Press Release

AFT President Randi Weingarten on 2019 PDK Poll Measuring the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools

For Release: 

Monday, August 5, 2019


Elena Temple

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten released the following statement upon the release of this year’s Phi Delta Kappan (PDK) Poll, the 51st iteration of the survey that measures public opinion about America’s public schools, noting that for the first time in nearly 20 years, the survey included teachers in its responses: 

“This year’s PDK Poll results reflect the trends we have seen across the country: Although parents support educators, teachers feel undervalued (half of them have seriously considered leaving the profession), and long for more voice in the education decisions that impact their classrooms. Despite some marginal improvements in public education funding, 10 years into the economic recovery, parents and educators agree public schools need far more investment to meet the needs of kids. In fact, for the 18th consecutive year, Americans name ‘lack of financial support’ the biggest problem facing public schools in their communities. And policymakers should note what those surveyed want resources for: additional school funding for counselors, nurses and other school supports, as well as for teacher salaries. 

 “Notably, the 2019 poll results suggest—and note that the poll was conducted prior to the weekend’s terrible mass shootings that have crystallized the moment of hatred and violence we face—that this is a unique moment in America. Parents and the general public alike understand the huge burden placed on teachers, who are often left holding the bag to help their students and families navigate complicated life circumstances in an increasingly tumultuous, violent and polarized society. 

“It also shows unprecedented support for civics education—97 percent of people surveyed support it—and the belief that teachers have a crucial role to play in teaching kids about democracy, opening their eyes to diverse religions, and laying the foundations that breed more inclusive communities and more tolerance of neighbors. Indeed, the responses make clear that educators are, in fact, on the frontlines of safeguarding our democracy and helping kids become engaged citizens, with public schools at the center of that effort.”

 “And it makes clear that despite years of rhetoric bashing public schools by the likes of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and others, as in years prior, the poll shows the relationship among teachers, their students and the broader community is critical: The more parents know about their public schools and their teachers, the more they value them, according to 76 percent of survey respondents. We must do more and more to strengthen the bonds of community, with neighborhood public schools serving as the center of that work.”

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The AFT represents 1.7 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.