If teachers were responsible for making budget decisions in this time of limited resources, 64 percent of them would “cut as much money as necessary from administration, supplies, and support services so that teachers could continue to get fair salary increases,” a new survey has found.
The 1991 Metropolitan Life Survey of the American Teacher found that 59 percent of the 1,000 public-school teachers interviewed by the polling firm Louis Harris and Associates would reduce the number of special classes and activities to protect their school’s core curriculum.
The most unacceptable option for dealing with a tight budget was increasing class size, which was favored by only 9 percent of the teachers surveyed.
Despite nearly a decade of sustained national interest in improving the nation’s schools, the survey found a high degree of satisfaction with the quality of schools among teachers. Forty-five percent said they thought that the quality of education in their school was excellent, while 49 percent rated it as good; the rest gave their schools fair or poor marks.
Teachers also were quite satisfied with their ability to teach students coming from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, despite the poor achievement levels of many minority youngsters that have led policymakers to call for new instructional strategies for diverse learners.
Only 13 percent of teachers surveyed said that better training for working with students and families from a variety of ethnic backgrounds would have helped them when they began teaching.
Asked what would be of most help now, 54 percent of the teachers surveyed cited smaller classes and better supplies and educational materials. More opportunities for working collaboratively with other teachers was named by 21 percent of the respondents, while 23 percent said training and support for dealing with students’ social problems would be helpful now.
Asked about various proposals for improving school financing, 75 percent of the teachers surveyed endorsed the idea of providing “greater financial assistance to schools with more poverty and students with more educational problems than to schools that have students who are better off.”
An overwhelming majority of8teachers, 85 percent, rejected the idea of linking funding increases to the performance of students in schools.
Opposition to funding schools based on student performance was “uniformly strong among all teacher groups,” the survey found, including 80 percent of teachers who said they worked in schools of excellent quality, which presumably would benefit from such a funding arrangement.
Teachers were evenly split over the question of whether all schools should receive the same amount of state assistance, regardless of the school district’s own resources.
In a substantial change from the findings of the 1989 Metropolitan Life teacher survey, only 19 percent of the teachers surveyed this year said they were “very likely” (9 percent) or “somewhat likely” (10 percent) to leave teaching in the next five years.
In 1989, when asked the same question, 33 percent of teachers said they were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to leave the profession.
This year, 56 percent of the teachers responding said they were “not at all likely” to leave teaching, while 25 percent said they were “not very likely” to leave. In 1989, 40 percent of teachers said they were “not at all likely” to quit their jobs.
The survey noted that the weak state of the economy could be making teaching a more attractive occupation than it is when the economy is stronger and teachers have more options to pursue outside the classroom.
Teachers who reported that they were considering leaving teaching in the next five years cited the difficulty of teaching students with social problems, the need to make more money, and the lack of support from school administrators as influencing their thinking.
A version of this article appeared in the May 08, 1991 edition of Education Week as 64% of Teachers Back Cuts To Keep Pay Hikes, Survey Finds