Utahns believe public school teachers are underpaid, with 80 percent saying teachers’ salaries should be higher, a new UtahPolicy.com poll finds.
The survey, by Dan Jones & Associates, shows that only 12 percent of adults in the state say teachers’ pay is at the right place now, and shouldn’t be increased.
Five percent want some other kind of compensation option.
And 3 percent don’t know.
For the last several years, Utah legislators have given significant increases in the Weighted Pupil Unit – the amount the state’s Education Fund pays per pupil, per year.
Most often, much of the added WPU is doled out in teacher pay increases by the state’s 41 separate school districts – which negotiate teachers’ contracts independently.
This spring, local school districts, for the most part, gave healthy pay raises to teachers starting in the fall.
For example, the Canyons School District, in the southeast part of Salt Lake County, gave 4.5 percent pay raises plus $500 bonuses to each teacher, in addition to cost of living increases.
A starting teacher this year in the district will earn $41,835 plus the one-time $500 bonus.
However, for years teacher pay in Utah has lagged well behind other states.
And even with increases in the WPU over the last few years, Utah still ranks last in the nation in per-student spending.
Many young teachers still leave the profession within the first five years on the job – low pay being a significant reason.
In the 2018 session, lawmakers passed a bill that could provide even more money to schools – and thus to teacher pay – to the tune of $120 million a year.
The bill goes on November’s ballot for voter approval – and would increase the gasoline tax by 10 cents a gallon, with equal monies being shifted between state funds, and the gas increase amount ending up in the Education Fund.
Also, lawmakers “froze” the property tax rate for five years, allowing inflation to increase the property tax take by districts, adding another $375 million to school budgets.
All this is good news for school and per-student spending. And will mean pay hikes for teachers depending on which district they work for.
Still, Jones finds:
Even budget-minded Republicans want more pay for teachers, 77-13 percent, with 7 percent wanting another option and 3 percent undecided.
Democrats really want teachers to earn more, 94-3 percent.
Political independents also want teacher pay hikes, 76-18 percent.
Utah women usually have more to do with educating their children than men.
And most teachers are women.
Accordingly, Jones finds that while 74 percent of men want higher teacher pay, 87 percent of women do.
Even the government-spending curmudgeons – those who say they are “very conservative” politically – want more teacher pay, 69-19 percent.
Those who are “somewhat conservative” favor pay hikes, 77-13 percent.
The “moderates” like the idea, 82-14 percent.
And over 90 percent of “somewhat” and “very” liberal Utahns also favor higher teacher pay, finds Jones.
Mormons have long supported public education in Utah; and have more children than non-Mormons, who in turn pack the schools.
Jones finds that by 81-12 percent “very active” Mormons want higher teacher pay.
All other religious groups in Utah also show large majorities in favor of higher pay; and those with no religion favor it, 80-12 percent.
Jones polled 615 adults from May15-25. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.