Most Americans Think Teachers Deserve More Money

And more than half support walkouts calling for higher wages.

Some 50,000 educators marched on the Arizona State Capitol on Thursday.Jeff Brown/ZUMA Wire

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

This week, thousands of teachers in Arizona and Colorado descended on statehouses to demand better pay and school funding. It appears many Americans agree with them—and support their efforts to shut down schools to make their case to lawmakers. 

An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released earlier this week found that 78 percent of Americans thought teachers needed a raise. That was a substantial increase from a 2010 poll by the AP and Stanford University, in which 57 percent said teachers were underpaid. Fifty-two percent of Americans in the AP-NORC poll supported teachers walking out to call for higher pay, and half noted they would welcome a higher tax bill to make it happen. A quarter of respondents didn’t approve of leaving classrooms to protest. 

A separate NPR/Ipsos poll, released Thursday, found that only 26 percent of Americans believed that teachers were paid fairly. 

Over the last decade, Americans have largely agreed that teachers deserve pay increases. Support waned after the recession took hold but has risen since its lowest point in 2011.

But that support does have its limits. In a 2017 poll on a wide range of education issues by the policy journal Education Next, 61 percent of those surveyed agreed that teachers deserved higher pay—when respondents did not know how much teachers made. 

When Americans were told about how much teachers make on average in their state, however, support for a pay increase was just 36 percent in 2017, down from 54 percent in 2008.

Since the 2009-10 school year, teachers’ salaries dipped an average of 5 percent, to $58,950 in 2016-2017, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Those polled by Education Next also underestimated how much teachers made in their state. In 2016, the journal found that people guessed that teachers earned an average of 30 percent less than they actually made. 

During the last decade, 29 states reduced state funding of schools below 2008 levels, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Years of cuts to classroom funding, along with subpar pay, have inspired the latest revolt among teachers, beginning in West Virginia, where a nine-day strike resulted in a $2,000 pay raise. The fervor spread to red states like Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona, eventually turning to Colorado, where teachers rallied on Friday for a second day outside the state capitol. 

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up to $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate