Parents of Color Are Speaking Up and Telling The Next Governor To Focus on Education

Elisha Smith Arrillaga, co-interim executive director of Education Trust—West

Elisha Smith Arrillaga, co-interim executive director of Education Trust—West

Parents of color in California want the next governor to place a higher priority on improving K-12 public schools than expanding access to health care or addressing the lack of affordable housing, according to a new poll conducted by Goodwin Simon for The Education TrustWest and UnidosUS.

About nine out of 10 Latino, Black, and Asian Pacific Islander parents say improving K-12 education should be a high priority for the next governor, with more than half saying it should be an extremely high priority. Black parents, whose kids face the largest achievement gap, placed the highest priority on improving public education, with roughly three out of four naming it an extremely high priority.

“Parents of color really want educational justice in California, and they expect the next governor to prioritize that,” said Elisha Smith Arrillaga, co-interim executive director of Education Trust—West, which released results from polling 600 parents of color, evenly split between Black, Asian and Latino.   

“A lot of the research on parents and students doesn’t reflect the demographics of our state,” said Smith Arrillaga. “We wanted to make sure this poll reflected the parents of students that are in California’s K-12 schools, and right now, seven out of 10 students in our K-12 schools are Black, Latino or Asian American/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.”

The poll also found that parents of color are speaking up in their schools but don’t always feel heard. Nine out of 10 Black and Latino parents, and eight out of 10 Asian Pacific Islander parents say they are likely to offer feedback to their child’s school. And nine out of 10 Black and Latino parents, and seven out of 10 Asian Pacific Islander parents feel comfortable pushing their child’s school to make changes.

However, just over half of Black and Latino parents, and just one out of three Asian Pacific Islander parents think it’s very possible for parents to make a difference in improving school performance.

“We found parents felt like they could offer feedback, but they just weren’t often sure how to turn that feedback into action or who they should be talking to [in order] to activate the feedback that they did give,” said Smith Arrillaga.  “Parents are ready to be engaged, and there are so many parents already engaging, but there’s a lot of variance in how heard those parents feel their voices are.”

Speak UP’s mission is to empower parents to make their voices heard so they can collectively speak up to help improve public education. Half of Latino parents, and just under half of Black and Asian Pacific Islander parents polled say K-12 schools are headed in the right direction.

That mirrors the slight progress in state standardized test scores released Tuesday. However, racial achievement gaps remain wide, and progress remains slow.

 “Those assessments show that we’re a long way off from preparing all of our students to be college and career ready,” said Smith Arrillaga. “The 11th grade test scores actually showed a decline. We know there’s a lot more work to do. But we also know there are schools across the state that are closing gaps with low-income students and students of color.”

The percentage of Black students meeting state math standards increased .72%, while the percentage of Latino students went up 1.45% from the prior year. In English Language Arts, the percentage of Black students meeting standards increased 1 percent and Latino students 1.88 percent from the prior year.

 “Overall, there is a slight change in the scores, and the changes are more significant in the earlier grades, like 3rd grade, than in the later grades, but those increases are still quite slow,” said Smith Arrillaga. “At this current pace of change, we won’t see all Latino students proficient until 2051 in English Language Arts.”