrnschool district and skyrocketing expensesrnmay find support from some Hispanicrnparents who, as school-board memberrnStephanie Caltagcrone points out, arerndisturbed by the amount of time flieirrnchildren spend in Spanish-language instruction.rnStill, unless and until thernsoudieni border of the United States becomesrna litde less permeable, flie questionrnof bilingual education will never bernresolved. crnNOVEMBER 2001/33rnrnrn