Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Perceptions of Teachers and Teacher Pay

It’s funny how some people get when it comes to how much other people get paid, so I was curious when Harris polled Americans about perceptions of what school teachers make where they live.

Six in ten Americans consider teaching a prestigious occupation, with 21% holding it in high esteem compared to 10% who feel it is not prestigious at all according to an earlier Harris Poll.

Eight in ten would encourage a child to pursue teaching, double the proportion that would encourage being a member of Congress, for instance.

Perceptions of teacher pay have changed since I was in high school 50 years ago.  At that time 42% of Americans perceived their local teachers were paid too little and 2% thought it was too much.

Today, more than half of Americans believe local teachers are paid too little while 8% believe they are paid too much.

The perceptions vary by region, urban vs. rural and, of course, political philosophy, but maybe not in the way you might think based on Tea Party rhetoric or the influence they appear to have had on lawmakers in some states.

Conservatives, overall, are five times more likely to believe teachers are paid too much compared to liberals.  No surprise.

But they are also more than twice as likely as moderates to believe this, although these days ultra conservatives often seem to fail to distinguish liberals from moderates.

A greater percentage of rural Americans hold that view, but news to many lawmakers where I live is that only 2% of Southerners think their teachers are paid too much, while a national high of nearly 7 in 10 in the South think teachers are paid too little.

The stinginess is also not about resentment of institutional burdens on taxpayers vs. what individual teachers are paid.  Southerners are also more likely than Americans in other parts of the country to believe that not enough is being spent on public schools overall.

Surveys such as these illuminate the growing disconnect between the lavish news coverage of Americans who are either fiscally and cultural angry or estranged, and that given to the opinions of Americans as a whole.

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