Most Americans Think Teachers Are Underpaid

teachers underpaid pollMaybe it's because your mom's one, or your Aunt Suzie, or your Brother Jim. Maybe it's because you've had your life touched, or moved, or shaken by a few of them. Whatever the reason, people care about teachers, and how much they make. When AOL Jobs wrote of a report that claimed teachers were overpaid, our inbox was flooded with rage. It turns out that those furious readers stand with the majority of Americans. A new poll shows that more than half of Americans feel that teachers don't earn enough money, and young Americans, minority Americans, female Americans, and Americans who vote Democratic feel the most strongly about it.

Public school teachers earned an average of $55,000 in 2009-10, according to a 2009 report from the National Education Association. But this number excludes the relatively generous benefits that teachers receive.

The national poll of 1,142 registered voters conducted by the polling company Poll Position found that 55.7 percent of Americans believe teachers are underpaid. Just 13 percent consider them overpaid and 23.5 percent of respondents thought teachers were paid just the right amount. (The survey has a 3 percent margin of error.)

Opinions, unsurprisingly, diverge starkly along political lines. Almost one in five Republicans consider teachers overpaid, compared to 14.9 percent of independents, and a measly 4 percent of Democrats. 44.6 percent of Republicans consider teachers underpaid, as do 66.7 percent of Democrats, and 57.3 percent of independents. This partly explains the racial, age and gender differences. Blacks, Hispanics, women and young people are more liberal than middle aged white men.

Conservative reports make the case that teachers are paid too much, because when they move into the private sector they usually take a pay cut. Workers with taxpayer-funded paychecks, they claim, should earn what the free market demands, and with lengthy summer breaks and high job security, teachers already get ample perks. Many conservatives also resent America's teachers unions, which are traditionally powerful players in the Democratic party, and are often accused of protecting bad teachers from losing their jobs.

Liberals, in response, stammer and scoff. Are you kidding? Teachers wake up early to prepare lessons, stay up late to grade papers, and spend the day managing a classroom of kids, some with disabilities, disorders and home problems, prepping them all for state tests that determine the future of their jobs.

More importantly, they argue, teachers have one of the most sacred tasks in our fine republic: molding our nation's young. And many of our country's best and brightest choose not to go into teaching precisely because they can earn a far prettier penny pursuing a private sector career.

It seems, at least right now, that most Americans sympathize with the latter view. This may be partly due to the anguished reports about teachers that have recently been in the news: pay cuts, mass layoffs, slashed bargaining rights. About one teacher in five now moonlights at a second job.

At 69.1 percent -- more than any other group, even Democrats -- Americans who are 18 to 29 years old believe that teachers are underpaid. Perhaps this is because millennials were very recently sitting in a classroom, and the labors and impact of their teachers are fresher in their minds. Or it could be that many of these young people have toyed with the idea of becoming teachers themselves, but having looked at the pay they decided, with a heavy heart, that it just wasn't good enough.

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Daniel Braught

@ Deana, get you facts straight. As a former service member, and a husband of a teacher. Know this, teachers work way more than the 40 hrs. a week that they are paid for, they come out of their own pocket for alot of stuff, they do not work for 2/3 of the year, (they get 5-6 weeks) My wife makes less than she did when she started teaching 6 years ago. The military...everything is paid for...EVERYTHING..been there done that, should have stayed in. But you are absolutely wrong and you must not have any kids or you would understand that these teachers are the lifeblood of our society. It starts with them. As they are more disrespected and underpaid, they are going to stop loving what they are doing...thats when we need to start worrying.

May 23 2012 at 7:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Teachers must complain A LOT more than the rest of us! Everything out there says they are underpaid, NOT true. They work 2/3 out of the year and make over $20,000 for a job they are supposed to love doing. Teachers just whine MUCH louder than the rest of us. You don't see AMERICAN SOLDIER on the Most Underpaid list too often and now that IS UNDERPAID. So here's to all you complaining, tantrum-throwing teachers who don't have to put your life on the line...shut up and put up so the ones putting their lives on the line don't have to listen to it! Cheers :D

April 27 2012 at 8:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm a 5th year teacher with a Masters degree and I made $34,800 in 2011. Where are the teaches making $55,000? I don't know any of them.

