Are We Paying Our Teachers Enough? Most Americans Say “No”

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The FINANCIAL — Six in ten Americans (60%) see teaching as a prestigious occupation, but clearly they don’t think our educators’ salaries are in line with this status: six in ten also believe that teachers in the United States are paid too little (60%) and that too little money is spent nationally on public schools (61%). 

Looking locally, majorities are also unsatisfied with teacher salaries and public school spending in their communities.  Fifty-four percent of Americans feel teachers in their local area are paid too little, on par with where it was in 2009 and back up eight points from 2012’s dip to 46%.  Meanwhile, half of adults (51%) feel that too little money is spent on the public schools in their community (same as the 51% in 2009 and similar to the 50% in 2012).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,273 U.S. adults surveyed online between July 15 and 20, 2015.

Political POVs

With a Presidential election on the horizon, education is working its way up as a major issue under voter consideration.  Seven in ten Democrats believe teachers in the United States are paid too little (71%), while nearly six in ten Independents (58%) and just under half of Republicans (49%) feel the same.  Roughly three in ten Republicans (31%) and one-fourth of Independents (26%) feel that teachers are paid the right amount nationally, while only 17% of Democrats feel this way.

As for public school spending, similar patterns appear.

Democrats: 71% too little & 19% about the right amount

Independents: 59% & 17%, respectively

Republicans: 51% & 23%, respectively

Regional differences when looking locally

Two-thirds in the South, and majorities in the Midwest and West, feel that teachers in their local areas are paid too little (67%, 53%, & 54%, respectively).  On the other hand, a plurality of Americans in the East believes their communities’ teachers are paid about the right amount (41%, with 37% believing they’re paid too little).

Looking at local public school spending, over half of Americans in the South, Midwest, and West, and a plurality of those in the East, believe their communities are spending too little.

South: 57% too little & 25% about the right amount

West: 53% & 24%, respectively

Midwest: 51% & 25%, respectively

East: 42% & 34%, respectively


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