WASHINGTON – Americans overwhelmingly believe teachers don't make enough money, and half say they'd support paying higher taxes to give educators a raise.
The findings of the new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research come amid recent teacher strikes and other protests over low pay, tough classroom conditions and the amount of money allocated to public schools in several Republican-led states.
Tens of thousands of Arizona teachers voted last week to strike after rejecting an offer of a 20 percent raise, because it didn't include a vow from state lawmakers not to further cut taxes before providing more money for the state's schools.
“To educate children and barely get a living is obnoxious,” said Elaine Penman, a company manager in Tucson, Arizona, who added she and others went outside to cheer on protesting teachers who were marching by.
She's among the 50 percent of Americas who say they'd pay a higher tax bill if it meant more money for teachers.
“I'm a parent and I benefit directly from what teachers do,” said Penman, who has two children in traditional public schools and one in a charter school.
In 2016-2017, the average salary for a public school teacher was $58,950, down slightly from the previous year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Overall, 78 percent of Americans said that's not enough. Just 15 percent think teachers are paid the right amount, while 6 percent think they're paid too much. In a 2010 AP-Stanford poll, 57 percent of Americans said they thought teachers are paid too little.
Americans in states with the lowest average teacher salaries – less than $50,000 a year – were slightly more likely to think teachers were paid too little and that the national average should be an important factor in determining salaries.
The AP-NORC poll found that parents and those without children are about equally likely to think teachers are paid too little. It's a sentiment that crosses party lines, too. Nearly 9 in 10 Democrats, 78 percent of independents and 66 percent of Republicans think teacher salaries are too low.
Slightly more than half of Americans – 52 percent – also approve of teachers leaving the classroom to strike in their search for higher pay, while 25 percent disapprove.