January 31 2012 at 2:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Angela's comment

I also work about 55 hours a week, but that's counting the weekend hours I work. I hear a lot of talk about lunch "hours," I get 22 minutes for lunch and a one hour for "planning" which is used for meetings, etc. So, my planning usually takes place after school. I usually get to work around 7:30 a.m. and try to leave by 4:30 p.m. because I would rather work in more comfortable clothing. I put in another hour or two at home every night. I love my job. I attend college during the Summer. I do not get a discount. I'm trying to earn my Doctorate in Instruction and Curriculum, but at an average of $1700.00 per class, this is going to take a while especially on my salary. I do not receive financial aid. I would like to see my profession receive more resepct than what it does. I worked in the private sector for 10+ years before choosing to be a teacher, so I know the differences. I can honestly say that I make more of a differrence as a teacher and I work harder now for a lot less money. Just for the record, I have never had to justify my pay. I made 6 digits as a PM in the Construction Industry and no one ever questioned if I 'earned' my pay or why do we make teachers do this? I'm a tax payer too, so that excuse is mute.

January 31 2012 at 2:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't know what subject(s) you teach, Angela, but it doesn't matter (or, as you would say, it's a mute (sic) point): to teach ANY subject, one should first have a firm grasp of the English language. Quite possibly, English is a second language for you, but I feel that it would serve a much greater purpose if you took a remedial course, rather than working for some doctorate which will provide you with a skill that is no more necessary than knowing how to ask "d'you want fries with that?" Without possessing all of the knowledge and skills of a legitimate (key word) high-school graduate, you have no business teaching our children.

March 16 2012 at 9:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't think teachers are underpaid. 55,000 is a lot of money for working maybe 10 months out of year. And I'm sure most make more than that. The ones that are really overpaid are the football players, , ridiculous what they get paid, for playing such a stupid game.

January 10 2012 at 6:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When this article was first posted, it used the average STARTING salary as the example for teachers being paid too much. Now we're talking the average salary (which is about a 20K difference). It broke down the hourly wage into 35 hour weeks-- with all of the breaks counted in. Anyone who knows a teacher, knows that they don't show up at the bell and leave at the bell... and do a lot of work at home grading and developing lesson plans.

OH WAIT... I'm a woman, young, white, and a liberal. I suppose the above paragraph should be discounted. I'll get my older, conservative, male boyfriend to tell you about the INCONSISTENCIES in this argument. He can tell you all about his parents... who have been teachers for about 30 years.

January 10 2012 at 5:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Hello, Kitti!

Oh , and about those '10 weeks off' in summer? Don't forget they aren't usually paid for those weeks, and in many cases they work those weeks teacher summer school, tutoring, or taking classes of their own and training semiars in order to keep up with curricula changes. Most work through school 'breaks' too, like Christmas and Easter.

January 10 2012 at 5:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Hello, Kitti!

Since being laid off from a job in the finance industry, I've done a lot of temping at schools. The teachers are there at 7:30 am, stay till well after 5 pm, spend lunch tutoring, supervising or squeezing in staff meetings, and after school are busy planning the next day. Their days are filled with energetic, boistrous kids who require 200% of their attention just to stay focused. When they leave, they are always carrying bags of student work to grade when they get home. On weekends they are supervising student gatherings, trips, and planning special events. No one in my industry, or nearly any industry in which I've temped over the past three years, could ever be accused of working nearly as hard as they do per dollar, and we were NEVER expected to provide our own work supplies. NO QUESTION teachers are underpaid for the amount of work they do. There's a reason our school systems are in crisis, but it isn't because of teacher unions and teacher pay. It's because most people don't have enough respect or understanding for what teachers do and how hard their job is. Anyone who knocks teachers or think their overpaid is an idiot. Period.

January 10 2012 at 5:37 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

efvann..tsk tsk.. ask any teacher how many hours they spend at home, after hours, planning lessons, decorating the classroom, grading tests, grading reports...then ask them how much of their OWN money they spend for classroom supplies. I guess they don't want standardized testing because it takes away their ability to plan the lessons around the current class they have that year, and they don't want to be forced to "teach to the test" but instead give their students a broad range of knowledge on the subject their teaching.
Me thinks maybe you're one that "slipped through the cracks?"

