The fact that teachers are underpaid isn't exactly breaking news. But ever since West Virginia's high-profile teacher strike in February, the reality faced by educators in America has become crystal clear.
Teachers strikes across the country have raised awareness about the economic challenges educators face — including how typical it is for educators to spend their own money on vital classroom materials, from paper to furniture.
The West Virginia strike quickly inspired similar efforts in Colorado, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. Teachers are supporting their colleagues, too: Arizona educators recently started striking to secure raises for school receptionists and bus drivers.
Some have feared the frequent statewide strikes would inspire a backlash — after all, the myth that teachers clock out at 3 p.m. everyday and get unlimited time off in the summers still persists. And as recently as 2010, an AP-Stanford poll found that only 57% felt that teachers were paid too little.
But the strikes appear to be working: A majority of Americans are in favor of increasing teacher pay.
According to a new AP-NORC poll, a super majority of 78% of poll respondents say that teachers aren't paid enough, with only 6% saying that they are paid too much.
Plus, a slim majority of those surveyed even support raising taxes to help pay for increasing teacher salaries.
"To educate children and barely get a living is obnoxious," Arizona resident Elaine Penman said in an interview connected to the poll. "I'm a parent and I benefit directly from what teachers do."
Teacher salaries are quickly becoming a bipartisan issue.
According to the poll, nearly 90% of Democrats agree teachers aren't paid enough, as do 78% of Independents and 66% of Republicans.
52% of people responding to the poll say they agree with the striking teachers' efforts, with only 25% disagreeing. And according to those "paying attention" to the strikes, 80% support them.
Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images.
The benefits of education are profound. And most Americans agree that teachers should be fairly compensated for their work.
Everyone may not agree on the solution, but nearly everyone agrees on the problem: Teachers aren't being paid enough and they're being asked to do too much. And research shows that strong education is tied to everything from better job opportunities to personal health.
As statewide strikes continue, people are paying attention.
And the more they pay attention, a clear consensus is emerging: Paying teachers a fair wage isn't just the right thing to do — it's a literal investment in our own futures.