Vandy Poll: Most In TN Believe Teachers Underpaid, Support Union Rights

News release from Vanderbilt University:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Most Tennesseans believe that public school teachers are underpaid and many support their right to be represented by unions, according to voters surveyed by the Vanderbilt Poll.
Seventy-one percent of 1,423 citizens polled Oct. 28 through Nov. 5 said public school teachers in Tennessee were underpaid, versus 8 percent who believe they are overpaid. When asked if they approved of a new state law that limits the ability of teachers unions to negotiate contracts for school teachers, 49 disapproved while 39 percent approved.
“Education is obviously a really important issue to citizens, but there is disagreement among Tennesseans about how best to improve our educational system while keeping and attracting the best teachers,” said Josh Clinton, associate professor of political science and co-director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt University. “For example, Republicans and Democrats largely agree that teachers in Tennessee are underpaid (60 percent and 81 percent respectively agree), but people disagree about possible remedies. Notable partisan differences began to emerge once citizens were asked about the role of unions or specific policy initiatives aimed at improving the educational system in Tennessee.”
Voters were dubious about motivating teachers with economic incentives. Fifty-eight percent objected to the concept of paying teachers more for good test results from their students, and just over half disagreed with the concept of paying teachers more for working in low-income areas.
The poll, conducted by the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt in accordance with standards of the American Association of Public Opinion Research, was weighted to ensure that the sample was representative of Tennessee in terms of age, gender, education, region and race/ethnicity. It has an error rate of plus or minus 2.6 percent.
Data from the Vanderbilt Poll is available at
“Tennesseans can receive valuable information about the opinions of their fellow citizens through this poll,” Professor John Geer of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt said. “The Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions is pleased to provide this important public service.”
The respondents to the poll ranked education as the No. 2 priority for state government, although at 17 percent it ranked well below the No. 1 priority, the economy and jobs, which was picked first by 59 percent. A solid 62 percent favored spending tax dollars to expand pre-kindergarten programs.
Respondents were undecided about the No Child Left Behind Act, the legacy of the George W. Bush administration on education. Half of those who responded said the act should not be reauthorized by Congress, while 39 percent thought that it should.

2 thoughts on “Vandy Poll: Most In TN Believe Teachers Underpaid, Support Union Rights

  1. Eric Holcombe

    I would love for just once to see one of those polls ask people what they thought the average TN K-12 teacher salary was – (not even normalized for a typical 12-month (252 day) work year). Then, follow up with what they think their local public system spends per student per year with some price ranges. Then, what would they think is an appropriate amount to spend for a 40% proficiency rate in reading or math. And finally, what is the percentage increase in K-12 spending for the average TN public school system in the last 15 years with ranges. Of course, it might be risky assuming us folk with 40% proficiency rates can understand what 300% means.

  2. Ev Fridge

    Unions do not teach students, teachers do. Unions collect dues and enrich themselves at others expenses. The fact is the more money taxpayers put into our schools the dumber our kids are getting and unions are at the heart of the problem. I say fire the the NEA and get the government out of teaching our children. It is not in our countries best interests for a politically correct organization to be put in charge of teaching our children. It is a fact that home schooled and privately schooled students are smarter, graduate and go to college at much higher rates than public school chilren do and that gives them a much better chance of not only getting a job once they graduate, but it also makes it more likely they will be responsible contributing citizens involved in society in very serious levels.
    Teachers deserve a living wage. If they are graded as their sturdents are based on actual merit, then they might have incentive to improve our childrens ability to not only read, write and know math, but be unbiased adults able to make decisions based on social values and morals that we all know keep our society glued together.

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