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What Americans say about…

Do teachers feel valued by their communities?

Only about half say their community values them a great deal or a good amount and a majority says that, given the opportunity, they’d vote to go on strike for higher pay.

Public school teachers’ views that they are underpaid and their schools underfunded tie in with a broader concern over the way teachers say they feel valued by their communities. Only about half — 52% — say their community values them a great deal or a good amount, including just 10% who say they feel they’re valued a great deal. Among the rest, 31% feel valued “just some,” and 16% feel less valued than that — a little or not at all.

2019 Teachers Concerns

The roles of teachers have diminished in my community and the public in general. Somehow the tables have turned, and we are seen as enemies and no longer a part of the village.

Colleen, 41, Black high school teacher in suburban Georgia

Feeling valued as a teacher relates to feeling fairly paid. Among teachers who say their pay is fair, 68% say they feel their communities value them a great deal or a good amount; this falls to 42% of those who say their pay is unfair.

There are regional differences — 60% of teachers in the Northeast say they are fairly paid vs. just 3 in 10 in the South and Midwest alike. (Teachers in the West fall in the middle, with 47% feeling fairly paid.) Tenure also is a factor: Half of those who’ve been teaching for more than 20 years feel fairly paid, compared with 31% of those with a decade or less experience. An almost identical pattern emerges by age, with half of teachers age 50 and older feeling fairly paid vs. only 34% of younger teachers (ages 22 to 49).

I love my job, but I tell my children not to be teachers.

Julio 47, Hispanic upper elementary teacher in urban Arizona
2019 Feeling Fairly Paid

Feeling valued — or not — has consequences: Teachers who feel less valued are more likely to support striking for higher pay — 62% vs. 49%. They’re also less likely to give an A grade to the school where they work or to their community’s schools. And, as noted, 62% of teachers who feel undervalued by their community have seriously considered leaving the profession in recent years, as have 62% of those who say their pay is unfair.

I have taught school now for 37 years, and I find working with youth to be the most rewarding and delightful career there could be. Teaching is a calling in life. I wouldn't have been happy doing any other career

Jean, 60, mixed-race high school teacher in suburban Delaware

Low pay isn’t the only motivator for teachers who have considered leaving the profession. While 22% cite pay and benefits as the main reason, about as many — 19% — cite stress, pressure, or burnout. Ten percent report a lack of respect or of feeling valued. Illustrative of other pressures, 60% of those who say their school’s discipline is not strict enough have considered leaving, compared with 33% who say discipline is “about right.”

Views on school funding also are associated with considering leaving the profession — 54% of teachers who say the public schools in their community have too little money have seriously considered leaving vs. 39% of those who say their schools are adequately funded.

2019 Reasons Teachers Considered Leaving

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