Poll finds sympathy for teachers

Parents feel so much sympathy for teachers that four out of five would support strikes for higher pay, according to a new poll by Phi Delta Kappa International.

The organization has been probing American attitudes toward schooling for half a century, releasing a peek at this year's poll in July due to the urgency of the "disturbing" results: one in three parents fear for their child's physical safety in school, a level of concern that hasn't been seen in two decades.

The latest results about teachers — two-thirds think they're underpaid and most don't want their own kids entering the profession, suggest the wave of criticism that heralded the No Child Left Behind era has lost some of its force. Teacher protests in several states this year underscored growing frustration with their working conditions.

Respondents also seemed more sympathetic to public schools, preferring to reform underformers rather than replace them. Even so, a majority, 55 percent, said the quality of public education today is worse than when they were students.

While PDK focused on public schools, another annual poll released last week produced results that suggest a growing interest in alternatives.

The Harvard-affiliated Education Next poll found growing support for charter schools after a sharp decline last year, wiht respondents revealing a growing partisan divide as Democrats were less supportive than Republicans. Charter schools are privately-run but publicly-funded and basically compete against traditional schools.

Likewise, Education Next respondents were more likely this year to support public funding of private schools through so-called vouchers than they were last year. But, like those responding to PDK, they also sympathized with traditional public schools, with more supporting teacher pay raises and school spending increases than in the prior year.

Last year, PDK took the rare step of polling enough Georgians to produce results for this state specifically. Residents here were more likely than respondents across the nation to say that racial and economic diversity in schools was important. Georgians were also more attracted to private schools and support of vouchers. There was no such Georgia focus this time.