Americans say teachers deserve more money; support reform over replace

A record percentage of Americans say teachers are underpaid and for the first time a majority of Americans don’t want their children to become teachers. 

Those are the results of the 50th annual PKD Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. 

Given the opinions about teaching as a career path, it’s perhaps not surprising that school funding continued to be cited as the biggest problem facing local schools, according to the poll.  

However, despite the challenges, Americans are more intent on improving the public school system — not replacing it — than ever before. Seventy-eight percent preferred “reforming the public school system” over “finding an alternative.” That is the highest that reform polled since the question was first asked in 1997 and the preference for reform over remaking the system was consistent across various groups. Included in those results, 55 percent strongly prefer reforming the system, while only 15 percent strongly favor replacing it. 

Concerning teachers, two-thirds say teacher salaries are too low, which is the highest number since the poll started when only one-third thought teacher salaries were too low. Seventy-three percent say they would support teachers going on strike for higher pay. 

And 54 percent say they would not want their child to become a public school teacher, which is a majority response for the first time. Inadequate pay and benefits was the most common reason given for not going into teaching.  

The biggest problem facing local schools was lack of financial support, which has held steady as the No. 1 problem since 2002. 

Similar to past years, parents liked their child’s school and then public support dropped for local schools and the nation’s schools. Seventy percent of parents gave their own child’s school an A or B; 43 percent of the public gave local schools an A or B and 19 percent gave the nation’s schools an A or B. 

On the issue of school safety, one in three parents fears for their child’s safety, which is a significant increase from 12 percent in 2013. 

For solutions to school violence, parents overwhelming support armed police in school (80 percent), mental health screening (76 percent) and metal detectors at entrances (74 percent). But support for allowing teachers and other school staff to carry guns is much lower at 37 percent. 

The poll was conducted May 1-May 21 among of random sample of 1,042 adults, including an oversample of 515 K-12 parents. Results have a margin of error of 3.9 percent for the full sample and 5.5 points for the sample of parents. The full report, which includes numerous other education questions, is available here.

Share this post