AP Poll: 78 Percent Say Public School Teachers Aren’t Paid Enough

FRANKFORT, KY-APRIL 13: Kentucky Public school teachers rally for a "day of action" at the Kentucky State Capitol to try to pressure legislators to override Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin's recent veto of the state's tax and budget bills April 13, 2018 in Frankfort, Kentucky. The teachers also oppose a controversial pension reform bill which Gov. Bevin signed into law. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
FRANKFORT, KY-APRIL 13: Kentucky Public school teachers rally for a "day of action" at the Kentucky State Capitol to try to pressure legislators to override Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin's recent veto of the state's t... FRANKFORT, KY-APRIL 13: Kentucky Public school teachers rally for a "day of action" at the Kentucky State Capitol to try to pressure legislators to override Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin's recent veto of the state's tax and budget bills April 13, 2018 in Frankfort, Kentucky. The teachers also oppose a controversial pension reform bill which Gov. Bevin signed into law. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans overwhelmingly believe teachers don’t make enough money, and half say they’d support paying higher taxes to give educators a raise.

The findings of the new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research come amid recent teacher strikes and other protests over low pay, tough classroom conditions and the amount of money allocated to public schools in several Republican-led states.

Tens of thousands of Arizona teachers voted last week to strike after rejecting an offer of a 20-percent raise, because it didn’t include a vow from state lawmakers not to further cut taxes before providing more money for the state’s schools.

“To educate children and barely get a living is obnoxious,” said Elaine Penman, a company manager in Tucson, Arizona, who added she and others went outside to cheer on protesting teachers who were marching by.

She’s among the 50 percent of Americans who say they’d pay a higher tax bill if it meant more money for teachers.

“I’m a parent and I benefit directly from what teachers do,” said Penman, who has two children in traditional public schools and one in a charter school.

In 2016-2017, the average salary for a public school teacher was $58,950, down slightly from the previous year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Overall, 78 percent of Americans said that’s not enough. Just 15 percent think teachers are paid the right amount, while 6 percent think they’re paid too much. In a 2010 AP-Stanford poll, 57 percent of Americans said they thought teachers are paid too little.

Americans in states with the lowest average teacher salaries — less than $50,000 a year — were slightly more likely to think teachers were paid too little and that the national average should be an important factor in determining salaries.

The AP-NORC poll found that parents and those without children are about equally likely to think teachers are paid too little. It’s a sentiment that crosses party lines, too. Nearly 9 in 10 Democrats, 78 percent of independents and 66 percent of Republicans think teacher salaries are too low.

Slightly more than half of Americans — 52 percent — also approve of teachers leaving the classroom to strike in their search for higher pay, while 25 percent disapprove. Among those who say they’ve heard about the recent teacher protests, 80 percent say they approve of such tactics.

The recent run of teacher protests began in March in West Virginia, where teachers won a raise after going on strike. The strategy soon spread to Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado and Arizona, where educators joined together online and have held increasingly frequent protests during the past six weeks.

The poll found that 51 percent of Americans have been paying at least some attention to the protests. People living in states with the lowest teacher salaries were more likely to have heard about the protests than those in states with the highest teacher pay.

Americans believe state and local governments share responsibility with teachers and their unions for the disruptions caused by the strikes. Vernita Grimes, 68, of the District of Columbia, said teachers aren’t making enough money for the work they do and she supports them having the right to strike, “even though I know kids are losing valuable teaching time.”

But Caitlyn Scott, 27, of Kent, Ohio, said teachers are earning “about what they should,” and she opposes strikes by teachers.

“I think they kind of committed to being there for the entire school year,” she said.

Half of Americans would be willing to shoulder the cost of paying teachers more and providing more money to schools via higher taxes, with only 26 percent opposed. But while 69 percent of Democrats say yes to higher taxes for schools, only 38 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of independents say the same.

People living in urban areas are more likely than those in rural areas to support such a tax increase, 57 percent to 40 percent.

Stephen White, a high school teacher in Marysville, California, said raising taxes is “probably the only way” to pay for teacher raises. “Look at states that cut taxes and some districts had to go to four-day school weeks.”

That had happened in Oklahoma, where teachers staged a nine-day walkout earlier this month to protest the level of classroom funding.

White said he used to be anti-union when he worked in the private sector, but changed his position when he became a teacher. He said salaries don’t take into account all that teachers do, especially outside the normal school day.

“The private sector makes double what we do,” he said. He acknowledged that strikes are disruptive. “We don’t like that, but sometimes drastic times call for drastic measures.”

___

The AP-NORC poll of 1,140 adults was conducted April 11-16 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.

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  1. Well the republican plan is to get rid of public schools since they don’t want to pay for anyone’s education but their own kids. Amazing to me that they bitch and moan about how dumb folks are but don’t want to help anyone get smarter, especially when it would help the folks around them and make life better for all of us. Speaking of dumb shit republicans have pushed for decades regardless of how poorly it is for all, tax cuts.

  2. “Tens of thousands of Arizona teachers voted last week to strike after rejecting an offer of a 20-percent raise, because it didn’t include a vow from state lawmakers not to further cut taxes before providing more money for the state’s schools.”

    These teachers aren’t just underpaid, they’re now standing in the most dangerous place in America:

    Between GOP lawmakers and a tax cut.

    They’re gonna need hazard pay…

  3. Avatar for nilp nilp says:

    78% saying they feel teachers are underpaid but 50% saying they’ll pay higher taxes to pay teachers more isn’t enough.

    This is all very well, but here in CA, teachers are paid out of local property taxes (with the state adding funds to top up income to a minimum level for those areas with comparatively low property values). Local parcel taxes can be used to provide additional local funding for schools, but parcel taxes need 66% super majority yes vote to pass. The last parcel tax proposal in my city failed with 59% yes vote. The last one in the city one over failed to pass by just 8 votes. Not enough people are prepared to pay out of their own pocket to give teachers a decent salary.

  4. In his book “Wealth of Nations”, which every economist agrees is the definition of Capitalism, Adam Smith included a chapter devoted to the requirement for a capitalist economy to have universal public education. Or to put another way, in order to be a capitalist society, a nation must have a strong commitment to providing a well rounded public education to all its people.

    The need for better public education funding is not only about, and must not be allowed to become only about, teachers salaries. This is about funding public education for all Americans. That is in addition to teacher pay, we need to discuss spending for smaller classes, internet access, books, extra curricular activities to include clubs and sports, that are necessary to provide a public education that competes with the rest of the developed and developing world.

  5. The 78% are right. My daughter is a public school teacher, and she sometimes works entire weekends catching up and planning lessons. People who think teachers work from 8:30 to 3:30 live in a fantasy world.

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