Poll: To address teacher shortage, pay them more

September 14, 2016

Kindergarteners do an art project at Redwood Heights Elementary School in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday, June 4, 2014.Photos by Alison Yin for EdSource

This article was updated on Sept. 15 to include a correction.

As the state grapples with teacher shortages in several subject areas, the most important strategy to address shortages of teachers is to pay them more, according to a new PACE/USC Rossier online poll of registered voters in California.

Respondents also pointed to hard-to-manage students and overcrowded classrooms as other reasons young people are reluctant to go into teaching.

But low pay easily lead the list.

Despite obstacles teachers face, 7 out of 10 of those responding to the poll said that they would encourage young people they know who are considering becoming teachers to follow that career path.

The poll also showed strong support for effective teachers.

Fiftyeight percent of respondents said that more than half of teachers are “highly effective and deserve to be recognized for their accomplishment.”

At the same time, 24 percent said that more than half “are not as effective as they could be and should be supported to improve.”

The main reason respondents said they would encourage someone to go into teaching is because of the potential they have “to make a difference in the lives of children.” By comparison, other reasons such as professional autonomy and job security got relatively low rankings.

Regarding education reforms now underway in California, the poll showed that just over half of Californians had never heard or read anything about the Local Control Funding Formula, the landmark reform of the school’s financing system championed by Gov. Jerry Brown and approved by the state Legislature three years ago. Thirty percent said they had not heard or read much about it. Only 3 percent said they had heard or read a good deal about it.

As for parents, just under half said they had never heard about the school funding reforms. That included 45 percent of parents who have children in California’s public schools.

About 1 in 5 parents with children in public schools knew about Local Control and Accountability Plans districts are now required to create to show how they will spend state funds to improve academic outcomes.

“I think the biggest takeaway for us is that awareness of the Local Control Funding Formula is quite low, and surprisingly low among parents,” said Julie Marsh, co-director of PACE (Policy Analysis for California Education) who is an associate professor of education at the USC Rossier School of Education.

One slightly promising sign, however, is that about 1 in 10 parents with kids in public school had actually attended meetings about their districts’ accountability plans.

Poll respondents appeared somewhat more informed about the Common Core standards in math and English than about the state finance and accountability reforms. Some 18 percent said they had heard or read a lot about it, while 24 percent said they had heard or read nothing about it.

The poll also indicated voters leaning strongly towards supporting Proposition 55 on this November’s ballot to extend the temporary tax increases approved by voters through an initiative in 2012. While 20 percent said they would definitely vote for it, 29 percent said they would probably vote for it. Only 16 percent said they would probably or definitely vote no.

“Proposition 55 at this point in time is extremely well-positioned to pass,” said Ben Tulchin, president of Tulchin Research, which conducted the poll. “Voters feel there’s been progress made with schools since Proposition 30 was originally passed and there’s still this strong desire to seek funding for schools.”

The online poll surveyed 1,202 registered California voters, in both English and Spanish. About one-third of those surveyed were parents of children ages 18 or younger and 80 percent of those said their children currently attend school in California. The margin of error for the survey was +/- 2.83 percentage points.

For the full results of the poll, go to the PACE (Policy Analysis for Education) website here.

Correction: This article was revised to include the correct percentage of respondents who believe teachers “are not as effective as they could be and should be supported to improve.”

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