Brittany Murray, Press Telegram/SCNG (2016)
Chansophea Ing teaches students at Lafayette Elementary School in Long Beach.

The plight of teachers in the half-dozen states who went out on strike over wages last spring resonated across the nation. A near-majority of people now favor raising teachers’ pay — a significant increase over a year ago — according to a poll by the education journal Education Next. An exception, though, is California — at least when those surveyed were told how much teachers in the state currently earn.

Education Next’s 12th annual survey of 4,601 adults, released Tuesday, also showed an uptick in support for charter schools, after a large drop a year ago, and for increased school spending — both nationwide and in California.

The surge in support for raising teacher pay marked the biggest change from a year ago and the biggest surprise in the survey, said two of the co-authors of the survey, Harvard University Education Professor Martin West and Harvard University Government Professor Paul Peterson, in a press briefing. Both are editors of Education Next. The survey was conducted in May, following a series of teacher walkouts that West said “did more to increase support than to lower it” in those states and beyond. Support for higher pay also may reflect a strong national economy, with the public more open to an appeal for raises; the question about increasing teacher pay drew the most support since 2008, the year before the Great Recession, he said.

Half of respondents were first informed of the average salary of teachers in their states. Among those respondents, 50 percent said the pay should be raised — a 13-percentage-point increase over last year. Among the six states where teachers struck, 63 percent said they favor higher pay. However, the average pay in those states, which included West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona, rank among the bottom 10 states in teacher income, according to Education Next.

Teachers in California earn, on average, the third-highest salaries in the nation, behind only Massachusetts and New York. Told that the average pay in their state was $72,842, only 41 percent of California respondents would raise teacher salaries — 9 percentage points below the national average. An additional 47 percent would leave salaries where they are and 12 percent would lower them. That’s still a sizable increase from 2017, when only 27 percent of Californians polled said pay should be higher.

The results were vastly different for the random half of respondents who were asked whether they favored raising teacher pay but weren’t told how much teachers earn in their states. For the California respondents, 70 percent said pay should be higher, compared with 67 percent among adults throughout the country. Most Americans believe that teachers earn far less than they do, the study said. Asked to estimate average teacher salaries in their state, the average guess of respondents nationwide was $40,181 — 31 percent less than the actual national figure of $58,297.

More school funding

The message is mixed on raising teacher pay, but not so on increasing funding. When told the current spending level in their school district, 54 percent of California respondents said it should be increased and 46 percent said it shouldn’t. That’s an increase of 15 percentage points in favor of more funding compared to a year ago.

Nationwide, only 47 percent said spending should be higher. California ranks near the bottom among states in per-capita spending when the state’s cost of living is factored in and closer to the middle when it isn’t.

Charter schools

The big news in last year’s poll, covering President Donald Trump’s first half-year in office, was the big drop in support of charter schools nationwide, from 51 percent to 39 percent. That was still a plurality, with 36 percent opposed to charter schools and 25 percent expressing no position. Both Democrats’ and Republicans’ support for charter schools fell.

In this year’s poll, charter school support rebounded nationwide, with 44 percent support, up 5 percentage points. But the increase was almost entirely among Republicans, “widening the divide between Republicans and Democrats on this issue,” the summary said.

Californians are more favorable to charter schools than residents nationwide, with 55 percent in favor, 34 percent opposed and 11 percent neutral. Support grew 12 percentage points in one year, while opposition to charters also grew, by 5 percentage points — indicating there are fewer people on the fence. Last year, 28 percent expressed no opinion; this year, only 11 percent were neutral.

Last year, EdNext did not break out the results for California or other states.

Common Core

Support for the Common Core standards remains stronger in California than the nation, with not much change over the past year — a reflection that it’s no longer a hot-button federal issue. Many states have modified or renamed the Common Core, enough to quiet Republican opposition to “federally mandated” standards. Of the California respondents, 51 percent back the standards, the same as last year. Opposition grew from 27 to 33 percent, as some of those who were noncommittal made up their minds. Nationwide, 44 percent back the standards, up 4 percentage points from 2017. Opposition dropped from 40 to 38 percent.

The survey also asked respondents their views on taxpayer-subsidized vouchers to pay for private schools, merit pay for teachers, affirmative action and immigration. EdNext did not provide the California breakdown on these issues.

