PDK Poll finds widespread frustration among teachers, consensus that schools are underfunded

Since 1969, Phi Delta Kappa (PDK), a US professional organization for educators, has conducted an annual survey of public attitudes and opinion about public education and published the results. This year, for the first time since 2000, the poll surveyed teachers as well as parents and members of the public. The 2019 version—the 51st annual PDK poll–surveyed 2,389 people online in late April, including 1,083 parents of school-age children and 556 public school teachers.

Among the key findings of this year’s poll are the following:

  • The lack of funding support for public schools continues to be a top concern, as Americans named this as the biggest problem facing their local schools for the 18th consecutive year.
    • Sixty percent of those surveyed said schools are underfunded, and even a majority of Americans who live in more affluent communities say their public schools have too little funding.
    • While Americans aren’t necessarily ready to raise their taxes to combat underfunding of schools, the poll indicates they’re prepared to vote for candidates who’ll support more funding for public schools and they’re also willing to channel revenues from state lotteries, legal recreational marijuana, and legal sports betting toward boosting school funding.
  • Frustrated by poor pay and underfunded schools, half of the nation’s public school teachers have seriously considered leaving the profession in the past few years.
    • Among those who say they have considered leaving the profession, the most common reasons cited were inadequate pay and benefits, followed by stress and burnout.
    • Pay is a big issue for teachers. Nationally, according to the poll, 60 percent feel their pay is unfair. Teachers in the South and Midwest were most likely to cite low pay.
    • Nearly half of teachers who responded felt unvalued by their communities. The overall climate of schools, including the emphasis on standardized tests, and a perceived lack of respect for the teaching profession, are other big factors. Nearly 2 out of 3 teachers surveyed said discipline of students in their schools is not robust enough. (Both parents and teachers who responded view mediation and counseling as more effective than detention and suspension when it comes to dealing with misbehaving students.)
    • Teachers who feel undervalued by their community, who say their pay is unfair, who make less than $45,000 a year, or who teach in high school grades were among the most likely to say they’ve considered quitting;
  • A majority of teachers surveyed said that if given the opportunity, they’d vote to strike for additional funding for school programs (58 percent), and for higher pay (55 percent), and more say in school standards, testing and curriculum (52 percent). Forty-two percent would strike for more say in teaching conditions.
    • Interestingly, large majorities of both parents and the general public surveyed say they’d be supportive of teacher strikes for any of those reasons. Parents were especially supportive of teachers striking, registering much stronger support than even teachers surveyed. For example, 74 percent of parents said they would support teachers who went on strike for higher pay,  or 19 percentage points above the proportion of teachers who said they would vote for such a strike. Even higher margins were found when parents were asked about potential strikes motivated by other teacher concerns.
  • Fifty-five percent of teachers surveyed in this year’s poll said they wouldn’t want their own children to follow in their footsteps. (This finding parallels results from last year’s PDK poll, which found, for the first time, that a majority of parents (54 percent) would not want their children to become teachers.)
  • This year’s PDK poll also asked questions about broadening the public school curriculum to include such things as mandatory civics classes or optional Bible studies.
    • Fifty-eight percent of respondents said biblical studies should be offered as an elective in high schools, while 6 percent of respondents said such classes should be required. Support was highest among respondents who identified as evangelical Christians (82 percent), Republicans (78 percent) or conservatives (76 percent).
    • Support for elective comparative religion classes was strong across all political or ideological groups. Seventy-seven percent of all adults, 76 percent of parents an 87 percent of teachers expressed support for comparative religion as an elective course
    • Support for civics instruction was strong, with 70 percent saying it should be required, and another 27 percent saying it should be offered as an elective. Teachers were more likely than the general public to say civics classes should be required, at 81 percent, and parents less likely, at 60 percent.
  • Teachers are more likely than parents or the general public to identify teaching citizenship, as opposed to academics or workforce preparation, as the chief aim of public education.
    • Forty-five percent of teachers surveyed view preparing students to be good citizens as the main goal of schooling, compared with 28% of parents and 25% of all adults. Parents and the general public see preparing students academically as a top priority with preparing students for jobs and career close behind.
  • As in years past, this year’s poll found that Americans generally rate their local schools higher than they rate the nation’s schools in general. While respondents’ opinions about the quality of their own children’s schools improved a bit, their ratings of schools across the nation dropped.

Read More:  Download .pdf copy of PDK Poll Report (23 pages)