August 17, 2011
AFT Media Affairs
Statement by Randi Weingarten,
President, American Federation of Teachers,
On PDK/Gallup Poll on Public Perception of U.S. Education
WASHINGTON—At a time of breakneck change in what students need to be successful in this economy, sandwiched between years of school budget cuts and economic turmoil, Americans' respect for public schools and teachers is strong and growing stronger.
The public gives high marks to public school teachers, respects the teaching profession, supports investments in education, and rejects tax-funded vouchers for private school tuition, according to the annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools released today.
The public thinks more highly of teachers than they do of principals and school board members. Further, when asked about the attacks by some governors on teachers' collective bargaining rights, the public sides with the teachers.
Americans' strong support for teachers and public schools is all the more heartening given that more than two-thirds of respondents say they hear more bad news about education than good news. This suggests media coverage of education, at odds with the experiences and impressions of parents and the public, needs to change.
No doubt a question last asked in 1976 and repeated in the latest survey will get some attention. It asks about general opinions on teacher unions, framed in a way that implies union work is limited to narrow issues of compensation and working conditions. The wording doesn't reflect the current work of the AFT and our quality education agenda, which focuses on what students need to succeed and what their teachers need to facilitate success. We look forward to every opportunity to educate the public about the work we do to help teachers teach and children learn—something that has been hard when the media's coverage is so negative. But, at our core, we hope the enduring goodwill the public has for teachers will grow as we continue our work to improve public schools.
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The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.