January 10 2012 at 3:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to shscott123's comment

You have completely missed the point. You said "...they don't want to be forced to 'teach to the test' (sic) but instead give their students a broad range of knowledge on the subject their (sic) teaching." If they would just teach "a broad range of knowledge," the students would be prepared to pass standardized tests like other students do. If a student is taught how to count and how to add, he will already know that 2+2=4, which will eliminate the "need" to tell him "when you take the test, you will be asked 'how much are 2+2?' The answer is 4." The teacher can then use the time saved to teach the students that 2+3=5, 2+4=6, 2+5=7, etc., rather than neglect the rest of the course. (Incidentally: "teaching the test" is a euphemism - it's another way of saying "cheating!" Ask the teachers in Atlanta, etc.)
Let me say that again: if a student is adequately taught an entire subject, by a teacher who knows his subject and wants to teach it, all tests will just fall in place.
Our children today are being graduated and sent to college, without even the basics that should have been required to pass them on to eighth grade. They can't spell, they don't have an understanding of grammar, punctuation, or sentence structure, and they can't make change for a twenty-dollar bill without a calculator. This is due greatly to the fact that so many (NOT ALL) teachers today are more concerned with 180-day school years, benefits far exceeding those of most of the people paying the bills, and tenure, than with actually ensuring that their students enter the Real World with enough knowledge to survive.
This is a true story: I work in a supermarket. Some time ago, we were selling ears of corn for 25 cents each. Just for fun, I went up to a local high school senior who worked in the produce department, and asked him "at 25 cents per ear, how much will it cost me to buy a dozen? He thought and thought, struggled painfully, and finally answered "......uh.....$4.67?" And he was completely serious! I then went up to two other seniors in the same department, and asked them the same question - they weren't even able to hazard a guess! NOT ONE of the three even knew how to calculate the answer, much less what twelve quarters would add up to. - Now, whose fault was that - the students', their parents', the education system's, or the grocery store's?

January 10 2012 at 6:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Actually, I think teachers are as much underworked as they are overpaid. All one has to do is compare the time spent in front of classes to that of those in the private sector. In a typical day they get 30 mins for lunch, 40 to 50 mins (depending on the district) for a "planning/prep" time, and another 40 to 50 mins for 'specials' such as art, gym, library. And this is daily. A teacher who has a typical day is NOT doing any instruction or one-on-one help to his/her students for almost 2 hours of a typical day. And that for the 185 +/_ days they are in session. (And don't forget assemblys, special events, Teacher days ( no students, just a day for 'upgrading' skills), Superintendent's Days, Snow days, field trip days... you get the picture.
If you want to get value for your school taxes, tie their income to the results, which are, as a nation, terrible. (Ever wonder what the REAL reason they don't want a National Standardized Test given to the students? I can tell you that the reason is NOT that they are "unfair" to the various groups of students. The primary reason is that they really prefer that you NOT see how they are doing compared to everyone else. Should you think this to be untrue, and individual 'portfolios' are the best way to go, then go on with your dreaming. Just because they unions say it is so doesn't make it so.
As for the requirements to becoming credentialed, the courses are, compared to other disciplines, more Mickey Mouse than substance. Read course descriptions to follow that comment.
I WILL, and DO make exceptions for those teaching the sciences (such as computer, chemistry, biology, and the like) and math courses IF the teachers teaching them have their primary degree in the specialty they teach. They COULD transfer that knowledge into the private sector readily. Virtually none of the other disciplines compare.
Yes, there are some superb teachers out there, but there are not as many as you would think. Having an undergraduate or graduate degree in education does NOT mean you can teach.
Again- I hold the "graduating" students up for proof. There is ample proof of their lack of skills and knowledge. People who believe this must think that they are residents of that mythical place where All the men are handsome, all the women are beautiful, and all of the children are above average.

January 10 2012 at 12:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

No doubt about this story. My daughter who is a teacher with a masters degree makes about $40,000 per year. People working with HS only are make this much. In my opinion, it has to be the love of the job........

January 10 2012 at 12:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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