The most popular solution to teacher shortages? Paying teachers more

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
August 23, 2022, 7:38 PM GMT+0

As the 2022 school year begins, school districts across the country are facing a growing problem: a shortage of teachers. Recent YouGov polling finds that 44% of Americans – including 58% of parents of school-age children – believe there is a shortage of K-12 teachers in their local area. Three-quarters of people (77%) who believe this describe the shortage as a very or somewhat big problem facing their community. Democrats (55%) are more likely than Independents (40%) and Republicans (38%) to say there is a teacher shortage in their area.

When asked about potential solutions to teacher shortages, three-quarters of Americans (73%) say they're in favor of paying teachers more. At the same time, only one in four (24%) support increasing taxes on local residents to fund schools, which is one way that districts may be able to afford salary increases. Only one in 10 people (9%) say they support paying teachers less. Parents of school-age children feel similarly about potential solutions to the teacher crisis as Americans overall do.

The poll also asked about a number of other potential responses to teacher shortages, all of which both have been proposed in parts of the country and received less support in the poll than raising teacher salaries. Some rural Texas school districts have reduced the school week from five days to four: By 40% to 38%, Americans oppose this solution. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has claimed that teaching requirements are "too rigid" and has loosened restrictions to allow veterans without degrees to teach public school. Americans aren't keen on these changes: 29% support allowing people without degrees to teach and 26% support recruiting uncertified veterans to teach.

The poll also included a series of questions on the salaries of public-school teachers, including asking Americans to estimate how much they currently are being paid and should be paid. The chart below compares median responses to these questions to actual teacher salary data taken from 2021 statistics provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The results show that Americans tend to slightly underestimate how much elementary, middle, and high school teachers are paid in the U.S. The salaries Americans say are ideal for each group of teachers come closer to matching the teachers' real-world salaries (around $61,000). While people tend to think high-school teachers should be paid more than middle- and elementary-school teachers, in reality, the salaries of these groups are relatively similar. This could, in part, reflect the nature of the survey, which provided respondents only with options in $10,000 increments and did not allow them to choose figures in between.

— Carl Bialik and Linley Sanders contributed to this article

This poll was conducted on August 16 - 19, 2022 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this poll.

Image: Michael Ciaglo / Stringer / Getty

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