The polling firm Knowledge Networks did the survey, using a representative panel of adults who agree to participate in a limited number of online surveys, according to EdNext. The margin of error for questions asked to all 4,601 respondents was 1.4 percentage points and 5 to 6 percentage points for responses by Californians.

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  1. John Fensterwald 3 months ago3 months ago

    CarolineSF: I read many sources for information. I would encourage you to read Education Next — might enrich your perspective.

    Replies

    • CarolineSF 3 months ago3 months ago

      I always encourage people to read/follow sources they disagree with -- it's the best way to understand issues. I've followed education "reform" avidly for nearly 20 years and have always followed pro-"reform" sources, including Education Next, and read books by pro-"reform" voices, starting with Terry Moe and John Chubb, and the late Andrew Coulson, back when for-profit charter schools were hailed as the miracle solution of the day. The issue is not what sources I … Read More

      I always encourage people to read/follow sources they disagree with — it’s the best way to understand issues. I’ve followed education “reform” avidly for nearly 20 years and have always followed pro-“reform” sources, including Education Next, and read books by pro-“reform” voices, starting with Terry Moe and John Chubb, and the late Andrew Coulson, back when for-profit charter schools were hailed as the miracle solution of the day.

      The issue is not what sources I follow but rather the misrepresentation of a partial propaganda source as impartial scholarly research.

  2. CarolineSF 3 months ago3 months ago

    John, your response doesn't address my point and is an attempt to deflect. It's a violation of journalistic ethics and standards to knowingly quote a highly partial source -- a propaganda operation -- as if it were a scholarly research source. (And that's regardless of the results of the survey being reported.) It misleads the reader, and misleading the reader is a mortal journalistic sin. It's my understanding that EdSource is committed to … Read More

    John, your response doesn’t address my point and is an attempt to deflect. It’s a violation of journalistic ethics and standards to knowingly quote a highly partial source — a propaganda operation — as if it were a scholarly research source. (And that’s regardless of the results of the survey being reported.) It misleads the reader, and misleading the reader is a mortal journalistic sin.

    It’s my understanding that EdSource is committed to a role as an impartial, credible source of education news, and representing a propaganda operation as a scholarly research source is a lapse that calls that into question.

    (Accusing me of failing to respond to other incidences isn’t valid — it’s whataboutism, as they say. As a busy person, I may miss some EdSource reports or may not be able to respond at that time.)

  3. John Fensterwald 3 months ago3 months ago

    CarolineSF, I don’t remember protestations of bias last year, when the big news in the poll showed a substantial drop in public support of charter schools. Education Next editors Paul Peterson and Martin West have been transparent about the methodology and the questions in their annual poll. I find the results credible.

  4. John Fensterwald 3 months ago3 months ago

    el: Los Altos is a basic aid district, meaning its property tax base is so high it can fund its schools more per student than the state provides. About 10 percent of districts are basic aid. The other 90 percent, with few exceptions, receive the same base funding per student under the Local Control Funding Formula. The salary range among those districts is closer together. The bigger issue is that the formula does not take … Read More

    el: Los Altos is a basic aid district, meaning its property tax base is so high it can fund its schools more per student than the state provides. About 10 percent of districts are basic aid. The other 90 percent, with few exceptions, receive the same base funding per student under the Local Control Funding Formula. The salary range among those districts is closer together. The bigger issue is that the formula does not take into account regional costs of living; a $79,000 salary will go a lot further in Clovis than in San Jose.

  5. CarolineSF 3 months ago3 months ago

    Education Next isn't an unbiased scholarly research source. It's a propaganda operation, part of the so-called education "reform" sector that's accused by critics of attempting to degrade teachers and deprofessionalize teaching; of opposing teachers' unions; and of promoting privatizing public schools. Education Next's list of executive editors, contributing editors and editorial advisory board members consists of well-known names in the education "reform" sector, with heavy overlap with the right-wing free-market Hoover Institution. (That's based on … Read More

    Education Next isn’t an unbiased scholarly research source. It’s a propaganda operation, part of the so-called education “reform” sector that’s accused by critics of attempting to degrade teachers and deprofessionalize teaching; of opposing teachers’ unions; and of promoting privatizing public schools. Education Next’s list of executive editors, contributing editors and editorial advisory board members consists of well-known names in the education “reform” sector, with heavy overlap with the right-wing free-market Hoover Institution. (That’s based on my scrutinizing Education Next’s website and my years of familiarity with well-known names in the education “reform” sector.)

