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Black and Latino Parents: Funding, Racism Are Drivers of School Disparities

A majority of African-American and Latino parents say a lack of equitable funding, along with racism, are the two biggest contributors to racial disparities in public schools, according to a new national poll.

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The poll—released Wednesday by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a national coalition of 200 organizations—is the second annual survey of black and Latino parents' attitudes and perceptions about the state of public schools. Nonwhite students now constitute a majority of K-12 public school enrollment, but as a whole, black and Latino students lag their white peers on multiple indicators, including literacy, access to rigorous coursework, high school graduation, and college attendance. 

According to the survey, nine out of 10 black parents and families believe schools located in black communities are underfunded compared to those in white communities, an increase over last year when 83 percent of black parents said this.  For Latinos, 57 percent of respondents said funding of their childrens' school falls short of those located in white neighborhoods, a slight decline over last year's results. 

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The poll also found that perceptions of racism and racial bias in schools was the second most-cited reason for why black and Latino parents believe their children do not receive the same quality of education as white students. 

Another key finding from the survey reveals that black and Latino parents and caregivers whose children have teachers who are mostly white are more likely to think that schools don't care as much about educating students of color. 

Wade Henderson, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference, said the poll's results should be a "clarion call" to policymakers and educators to devise K-12 policies at all levels that are "responsive to the needs of all children."  Henderson cited the urgency of broadly addressing the needs of students of color as states hammer out their plans for how to ensure schools perform well as part of their obligations under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

In other findings from the poll, nearly 90 percent of black parents and families think their children should be held to higher expectations and challenged more in school than they are currently. Eighty-one percent of Latino parents said the same.

The survey—done in March—was conducted by telephone (landline and mobile phones) and surveyed 1,200 black and Latino parents who have children between the ages of 5 and 18. 

To learn more about how the new poll compares to last year's results—the poll's first year—see Sarah Tully's write-up here.

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