Education Social Justice Group Says ‘New Majority’ in Schools Concerned About Funding, Racial Bias, Not Common Core

A classroom is seen February 21, 2014, at Steuart W. Weller Elementary School in Ashburn,

A pro-Common Core civil rights conference says the priorities of the “new majority” of black and Latino public school students are a more equitable distribution of funding for their schools and an atmosphere that is free of racial bias.

The Leadership Conference Education Fund recently sponsored a new poll for a report titled, “New Education Majority: Attitudes and Aspirations of Parents and Families of Color.”

The group says its poll’s key findings are:

  • New education majority parents and families are well aware of the impact that racial inequities in education have on children of color.
  • New education majority parents and families want a public education system that provides academic rigor, safety, and great teachers above all.
  • New education majority parents and families want schools to set high expectations for African- American and Latino students, and want expectations for students from low-income families to be just as high.
  • New education majority parents and families believe they have a great deal of power to change the education system and are willing to do their part, but they also believe that all levels of government must step up to address funding and other disparities that harm African-American and Latino students.

Despite billions of dollars spent on education over the last half-century and countless reforms – little has changed to close the achievement gap between middle class students and those from lower income and minority neighborhoods.

Those who claim black and Latino students are the “new majority,” however, argue those schools should receive more federal and state funding since those low-income communities have little to contribute in the way of a local tax base to support those schools.

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference Education Fund, writes in the poll’s report:

We cannot continue to sustain two separate and unequal education systems – one that educates White and middle-class children fairly well and one that absolutely fails children of color – and hope to maintain our status as the most powerful and diverse economy in the world.

We believe that education policy in the 21st century must vigorously drive toward equity. Decisionmakers have to recognize that policy must reflect the perceptions, needs, desires and beliefs of communities of color to be able to effectively address the actual educational needs of the majority of students…

By nearly every measure, students of color attend schools that are substantially deficient compared to the schools their White, higher-income peers attend. As a result, too many are falling behind with very little chance of making up ground in a system that is woefully unfair.

Despite these facts, education policy conversations fail to take seriously the impact that inequities in our system have on children of color. Too often, the prevailing dialogue faults families of color for bad educational out- comes instead of grappling meaningfully and seriously with the need for the system to make different policy choices that are in the best interest of all children.

Henderson continues that the focus of millions of American parents recently on the battle over the Common Core standards and testing initiative, and on wresting control of education away from the federal government and toward local communities are not the priorities of the “new majority.”

He states:

In our work in communities, we have found that the education debates conducted inside the Beltway—from testing and No Child Left Behind to Common Core and the appropriate role of the federal government—don’t resonate with new education majority parents or reflect the priorities they have for their own families. The truth is, these debates have simply failed them. New education majority parents and families know what schools are and are not doing for their children, and they have very clear beliefs about what should be done.

The Leadership Conference Education Fund is a champion of the Common Core standards.

According to the organization’s website:

The Common Core State Standards, academic standards that spell out what all children should know and be able to do by the end of each grade in order to be ready for college and careers, is the foundation for ensuring that all children are given consistent and appropriate tools they need to succeed as adults. The standards will help ensure that an education in Alabama is of the same quality as an education in California or Wyoming or anywhere else in the United States. The goal of our Common Core Project is to educate the public, decisionmakers and the media about the need to ensure that these high and consistent standards are implemented equitably to help improve the education that students of color, Native students, low-income students, students with disabilities and English learners are currently receiving.

According to the poll – based on a national telephone survey of 400 African-American and 400 Latino parents or family members involved in raising children – 45 percent of both African-American and Latinos say the most important factor for success of students from low-income families is family support. Of African-Americans, 27 percent said the students’ own hard work was the main factor in success, and 14 percent said it was school education. Among Latinos, 34 percent said the students’ own hard work was the main factor in success, and 16 percent said it was school education.

Though over 80 percent in both African-American and Latino communities rated the school their child attends positively, when asked, “Do you think schools in low-income communities receive the same amount of funding as schools in wealthy communities?” 84 percent of African-Americans responded, “No,” while 77 percent of Latinos responded, “No.”

Additionally, when asked, “Do you think the education African-American/Latino students receive in U.S. schools is as good as the education White students receive?” 66 percent of African-Americans overall said “No,” while 45 percent of Latinos overall said “No.”

The survey shows that, when asked, “Why do you think that African-American/Latino students don’t receive as good an education as White students?” 60 percent of blacks and 57 percent of Latinos replied “Lack of funding,” 32 percent of blacks and 21 percent of Latinos said “Lower teacher quality,” and 32 percent of blacks and 20 percent of Latinos responded “Racism/Racial bias.”

“The lack of funding is seen as the biggest driver of racial inequities in American schools, but racism and a lack of quality teachers are also cited as factors,” says the Leadership Conference Education Fund. “Among those who see racial disparities in education quality, both communities cite a lack of funding as the biggest cause. Low quality teachers and racism are seen as the next biggest culprits, especially among African Americans.”

The group’s partners in promoting the Common Core initiative include the liberal Center for American Progress, League of United Latin American Citizens, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Council of La Raza, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, and NAACP Colorado.


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