Black and Latino parents want better teachers and harder classes for their kids

Los Angeles Unified School District students Alexandria Marek, 8, right, and Kerala Seth, 4, left, protested the district's cuts to the high-profile Mandarin Immersion Program at Venice's Broadway Elementary school in March.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Headlines and talk shows across the country often feature parents worried about their children's stressful workload or pulling their kids out of new standardized tests.

But an umbrella organization of civil rights groups contends that there is a huge population of people whose voices are missing when talking about the needs of schools. In a nationally representative survey of black and Latino parents in the U.S., the Leadership Conference Education Fund found that these parents care about having good teachers, more money for their schools and a more challenging curriculum for their students. 

The poll was conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research and commissioned by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights' Education Fund, the nonprofit arm of a group of civil rights organizations including the National Council of La Raza, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and national teachers unions. It surveyed 400 black parents and 400 Latino parents, with a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points for each.

Half of the black and Latino parents surveyed believe that good teachers are the most important asset needed to make a school great. Only 2% percent in each group cited less reliance on standardized testing as the most important component of great schools.

And most of the black parents and 45% of Latino parents surveyed believe children in their communities receive a worse education than white students.

The survey did not poll white or Asian parents because of a lack of the organization's resources and the researchers' desire to amplify the voices of black and Latino parents, said Scott Simpson, director of media and campaigns for the Leadership Conference. Black and Latino children account for about 40% of the public school population in the U.S. 

“We feel like these voices should stand alone," Simpson said. These voices are particularly important as a new federal education law requires states, California included, to decide how to define and measure a good school.

The parents who responded that white students get a better education than their kids blamed the disparity on a lack of funding, resources, inadequate teachers and racism, the survey found.

Black and Latino parents believe that when low-income students in their communities do reach college, they are able to do so not because of the quality of their education, but thanks to the support of families and their own hard work.

"There’s a sense that the education system is not delivering as it should for students of color," said Matt Hogan, a partner at Anzalone.

The parents are right. Students of color are more likely to get less-experienced, lower-paid teachers, a government report concluded.

Another issue? Coursework that isn't challenging enough.

Parents constantly seem to fret about whether their children have too much homework. It's a topic that arises in research focused on white communities, Hogan said. But almost all black and Latino parents surveyed believe their students need more challenging classes, the poll found.

Staff reporter Joy Resmovits contributed to this story.

Reach Sonali Kohli at or on Twitter @Sonali_Kohli.