    The particular survey reported on here may not entirely promote those views, but it’s still not righteous to represent a partisan propaganda operation as a scholarly research source.

    It’s my understanding that EdSource is presented as an unbiased source of education news, so the quoting of a propaganda operation as though it were a scholarly research source seems out of keeping with that.

    I find the following information on Media Matters regarding Education Next’s funders as of 2016, but it’s uncorroborated, so in the interest of ethical purity I’m posting it but with the disclaimer that I haven’t confirmed it: (quoted material copy/pasted) Education Next is an education policy journal and a publication of the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and is additionally sponsored by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the education policy program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School. Education Next also publishes daily online commentary at the EdNext Blog, and its polling is sometimes cited in mainstream news outlets and more frequently cited by conservative media and think tanks. The publication’s editor-in-chief is a prominent conservative education scholar whose work focuses on “parental choice” privatization measures. Education Next executive editors include leading scholars at conservative State Policy Network-affiliated think tanks, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the American Enterprise Institute. Education Next is listed as an allied organization of the pro-privatization state advocacy group American Federation for Children. “

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 3 months ago3 months ago

      CarolineSF, I don’t remember protestations last year, when the big news in the poll showed a substantial drop in public support of charter schools. Education Next editors Paul Peterson and Martin West have been transparent about the methodology and the questions in their annual poll. I find the results credible.

    • Floyd Thursby 3 months ago3 months ago

      Caroline, you've never said a positive word about charters, despite the fact that 4 of the top 7 schools in San Francisco on African American and Latino test scores are charter schools. You probably support the vague moratorium. Personally, I think we need change. The status quo has failed, and our political leadership opposes charters while putting their kids in private school, with Newsom supporting the moratorium, Hillary supporting the status quo and … Read More

      Caroline, you’ve never said a positive word about charters, despite the fact that 4 of the top 7 schools in San Francisco on African American and Latino test scores are charter schools. You probably support the vague moratorium. Personally, I think we need change. The status quo has failed, and our political leadership opposes charters while putting their kids in private school, with Newsom supporting the moratorium, Hillary supporting the status quo and when she comes to SF, the one school she visits is Hamlin which costs $33,500 per pupil. SF is the most Republican city in the US in terms of the percentage of whites in charter schools but we attack charters which help minorities? I support higher teacher pay in return for making it easier to fire bad teachers, and $2k bonuses for the teachers who don’t call in sick, only. The problem is, the union controls who negotiates with them, so they never ask for reform in return for raises, just give across the board raises. We need to improve teacher performance. We should only hire teachers with over a 3.25 college GPA and require value add performance reviews, not give blind across the board raises.

  6. el 3 months ago3 months ago

    The average salary in California is kind of a misleading statistic because it doesn't capture the very large standard deviation. So yes, $79,000 is an average salary statewide - but there are districts in California where even the highest paid teacher doesn't make that much. The lowest starting salaries in California are around $34k. Los Altos' highest teacher salary is $141k. That's quite a range. I can simultaneously feel that Los Altos is paying their teachers … Read More

    The average salary in California is kind of a misleading statistic because it doesn’t capture the very large standard deviation. So yes, $79,000 is an average salary statewide – but there are districts in California where even the highest paid teacher doesn’t make that much. The lowest starting salaries in California are around $34k. Los Altos’ highest teacher salary is $141k. That’s quite a range.

    I can simultaneously feel that Los Altos is paying their teachers enough but that in general teachers are not paid enough. Districts in California have different funding and make different choices about staffing levels vs. salary based on local realities.

    Salary search tool: https://www.sacbee.com/site-services/databases/article3187034.html

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 3 months ago3 months ago

      el: Los Altos is a basic aid district, meaning its property tax base is so high it can fund its schools more per student than the state provides. About 10 percent of districts are basic aid. The other 90 percent, with few exceptions, receive the same base funding per student under the Local Control Funding Formula. The salary range among those districts is closer together. The bigger issue is that the formula does not take … Read More

      el: Los Altos is a basic aid district, meaning its property tax base is so high it can fund its schools more per student than the state provides. About 10 percent of districts are basic aid. The other 90 percent, with few exceptions, receive the same base funding per student under the Local Control Funding Formula. The salary range among those districts is closer together. The bigger issue is that the formula does not take into account regional costs of living; a $79,000 salary will go a lot further in Clovis than in San Jose.

