Population changes present challenges to future California

Daily Sundial

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As if California isn’t already immensely populated, analysts recently estimated that California’s population will increase along with its racial and age makeup by 2020 in a report, “Planning for California’s Future,” which was drafted by the California Budget Project.

With an estimated additional 10 million residents by 2020, the report suggests that California’s population will be older and racially dominated by Latinos, as they are expected to make up 43 percent of the population.

Several lawmakers argue that the possibility of an increased California population could mean that more investments must be made to improving freeways, bridges and schools.

Additionally, lawmakers say that the most of California’s infrastructure has been neglected due to the state’s overriding interest in social programs.

What good is an increased population, however, if the California Legislature fails to focus on social programs, such as education and health care?

Any improvements to our highways and levees would obviously provide a much needed solution to the problems that will arise when an expectably large population begins to use up some of the states’ resources.

The states’ interest, however, should rest in ensuring that public schools provide proper education to what analysts say will be an expected 7.3 percent enrollment increase in California public schools by 2020.

Though the report provides only projections of what the expected racial composition and population could be in 2020, and fails to offer recommendations to solve potential problems that could arise from overcrowding and racial stratification, several lawmakers have acknowledged that certain demands will need to be met to accommodate the estimated population growth.

Despite some of the projected changes that could be made to California’s infrastructure, what will be needed the most are improvements to English as a Second Language programs to support the expected Latino population.

As projected in the report, half of California’s public school children will be Latino by 2014, and a minority of those will be English-language learners.

Improvements to a school’s infrastructure cannot be the only solution lawmakers undertake to deal with the demands of an increasing population. School programs must also be improved as the population is expected to grow.

How will the state Legislature support an increased population when the state debt is amassing?

With the state under tight budget constraints, the additional 10 million citizens to California could also lower the number of jobs available in the already unsteady job market.

Still, with any new changes, such as an increased population, and expenditures social programs are the first to take the brunt of budget cuts despite what some lawmakers claim.

Veronica Rocha can be reached at managing@csun.edu.