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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
Southern California

Poll: Teachers Loved, Unions Not

The majority of voters say public school teachers are underpaid.

California loves its teachers, but not its teachers unions, if a recent poll is to be believed.

According to the latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll released on Sunday, 53 percent of California voters said they believed public school teachers in the state were underpaid. The poll also revealed that they rejected the current standards for determining teacher pay--only 11 percent favored using seniority as the primary factor for determining teachers' salaries, while only 13 percent favored using the teacher's education or advanced training as the primary factor.

Seventy-two percent of voters agreed with the statement that testing is important, but said teachers should be evaluated on more than just student scores on a single test. Standardized testing scores, they said, should account for almost half of the public school teacher assessment.

“Californians clearly believe that public school teachers should make more money, but they strongly reject the current system for setting teacher salaries,” said Dan Schnur, director of the poll and director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. “Rather than paying teachers based on how many years they've been in the classroom, California voters want to reward teachers for what their students learn." 

In addition, 53 percent of voters said California public school teachers are underpaid. 31 percent said they are paid "just right," while 6 percent said teachers are overpaid.

“There’s clearly no “teacher bashing” sentiment, just a desire for some changes,” said Dominic Brewer, Clifford H. and Betty C. Allen Professor in Urban Leadership and professor of education, economics and policy at the USC Rossier School of Education. “Voters seem to be saying we agree teachers should be paid more but we also think there should be some student outcomes component in pay and there should be much greater transparency.”

Sixty-two percent of voters said teachers unions are to blame for much of public schools' problems and "have too much influence over public education policy." More than half of voters, 52 percent, said teachers unions are too powerful.

"Californians love public school teachers, but they're not nearly as enthusiastic about teachers unions," Schnur said. "There's a huge opportunity here for teachers to play a meaningful role in the discussions regarding school reform, but voters don't see them as motivated to make those reforms happen."

The poll also revealed that the majority of voters would be willing to spend more money on education reform, even if it means higher taxes for them. Even though they weren't told about the current funding, 64 percent of voters said they were willing to spend more.

"These results reinforce what we've learned when local governments put tax or bond measures on the ballot," Schnur said. "Voters are willing to spend more money if they know that money is going to be used in their local schools or communities. They become more reluctant to vote for these measures when they think the money is going to Sacramento."

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