A new NPR/Ipsos poll finds that just 1 in 4 Americans believe teachers in this country are paid fairly and 3 in 4 Americans believe that teachers have the right to strike.
The 2017 EdNext Poll found that the public’s views on teacher pay sometimes changed when respondents were given accurate information about what teachers are currently paid.
When asked whether teacher salaries should be raised, no fewer than 61% of Americans are in favor. But when told what teachers currently earn, the level of support drops to 36%
This finding has persisted over time.
Just as per pupil spending is much higher than people think, so is the average teacher paid much better than members of the public estimate. When respondents were asked in 2016 to estimate the average teacher salary in their state, their guesses were, on average, 30% lower than the $57,000 average teacher pay reported by the National Education Association, the organization that collects the best available information on this topic.
Inasmuch as people, on average, think teacher salaries are quite low, it should come as no surprise to learn that a strong majority of respondents think they should rise. In 2016, when we asked a randomly selected subgroup of our respondents whether teacher salaries should increase, 65% favored the idea (see Figure 11a). But when members of another random subgroup were first told the average teacher salary in their state, only 41% wanted to hand out pay raises (see Figure 11b). The same pattern obtains among Democratic and Republican partisans. Seventy-six percent of uninformed Democrats wanted a salary increase but only 49% of the informed ones did. For Republicans, these percentages were 52% and 33%, respectively. Information even had its effects on teacher opinion. Eighty-nine percent of the uninformed teachers, but just 79% of the informed, favored a pay raise for themselves and their colleagues. These “information effects” on opinions about teacher salaries have been observed every year from 2008 to 2016.