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Poll shows more Latinos happy with school system

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An increasing number of Latino families are happy with their children’s schools, though institutional racism and unequal funding are still significant concerns, according to a new national poll.

The Leadership Conference Education Fund’s second annual New Education Majority Poll found that three-quarters of Latino parents believe “U.S. public schools are doing a good job preparing Latino students for success,” a 10-point improvement over last year.

Perceptions of disparity based on race and income have decreased among Latino parents, the report states, and 52 percent now believe that Latino students receive as good an education as their Anglo peers.

The improvement is most pronounced among Spanish-dominant families – a significant demographic in New Mexico, which has the nation’s highest percentage of English language learners in the classroom.

Overall, Latino parents expressed greater confidence in the education system than black parents.

According to the poll, 66 percent of black parents think their children’s schools are preparing them for success, an eight-point increase.

Liz King, senior policy analyst and director of education policy for the Leadership Conference Education Fund, said it’s not completely clear why Spanish-dominant households were particularly positive on the poll.

“But based on our experience, recent immigrants and Spanish-dominant Latinos tend to be more trusting of, and have more faith in, institutions than African-Americans, whose longer history and experience in the U.S. makes them more aware of how American institutions fail them,” she said in an emailed statement.

At the same time, Latino and black parents expressed concerns about racism and funding levels for minority-dominant schools. Both groups said they believe those two factors are the strongest drivers of the achievement gap.

This year, 42 percent of black parents and 28 percent of Latino parents cited racism in response to an open-ended question about the reasons minority students don’t receive as good an education as white students. In 2016, those numbers were 32 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

King attributes the change to “the increasingly xenophobic climate in America right now.”

Matt Hogan, partner at Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, which conducted the poll, said the responses show “a greater sense of racism driving inequity, but on the other hand, especially with Spanish-speakers, an overall sense that their school has improved.”

“I don’t see them as exclusive,” he said.

One bright spot for New Mexico: Black and Latino families are more likely to say schools are doing their best to educate minorities if their children have many teachers from the same background.

The Land of Enchantment is third in the nation for its rate of teachers of color – 43 percent compared with 18 percent nationally, according to a 2016 Learning Policy Institute study.

Angelo J. Gonzales, executive director of Mission: Graduate, a New Mexico organization focused on improving graduation rates, said many community partners have cited minority teachers as a factor in student success.

“They do place a high premium on the value of culture and making sure that the environment we are creating in schools is reflective of our communities,” he said.

The New Education Majority Poll was conducted in early March with 600 black and 600 Latino parents from across the country. A third of the Latino interviews were conducted in Spanish. The survey has a 4 percent margin of error.