The majority of Tennessean voters surveyed by a Vanderbilt University poll think teachers in the state are both underpaid and should be represented by unions.
The university’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions polled 1,423 people between Oct. 28 and Nov. 5 to find that 71 percent believed teachers were underpaid. Eight percent said teachers were overpaid.
Also, 40 percent disapproved of a new state law limiting the ability of teachers unions to negotiate contracts for schoolteachers, while 39 percent approved of the limitations.
Josh Clinton, associate professor of political science and co-director of the center, said there was disagreement among state voters regarding how to improve education.
“For example, Republicans and Democrats largely agree that teachers in Tennessee are underpaid (60 percent and 81 percent respectively agree),” Clinton said, “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 respondents ranked education as the number two priority for state government, although at 17 percent it ranked well below the economy and jobs as the top priority, picked first by 59 percent. Sixty-two 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.
More data from the poll can be found here.