  7. Ann 3 months ago3 months ago

    Hi, John, I should have clarified that 1) all teachers out there now had no undergrad ed major available and 2) it’ll be 4 years before you see many who could benefit from the programs that don’t exist yet, putting aside the realities of your article a year or so ago where you noted that most CSUs said they’d forgo making new programs - the added hurdle for doing so in California is … Read More

    Hi, John, I should have clarified that 1) all teachers out there now had no undergrad ed major available and 2) it’ll be 4 years before you see many who could benefit from the programs that don’t exist yet, putting aside the realities of your article a year or so ago where you noted that most CSUs said they’d forgo making new programs – the added hurdle for doing so in California is the Commission on Teacher Credentialing and their established approved programs – a highly rigorous California specific process – aren’t due for revision except on a cycle CTC sets. And CTC sets the standards for credential granting institutions – so this requires CTC to revise those program standards and then give universities, etc. time to revise, I would guess it is years out for the majority of programs. Getting back to teacher pay, the current California workforce has post-graduate teacher preparation.

  8. Ann Halvorsen 3 months ago3 months ago

    It’s unfortunate that the general public is not aware that for several decades, only California has not allowed an undergrad major in education. Rather one must have an academic/ liberal studies undergrad major, so we are the only state where no one can teach with simply a BA or BS undergrad degree. As a result teachers generally have at least a fifth year post-grad and for many it’s two years of post-grad education … Read More

    It’s unfortunate that the general public is not aware that for several decades, only California has not allowed an undergrad major in education. Rather one must have an academic/ liberal studies undergrad major, so we are the only state where no one can teach with simply a BA or BS undergrad degree. As a result teachers generally have at least a fifth year post-grad and for many it’s two years of post-grad education with coursework and supervised fieldwork and student teaching in selected schools and/or internships, and for some Special Education- general ed credentials)it may be 2 years.

    Prior to admission to a teacher prep program, California prospective teachers must pass three subject matter state exams; many also enter their first positions with significant debt, given the disappearance of loan forgiveness state programs for teachers since the recession, and their cost of living is higher than Massachusetts and at least equivalent to New York, and they are better educated .

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 3 months ago3 months ago

      Thanks for the comment, Ann. You were correct until recently. Last year, Gov. Brown signed legislation allowing the return of a 4-year undergraduate major in education, enabling students to become an elementary or middle school teacher in four years, as they once did — and currently do in most other states. I expect CSU and other colleges will begin this offering soon, if not already. You can read the story I wrote here. It’s time for an update.

  9. Todd Maddison 3 months ago3 months ago

    It's no surprise, given the constant "poor, underpaid educators" drumbeat we hear from those who have a vested interest in convincing the public they are underpaid. that people who are not told what teachers actually make grossly underestimate that number. I don't know where Education Next got the $72K average pay for CA teachers, but the ACTUAL number, for 2017, according to the State Bureau of Education's "J90" annual report, is $79,128. Let's re do the survey … Read More

    It’s no surprise, given the constant “poor, underpaid educators” drumbeat we hear from those who have a vested interest in convincing the public they are underpaid. that people who are not told what teachers actually make grossly underestimate that number.

    I don’t know where Education Next got the $72K average pay for CA teachers, but the ACTUAL number, for 2017, according to the State Bureau of Education’s “J90” annual report, is $79,128.

    Let’s re do the survey with correct data and see what we get for results…

    Meanwhile, how about administrators? From what I’ve seen in Transparent California’s numbers – and an analysis I’ve done from those numbers – administrators are not exactly hurting.

    In my district, administrators who have been with the district five years or more average $135K/year. Teachers, of course, are not doing too badly, with those who have been with the district five years or more averaging $96K/year.

    Perhaps the education industry would have better success recruiting people to join the teaching profession if they told the truth about pay and benefits?

    My Transparent CA analysis is at http://toddmaddison.com/ousdpay2017 in case anyone wants to duplicate my work for their own district…