Hear Us,
Believe Us:
Centering African American
Parent Voices in K-12 Education

Key Finding 6: Expanded Support Services and Teacher Pay

Expanding social services, supports to students and increasing teacher pay are the approaches most parents think will improve public education.

Black parents ranked various actions or activities that would be helpful in improving education. The social, emotional and physical well-being of their children is of utmost importance, as the top issue that resonated was expanding social services in the areas of counseling, nutrition and healthcare. Ninety-one percent of parents say that expanding support services for students would have a positive effect on students. Other research shows similar findings.1Learning Heroes. (2016). “Parents 2016: Hearts and minds of parents in an uncertain world.” Retrieved October 13, 2021, from hcmstrategists.com/resources/parents-2016- hearts-and-minds-of-parents-in-an-uncertain-world/. Though parents prioritize the importance of counselors and other support staff, these key personnel are often undervalued in schools. The student-to-counselor ratio is 430:1, but the recommended ratios are 250:1.2American School Counselor Association (ASCA). School counselor roles & ratios. www.schoolcounselor.org/About- School-Counseling/School-Counselor-Roles-Ratios. Research shows that 1.7 million students are in schools with a sworn law enforcement officer but no school counselor, and 10 million are in schools with no social workers.3ACLU. (2019). Cops and no counselors. How the lack of school mental health staff is harming students. Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/030419-acluschooldisciplinereport.pdf Nationally, the psychologist-to-student ratio is 1,200:1, but the National Association of School Psychologists recommends a 500:1 ratio.4National Association of School Psychologists. Student to School Psychologist Ratio 2019–2020. https://www.nasponline.org/research-and-policy/policy-priorities/critical-policy-issues/shortage-of-school-psychologists Prior to the pandemic, parents wanted more supports. It is even more imperative now as students’ mental health has suffered as they have navigated unchartered territories during the pandemic.

Moreover, school counselors are needed in this time to help students navigate the college process given changes during the pandemic. These counselors support students in their college readiness pursuits and in understanding the financial implications. Previous UNCF research5Anderson, M. (2018). A seat at the table: African American youth’s perception of k-12 education. UNCF. Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute. showed 57% of Black high school students in the study said the high cost of college was a barrier to college attendance and completion and almost 1 in 4 students did not know how to pay for college at all.

Finally, Black parents believe teachers should be paid more. Teacher pay has been an incessant policy topic for some time, yet teachers are often grossly underpaid and unappreciated in many districts and schools. According to a 2023 National Teacher Association report, the average educator pay has not kept up with inflation. They report that teachers are making $3,644 less, on average, than they did 10 years ago, when adjusted for inflation. The Economic Policy Institute also finds that teachers are paid less than non-teacher, college-educated counterparts, often referred to as the “teacher pay penalty.”


Additional Resources

A Seat at the Table: African American Youth’s Perceptions of K-12 Education

The role to be played by youth is just as important as that of leaders and parents. They are, after all, the stakeholders whose response to reform will determine if it succeeds or fails. Of the three groups, they are the only one with firsthand knowledge of what happens in the classroom. And, all too often, they do not have a seat at the table during reform discussions. This study, the third installment of UNCF’s African American perceptions research on key issues in K-12 education, begins to remedy that omission.