It's no secret that the demographics of the South are rapidly changing. Here at Facing South we have been closely following the new, more racially and ethnically diverse South that is emerging -- and shifting more quickly than anywhere else in the country.

The latest evidence comes from the National Center for Education Statistics, which released their latest report yesterday The Condition of Education. The report charts trends in public schools from 1972 to 2005, when the latest data is available.

Here are some highlights on the changing racial trends in schools:

* Nationally, 42% of public school students were considered part of a racial or ethnic minority group in 2005, an increase from 22% of students in 1972. The growth of Latino students has been the biggest factor in this increase.

* 47% of the South's K-12 public school students are now "ethnic/racial minorities," up from 30% (mostly African-American) in 1972. The West is the only more diverse region, with 54% students of color.

* While the West has the highest number of students identified as "Hispanic" (37%), the South has seen the fastest growth: the proportion of Latino students has more than tripled in the South from 1972 to 2005, from 5% to over 18%.

Of course, the report doesn't look at private schools, making it an imperfect snapshot of the South's overall demographics. As studies have found, the South has seen the greatest growth in private education -- especially among white families attempting to escape public schooling, a factor in the re-segregation of Southern education.

But the overall picture is clear: the new generation of the South will look less and less like the old one.