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Black, Latino Parents Say Expectations for Poor Children Too Low in Public Schools

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A majority of African-American and Latino parents report that they want higher expectations for their children and better teachers in public schools, where they believe there are racial inequalities and funding disparities, according to a new national poll.

And some believe public schools are doing a poor job overall addressing those concerns.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a national coalition of 200 organizations, is releasing Monday a survey of about 800 African-American and Latino parents and caregivers about their attitudes toward and priorities for public schools. The release of the poll results will be accompanied by an event in Washington to discuss the findings.

About 90 percent of the poll's participants said expectations for low-income children should be as high or higher than for other students.

"They really want to see higher expectation for students of color," said Matt Hogan, a partner with Anzalone Liszt Grove Research that conducted the poll, in a Friday conference call with reporters. "They overwhelmingly say basically, those expectations are not high enough and they want to see them higher."

About 80 percent of African-American and Latino students rated their own children's schools positively, with higher opinions about schools where the student populations are mostly white.  

But when asked about schools nationally, 53 percent of African-American participants said schools were doing a poor job preparing African-American children for the future, compared to about 28 percent of Latino respondents.

Also, about one-third of African-American and one-quarter of Latino participants responded that schools "are not really trying" to educate African American and Latino students. 

"I would say there's a big difference in how they see their child's school and how they see schools nationally," Hogan said.

Other poll findings include:

  • Both communities believe there are funding disparities between low-income and wealthy schools, as well as by race. About 83 percent of African-American respondents and 61 percent of Latino respondents reported they believe their schools receive less money as those in primarily white communities.
  • Half of the respondents said that quality teachers are the most important aspect of a good school. Respondents say the lack of funding, low-quality teachers, and racial bias are the top reasons why African-American and Latino students don't receive an education that's equal to that of white children.
  • About 45 percent of respondents said students' family support was the most important factor for school success for low-income children, more so than schools themselves.

Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference Education Fund, said the poll was done to show the opinions of the "new majority" because "children of color" now make up most of the public school population. Also, the group wanted to highlight parents' opinions in light of the recent passage of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which will be rolled out in schools soon.

(The group has spoken up about ESSA, the main federal K-12 law, before. Here's what the group said about ESSA in December and also what it is saying about the negotiated rulemaking, which is now underway.)

Henderson said he hopes the survey results will be used by advocates and schools to gauge public opinion, as well as engage parents in the process.

Phone interviews were conducted with about 400 African-American and 400 Latino parents and caregivers in March. About one-fifth of the interviews were conducted in Spanish. Focus groups were held with Latinos in Chicago and African Americans in Philadelphia. 

Contact Sarah Tully at [email protected].

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