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Poll Finds Most Parents Don’t Want Their Children to Become Teachers
Broad Support for Teachers Striking for Higher Pay

September 6, 2018

In the wake of activism by teachers across the country, an overwhelming 78 percent of public school parents say they would support teachers in their own communities if they went on strike for higher pay. Two-thirds of Americans say teacher salaries are too low, and very few Americans --- just 6 percent of all adults --- say teacher salaries are too high.

And despite continued high trust and confidence in teachers, for the first time since 1969, a majority of Americans say they do not want their own children to become teachers, most often citing poor pay and benefits in the profession.

These findings are just part of the latest edition of the annual Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, the long-running public opinion survey on American public education for the past 50 years.

"It's striking that after a year of high-profile teacher walk-outs ---  from West Virginia and Kentucky to Oklahoma and Arizona ---  Americans strongly believe we aren't paying teachers enough," said Joshua P. Starr, chief executive officer of PDK International. "Policymakers would be wise to pay attention to these numbers."

Among other notable results in the survey, reflecting debates across the nation:

  1. There is broad support for proposals to make college more affordable. Three-quarters of Americans support free tuition at community college ---  up sharply over the past few years. Sixty-eight percent support increasing federal funding to help students pay tuition at four-year colleges. At the same time, little more than half of parents say they are at least somewhat likely to be able to pay for college for their own kids.
  2. As the debate continues over whether to push back the start of the school day, high school parents are largely satisfied with their child's current school schedule. But about 6 in 10 say current start and end times are off their ideal by at least 30 minutes --- generally, too early.
  3. Nearly eight in 10 Americans prefer reforming the existing public school system rather than finding an alternative approach. That number is higher than in any year since the question was first asked two decades ago.
  4. On the issue of educational equity, 60 percent prefer spending more on students who need extra support rather than spending the same amount on every student. But Americans are divided on where the money should come from: Half favor raising taxes to meet the additional need, while half say schools should spend less on students who need fewer resources. The public believes that a child's educational opportunities vary based on family income, racial or ethnic group, and the type of community where they live. Many Americans also say schools expect less from certain groups of students.
  5. Fifty-five percent of Americans say students today receive a worse education than what they experienced. About 4 in 10 give their local schools an A or B grade. But among parents of current students, 70 percent give their own child's school an A or B grade.

"Issues of college affordability, school quality, and educational equity are critical issues for our nation's schools," Starr said. "It's clear that most Americans believe we can do better for our students."

PDK has surveyed the American public every year since 1969 to assess public opinion about public schools. Langer Research Associates of New York City produced the 2018 poll. The survey is based on a random representative sample of 1,042 adults with an oversample to 515 parents of school-age children in May 2018. For the first time, Langer conducted the PDK poll using the GfK Knowledge Panel, in which participants are randomly recruited via address-based sampling and invited to participate in surveys online. Additional poll data are available at

Source: PDK International

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