California Education Poll
By Ras H. Siddiqui
The New America Media
(NAM) along with Pollster Sergio Bendixen, presented the results
of a poll conducted on education amongst minorities in California
on Wednesday, August 23, 2006 at the California State Capitol.
In an hour long meeting attended by both mainstream and ethnic
media outlets, NAM Executive Director Sandy Close along with
Sergio introduced and elaborated on the poll findings, while
discussants, UC Davis Professor Patricia Gandara and Graciela
Italiano-Thomas of Los Angeles Universal Preschool offered
their comments and critique. The event was sponsored by the
Office of Assemblymember Wilma Chan.
Call it a “Melting Pot” or sometimes even a “Salad
Bowl” if you must, but California has within its borders
just about every ethnic group representative that one can
imagine. From within this diversity, the Latino, African American
and Asian (Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese) represent significant
segments, which this poll identified as its target and sources
of information, but now on to its findings.
“Great Expectations: Multilingual poll of Latino, Asian
and African American parents reveals high educational aspirations
for their children and strong support for early education,”
said the Press Release. But beyond the response, other interesting
facts were also revealed after 602 interviews conducted in
English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Korean.
200 African Americans, 201 Latino and 201 Asian households
were polled. The majority of youngest age group of parent
responders were Latino.
In terms of education, 66% of the Asian responders were college
graduates compared to 26% of African Americans and only 15%
of the Latinos. These figures by themselves represent significant
variations not only in education but also in household incomes.
Asians are already aware of the importance of higher education
as a trusted path out of poverty from their countries of origin.
And they do instill this value (as much as they can) into
their American born children.
From the poll results on a range of issues such as affordable
housing, quality of public education, illegal immigration,
the economy and unemployment, access to health care, traffic
congestion and public safety, all three groups polled were
almost equally concerned (give or take a few percentage points),
except that Latinos expressed more concern about illegal immigration
than the other groups and Asians expressed more interest on
traffic congestion. African Americans were slightly more concerned
about the quality of public education than the other two groups.
On the rating of public schools in California 65% of Latinos
said that they were excellent/good versus only 24% for African
Americans and 33% amongst Asians. 65% of African Americans
rated our schools as mediocre or poor compared to 59% for
Asians and only 33% for the Latino community. More Asians
and African Americans attributed the poor performance of public
schools to low levels of funding while the Latinos blamed
themselves and lack of parental involvement for the problem.
But “Exit Exams” found support from all three
communities (Asians led with 86% supporting the exam versus
68% of African Americans and 80% of Latinos).
On expectations for their children, 80% of Latinos expect
their kids to go through college versus 86% for African Americans
and a whopping 90% for Asians. It remains to be seen how many
actually make it through that goal and what parents themselves
are doing to ensure that the foundations for this task are
there to build upon.
The poll found that 91% of Latino parents have met their child’s
teacher two or more times since the start of the school year
versus 85% of the African Americans and 73% of Asian parents.
On how many nights a week they help their kids with their
homework, the answers ranged from 52% -56% within the three
groups. On the question of Pre-School programs only 8% of
Latino parents thought that children under the age of 5 should
be at home with their parents versus 9% of African Americans
and 22% of Asians.
Asians on the other hand stressed educational over recreational
activity for their children under the age of five.
The findings of this Bendixen & Associates poll are not
exactly surprising and it is refreshing to note that in collaboration
with NAM , these polls are conducted both in English and the
native language of selected population segments. In all probability,
the South Asian (Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani etc.) community
response will be close to that of the Asians polled here,
but one cannot be absolutely certain of that. Maybe we too
should volunteer to be polled in English, Bengali, Hindi,
Punjabi and Urdu for NAM and Bendixen’s next effort.