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Poll: States With Walkouts See More Support for Raising Teachers’ Pay

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US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT-- A growing number of people support higher pay for teachers and more funding for public schools, according to a new poll that finds a shift in public opinion following a wave of teacher walkouts in six states where educators protested stagnant pay and inadequate school resources.

That's one of the key findings in the 2018 EdNext poll, which the Harvard Kennedy School's Program on Education Policy and Governance conducted for Education Next, a nonprofit journal formerly funded by the Hoover Institution.

The wide-ranging survey offers some insight into Americans' mixed views on education. While there is growing support for raising teacher pay and spending more on public schools, backing for charter schools and school voucher systems has also risen slightly, while opinion on the Obama-era Common Core state academic standards has stabilized at 45 percent.

Poll figures indicate that the highly publicized teacher strikes may have helped move the needle on public opinion about teacher salaries and school funding.

When respondents were given information about the average teacher salary in their state, 49 percent indicated that salaries should increase, a 13 percentage point jump from last year's poll. In that same group, 44 percent indicated salaries should stay about the same and 7 percent said teacher pay should decrease. Support for more pay was higher, at 67 percent, among respondents who were not told the average teacher's earnings in their state, indicating that some may underestimate what teachers are earning.

As with other issues, some division could be seen along partisan lines, as 59 percent of Democrats said that pay should be increased compared to 38 percent of Republicans, though support increased among both groups.

The jump in support was even more pronounced in the six states – Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma and West Virginia – that saw large-scale teacher protests. There, 63 percent of respondents said salaries should be raised.

Though the study's researchers report that the walkouts "seem to have lent new urgency to teacher demands for salary raises and increased financial support for schools," they note that multiple factors, including a stronger national economy, may be behind the uptick in support for higher pay.

"Those six states appear to have been fertile ground for an effort to raise teacher pay, with residents more likely to support such an effort, even in 2017," the authors wrote. These higher levels of approval could reflect the fact that each of the states ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in terms of teacher compensation."

Proponents of school choice may have also regained some ground in 2018.

Support for charter schools grew by 5 percent in 2018 to 33 percent, just one year after a substantial drop-off in support. The difference was made up almost entirely by Republicans, 57 percent of whom supported the formation of charter schools, compared to 36 percent of Democrats.