Most Americans Support Giving Teachers Higher Salaries

Public support for increasing teacher salary is at the highest it has been in over a decade, but not everyone is on board.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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Teacher salary is stirring a slew of debates in America right now. For one, many fear it may be a leading catalyst in the mass exodus of educators from the profession. Also, politics could be driving the debate over how much teachers should be paid for their work. But overall, more Americans are in support of raising teachers’ wages.

This finding comes from a recent survey conducted by Education Next and reported by EdWeek. Overall, public support for increasing teacher salary is at its highest level documented in the past 15 years. However, a look across political party lines shows a major shift in who is more likely to support giving educators more pay. 

The survey found that Republicans are less likely than Democrats to support raises and giving an educator a higher income. Much of this is believed to be caused by the staunch political focus targeted toward schools. The last two decades have unveiled this finding in a growing matter, as partisan divide over topics like teacher salary, teachers’ unions, and local school board matters has escalated.

The pandemic only exacerbated partisanship. Americans had strong, contentious viewpoints regarding mask mandates in schools and school protocols for quarantines and closures that led to remote learning. Republicans were more likely to oppose extensive measures imposed by schools during the pandemic, which may have increased their objectification to raise teacher salary. 

On top of that, teachers themselves were believed to be the targets of many Republican agendas. The last two years have been met with a growing call from conservative families to rid schools of race-focused lessons. Teachers were targeted at levels never seen before because of how they may or may not have taught about racism in America. Also, those who were believed to support LGBTQ+ initiatives focusing on gender identity and sexuality have been ousted and labeled groomers. Surely, much of the disdain and opposition against raising the teacher salary has centered around this.

Given the fact that many Republicans are opposed to public schools and the teachers that support their social efforts, many wonder how exactly public support for raising teacher salary got so high this year. For one thing, it could be sympathy. As reports amassed over the teacher shortage, many showcased teacher burnout. There is now more coverage displaying the extensive, long hours teachers put into the job. On top of that, COVID struggles reportedly stressed teachers out like never before. 

teacher salary

A 2020 CNBC report shed some light on the growing consensus that educators are underpaid. It detailed some eye-opening statistics, such as the fact that many U.S. teachers are paid less than a living wage. The average teacher salary is so low in comparison to similar professions, that they make 20% less than those with similar educational experience.

Adding to the mounting issues over teacher salary, inflation is hitting record levels, and increasing the urgency of educators demanding higher wages. Many states are passing legislation to increase teacher pay at record levels. However, the average teacher salary in 2020 was $41,770 – far below the national median income level for that year which sat at $67,521. To many, it is easy to use data like this to conclude why more Americans support raising educators’ pay.