Black and Latino parents nationwide are convinced that racially based disparities in funding hurt their children’s education and want their youngsters to be more challenged academically, according to a new survey by a civil rights organization.
The national poll sponsored by the Leadership Conference Education Fund found that 90 percent of African-American parents and 57 percent of Latinos think that K-12 schools in their minority communities receive less funding than schools in white areas.
Responding to poll questions, 67 percent of black parents and caregivers and 56 percent of Latinos ranked lack of funding and limited access to resources and technology as the most important reason for racial differences in school quality. Racism was ranked as the second most important cause, although African-American parents were much more concerned than Latinos about it. Both groups ranked “lower teacher quality” as the third most important factor.
The survey, named the New Education Majority Poll, showed a strong desire for strengthened teaching and learning: 89 percent of blacks and 81 percent of Latinos wanted their children to be challenged more in school, and large majorities wanted more opportunities to take Advanced Placement courses and more classes in science, math and technology.
The survey resonates in California, where whites make up a minority (24 percent) of school children. Latinos comprise 54 percent of K-12 enrollment; Asians and Pacific Islanders, 12 percent; and African Americans about 6 percent, according to the California Department of Education. At the same time, most California public school teachers are white (65 percent), about 19 percent are Latino, 7 percent Asian or Pacific Islander and 4 percent African American.
“What we’ve found again this year is that black and Latino parents and families have high expectations of their children and want schools to have them too,” Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference Education Fund, said in a statement accompanying the survey results. “They endorse many kinds of supports and resources, but prioritize the retention of quality teachers, access to books and computers, and the opportunity for children to take challenging classes. These are the very things that we know lead to successful futures for children. They are also the very things that black and Latino children are too often denied in schools.”
The fund is a wing of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of ethnic, religious, civic and labor groups that was formed during the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and has been critical recently of the Trump administration’s immigration, economic and education policies. Henderson also heads that organization.
Henderson said he hoped the poll “changes assumptions about what black and Latino parents and families value and leads policymakers to put these parents, and their priorities, at the center of decisions about education policy so that greater opportunities for black and Latino children to learn and thrive lead to a strong future for them, their communities and our nation.”
The organization recommends, among other things, that funding disparities are erased, that schools hire and mentor more minority teachers and that schools find ways to involve more black and Latino parents.
The survey showed a divide between blacks and Latinos on whether schools do a good job preparing children “for success in the future;” 75 percent of Latinos agreed compared with 50 percent of blacks. Also evident were how racial compositions of faculty and student bodies affect attitudes.
Among African Americans whose children are taught mostly by black teachers, 58 percent say schools in the United States “are trying their best” to educate minority children “even if they often leave many behind,” but that drops to 42 percent for families in schools with mainly white teachers. Latinos responded much more positively: 76 percent of those with children with mostly Latino teachers said schools were trying their best, as did 68 percent of Latinos with children taught mostly by white teachers.
Sixty-one percent of black parents and family members of children whose classmates are mostly white described the school as excellent compared to 14 percent of those in schools with mainly other black youngsters. Among Latinos, 42 percent of those with mostly white classmates described the campuses as excellent compared with 29 percent of those in mainly Latino schools.
The survey was conducted in early March with 600 black and 600 Latino parents or family members actively involved in the upbringing of a child between ages 5 and 18. A third of the Latino interviews were conducted in Spanish. The poll, the second of its kind in two years, reports a 4.0 percent margin of error.