Earlier this year The Children’s Agenda, an education non-profit in Rochester, polled 600 parents in the city and suburbs around a variety of topics including the importance of diversity and the appetite for metropolitan solutions of various kinds. The responses they got were largely in line with previous polling and add to the evidence that integration, as well as practical steps to achieve it, are popular among almost all parents, and in particular urban parents.
Here are the top-line results of parents of children who support or agree with the following questions:
|Is it important for your child’s school to work to integrate students from|
different racial and economic backgrounds?
|Is it important for your child’s school to work to increase teacher and staff diversity?||90%||68%|
|Would you support public pre-K programs with no boundaries on where children live?||88%||62%|
|Would you support magnet schools that cross district boundaries?||80%||67%|
|Would you support a countywide school district?||76%||41%|
The Children’s Agenda was also kind enough to share some additional data from the poll. Here is the support for those last three questions, broken out by race and ethnicity (across both the city and the suburbs):
|White||Black||Hispanic||Black and Hispanic|
|Cross-district pre-K programs||68%||71%||75%||72%|
|Cross-district magnet schools||62%||74%||69%||72%|
|Countywide school district||44%||61%||57%||59%|
There’s also a significant difference between urban and suburban residents of the same race. Those sample sizes are smaller and the margins of error higher, so I’ve been asked not to publish the actual figures. But I can say that they indicate a major difference of opinion on the desirability of metropolitan solutions between urban Black and suburban Black parents, and similarly for urban white and suburban white parents. In each case, the urban parents, whether Black or white, are highly enthusiastic about, for instance, a countywide school system, with more than three quarters in favor, while in the suburbs a substantial majority of both Black and white parents disapprove (the same is true for Hispanic parents, with a smaller but still significant difference).
There are several ways one could characterize those differences. Certainly it appears there is a class factor in play, with better-off families of every race and ethnicity preferring their current lot and poorer families wanting a change. Alternately, it could be that non-white families in the suburbs have experienced enough purportedly integrated education to know that it’s not a panacea. The poll shows urban Hispanic parents are much less supportive of cross-district magnet schools than others; that may reflect their understanding that bilingual education presents a unique challenge.
There is a lot more interesting data in the poll that I would encourage you to peruse. One important conclusion, supported by this data and other sources I discuss in my book (pages 14-15), is that Rochester parents are extremely supportive of the idea of integrated education. That’s just one more reason for local political and educational leaders to start addressing the topic seriously.