Teachers relying on second jobs, debt to make ends meet

In light of recent teacher strikes, Ipsos and NPR examined teachers’ views on pay, unions, and more

The author(s)

  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Director, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC, May 2, 2018 — In light of the recent teacher strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, and Colorado, Ipsos partnered with NPR to examine attitudes among K-12 teachers across America. More than 8 in 10 teachers (82%) agree that public school teachers have a right to strike. The American public agrees; in a concurrent survey among 1,005 Americans aged 18+, three-quarters of Americans agree that public school teachers have a right to strike, and just 1 in 4 believe public school teachers are paid fairly.

Over the course of their career, a majority of teachers (59%) report having worked a second job to make ends meet, and nearly half (46%) have run up debt to do the same. In the last year alone, more than 1 in 3 teachers (36%) has run up debt to make ends meet. Teachers also express discontent with the resources available to them: 86% say that over the course of their career they have purchased school supplies with their own money, and more than three-quarters (77%) report devoting their own time outside of school hours to help students.

Union membership has been declining over the years; currently, 48% of all teachers saying that they do not belong to a union, compared to 46% who are part of a union. Views toward unions, as well as time and money spent, vary greatly between unionized teachers and non-unionized teachers.  Three-quarters (73%) of unionized teachers say teachers’ unions improve the quality of teachers, compared to 51% of non-unionized teachers. Similarly, 77% of unionized teachers believe unions improve the quality of education, compared to 49% of non-unionized teachers. Both groups are in agreement, however, that teachers’ unions make it harder to fire bad teachers (62% of unionized teachers and 64% percent of non-unionized teachers agree). Nearly all unionized teachers approve of their local union leadership (90% approve, compared to 44% of non-unionized teachers), and three-quarters (74%) approve of national teachers’ unions (compared to 50% of non-unionized teachers).
When it comes to the role of teachers’ unions, nine in ten teachers think it’s important that unions represent their members in disputes, negotiate salaries and benefits, and negotiate working conditions. According to unionized teachers, union leaders are delivering in their promises: 85% of all unionized teachers approve of the way their local union is handling disputes and 86% approve of the way their union handles negotiating salaries, benefits, and working conditions. Fewer non-unionized teachers agree, as they are much more likely to answer “don’t know” across the board. Half (49%) of unionized teachers believe their local union has had a positive impact when it comes to advancing their career.


About the Study

These are findings from an Ipsos poll conducted April 6-12, 2018 on behalf NPR. For the survey, a sample of 504 teachers age 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii were interviewed online in English. The sample includes 226 unionized teachers and 258 non-unionized teachers.

The sample for this study was randomly drawn from Ipsos’s online panel (see link below for more info on “Access Panels and Recruitment”), partner online panel sources, and “river” sampling (see link below for more info on the Ipsos “Ampario Overview” sample method) and does not rely on a population frame in the traditional sense. Ipsos uses fixed sample targets, unique to each study, in drawing sample. After a sample has been obtained from the Ipsos panel, Ipsos calibrates respondent characteristics to be representative of the U.S. Population using standard procedures such as raking-ratio adjustments. The source of these population targets is U.S. Census 2016 American Community Survey data. The sample drawn for this study reflects fixed sample targets on demographics. Post-hoc weights were made to the population characteristics on race/ethnicity and grade taught.

Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error. Where figures do not sum to 100, this is due to the effects of rounding. An asterisk (*) indicates less than 1 percent. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 5.0 percentage points for all respondents. Ipsos calculates a design effect (DEFF) for each study based on the variation of the weights, following the formula of Kish (1965). This study had a credibility interval adjusted for design effect of the following (n=504, DEFF=1.5, adjusted Confidence Interval=6.5).

The poll also has a credibility interval plus or minus 7.4 percentage points for unionized teachers and plus or minus 7.0 percentage points for non-unionized teachers.

For more information about conducting research intended for public release or Ipsos’ online polling methodology, please visit our Public Opinion Polling and Communication page where you can download our brochure, see our public release protocol, or contact us.

For more information on this news release, please contact:
Chris Jackson
Vice President, U.S.
Ipsos Public Affairs
+1 202 420-2025

Mallory Newall
Director, U.S.
Ipsos Public Affairs
+1 202 420-2014



The author(s)

  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Director, US, Public Affairs

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