For 10-year-old Eduardo Chusing, going to school with blacks, whites, Asians and other Hispanics is one of the best parts of being a student at Barcroft Elementary School in South Arlington.

"It's nice to share with the other children," said Eduardo, a fifth-grader and a native of Peru.

But while children of many races get along in Arlington classrooms, a struggle has emerged between black and Hispanic parents over which minority group will have the most clout in the county's schools. And the same tensions are rising in some other area school systems.

For decades, blacks were the largest minority group in Arlington, and their history in county schools includes high-profile battles over segregation and busing.

But in recent years, the number of Hispanic immigrants -- mostly from El Salvador, Bolivia and Peru -- has overtaken the black population of the schools.

During the last decade, the proportion of Hispanics has risen from 7 percent to more than 23 percent of the county's nearly 15,000 students. The percentage of blacks has risen from 16 percent to 17.3 percent during the same period.

Just over 48 percent of Arlington students are white, 10.6 percent are Asian and 0.1 percent are Native American.

School spokesman David Rorick said school officials receive occasional phone calls from Hispanic residents, "saying the Hispanics outnumber the blacks: Why isn't more being done for them?"

The conflict between blacks and Hispanics came to a head recently over the appointment by School Superintendent Arthur W. Gosling of Drue Shropshire Guy, who is black, as director of community relations for the school system.

Because a large part of the job involves reaching out to the county's minority communities, some Hispanic leaders said the position should have gone to a Hispanic, someone who could better address the issues facing that community, from the highest dropout rate of any group in the schools to difficulties in adjusting to American culture.

"We need someone who understands our issues to lobby for us at the highest level," said Ana Maria Alfaro-Kane, vice president of the Arlington chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

"There is not a single Hispanic in the superintendent's office or on the School Board. Because of our larger numbers, we should have a say in the decision-making positions."

Blacks parents, however, say that tradition mandates that the community relations position go to a black person. A black person has held the post since it was created in 1972.

With black students showing poor and declining grades relative to white students on standardized tests, appointing a black director of school and community relations "is a sign that the School Board is serious about addressing the problems of the black community," said Robert Bandy, a federal auditor whose two children attend school in Arlington. "There hasn't been a lot of tangible success or progress other than that."

Rorick said the job of director of school and community relations was created by school officials to build bridges with the black community after the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. Guy, however, "will be meeting with the heads of all of the {minority} communities to open up an expanded dialogue with the schools."

"We want to avoid the impression of slighting one group to the benefit of another," Rorick said.

While demographic changes have been particularly dramatic in Arlington, other local areas with large numbers of immigrants have experienced similar tensions. Groups representing Hispanics, the fastest-growing segment of the District of Columbia public schools, have argued repeatedly for more money, for bilingual education and other programs for Spanish-speaking students, who make up nearly 10 percent of the city's enrollment.

"Hispanics as a growing group are going to want to have a voice," said James Akin, an assistant superintendent in Alexandria, where blacks make up almost half the student population and Hispanics 13 percent. But the Hispanic population is increasing by about 1 percent each year. "There could be real turf battles here," Akin said.

Armando M. Rodriguez, a member of the School Board in Fairfax County, where Hispanics make up about 4 percent of the school population, said he thinks the Hispanic community is regularly shortchanged.

"Blacks have a greater visibility even where they are lesser in number. They are longer-term residents and have more political experience," he said.

In Arlington, the growing divisions between black and Hispanic parents are of deep concern to school officials.

Daniel L. Brown, who retired as Arlington schools' director of community relations in June, predicted that strife between the groups will "create headaches for the School Board" as it attempts to avoid slighting either group.

Black parents say they fear that increasing numbers of Hispanic students will make school officials less responsive to the needs of black children.

Some see a change in the county's "minority achievement" program as the first step in that process. Until this year, the program targeted black students exclusively for extra help. Now it is open to students from other minority groups.

"We want the focus to remain on black children," said Lavonne Stewart, president of Parents in Education, a coalition of about 40 black parents. "We don't want to lose what we have gained . . . . We would like to keep our momentum going and continue having our viewpoint heard" with the school administration.

Representatives from both groups say they have wish-lists of programs they would like the school system to provide. Stewart said the parents in his coalition support the creation of a course on black history in the county's high schools. Alfaro-Kane said Hispanic parents would like to see flexible scheduling of classes for high school students, many of whom work to help support their families.

The competition for attention is occurring against a backdrop of severe school budget cuts. Both blacks and Hispanics worry the cuts might threaten their favorite programs. The School Board recently approved $300,000 in budget cuts for this year, with more severe cuts expected next year.

Even high-priority programs serving minorities could be affected, such as English for speakers of other languages, with an annual budget of $2 million serving 2,222 non-English speakers, and the minority achievement program, with a budget of $106,000 for more than 300 children, most of them black.

Frank Wilson, Arlington's only black School Board member, said the two groups have only a marginal understanding of the issues that affect the other.

"The black community looks at the numbers of dollars that have been given to Hispanics with the {English language} program, not knowing that a lot of that is federal and state money," he said. "They say, 'Our people have been here 400 years, and look at all the money they're getting and they've only been here eight or nine.' " But Hispanic parents, Wilson said, "don't realize the dues blacks have paid to get where we are."

Wilson said he hopes Arlington's blacks and Hispanics learn to get along. "I don't want to see the black community and the Hispanic community getting into a spitting contest with each other," Wilson said. "All you have to do is to look at the low academic performance of both groups, and it will jump right out at you that they have got a common cause to work for."