The Leadership Conference Education Fund has surveyed hundreds of black and Latino families “to include people of color in the education policy debate,” says Wade Henderson, the organization’s president and CEO.
Although the survey captures the beliefs and concerns of black and Latino parents, it’s doubtful that their children’s new majority status in public school will provide them the political clout they need to effect change.
The report, New Education Majority: Attitudes and Aspirations of Parents and Families of Color, includes four key findings: New majority parents and families …
- are well aware of racial inequities in education and the impact they have on their children;
- want a public education system that provides academic rigor, safety, and great teachers;
- want schools to set high standards and expect a lot from their kids (high expectations)—notably, they feel that low-income students should be held to higher standards;
- believe they have power to change the system, but they also believe that all levels of government should address funding and other disparities that drive racial inequities.
Henderson said in a press call that the Every Student Succeeds Act, which President Obama signed into law in December, isn’t “perfect but represents a real opportunity for states and provides a measure of transparency.”
Two of the findings just jump out at me: One, families of color recognize that their children need to be held not to lower standards, but to higher standards than those of other students. They recognize that to swim against the stream of bigotry and poverty, their children need much more to achieve, not less, than students who have every material advantage.
So one immediate policy change should be greater academic rigor.
Two, black (55% of African American parents surveyed) and Latino (56%) parents believe they have the power needed to change the system. I would argue that that may not be true. Political power in this country is a byproduct of affluence, influence, and position—in other words, social capital.
Affluent districts have more than just better facilities. They have a college-going culture that is supported and driven by well-connected, well-resourced parents. The political power of the upper-middle class is pretty formidable and utterly self-serving.
Without marrying a college-going culture to political power, even equitable funding—though a necessary start—doesn’t make the difference in low-income schools that it could.