Florida teachers union survey finds broad support for teacher pay boost, smaller class sizes
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teacher pay
Improving public education might not be as partisan as some believe.

A new poll finds, perhaps unsurprisingly, bipartisan support for improving public education, including adequate school funding, long-term teacher contracts, and higher teacher pay.

The Florida Education Association, the state’s teacher union representing preK-12 teachers, education staff, and higher education faculty and graduate assistants and students, contracted with Clearview Research on a poll taken Aug. 11-19.

It found broad support for the FEA’s priorities regardless of party affiliation.

The poll used two samples — 800 likely Florida voters balanced by statewide political party demographics and another with 1,000 likely Republican voters. The results show 93% of all respondents believe the state should ensure access to “highly qualified and certified teachers.” Among only GOP respondents, 92% agreed with the statement.

While each priority showed broad support among all parties, there were differences in overall support across all political affiliations and those held by Republicans only.

When presented with the priority, “we need to pay our teachers more so Florida can have stronger and better schools,” 89% of all respondents agreed. Among Republicans, only 82% agreed.

Similarly, 87% of all respondents agreed the state should retain “professional teachers by ensuring they receive fair pay.” Results among only GOP respondents showed 85% support.

A substantial 87% of respondents, among all political parties and the sample group of just Republican voters, agreed the state should ensure “public schools are funded so that we have the strongest schools in the nation.”

“The poll makes it clear. Ensuring strong public schools is a nonpartisan issue,” said FEA President Andrew Spar in a news release announcing survey results. “Whether they’re Republican, Democrat or other, a majority of Floridians want to support educators with fair salaries, so they don’t seek employment elsewhere.”

“They want to ensure that schools have highly qualified and certified teachers and support educators’ priorities for making schools stronger — promoting teacher-led assessments over standardized tests, reducing class sizes, allowing qualified teachers to earn long-term contracts so that the best educators will stay in our schools.”

On long-term contracts, 85% of all respondents believed they should be offered, while 78% of GOP respondents agreed. Broadly, 76% believe class sizes should be smaller, with 73% GOP respondents agreeing. Rolling back standardized testing was less popular, though still garnered support from an overwhelming majority of respondents, including 66% of all respondents and 63% of GOP voters.

The survey is timely, released on the first day of Committee Weeks ahead of the 2022 Legislative Session, which convenes in January.

“As we talk with lawmakers about our priorities for Florida’s public schools, students and employees, we know the public is with us,” Spar said. “A majority of Floridians want our public schools to be the strongest in the nation.

Notably, the FEA has support from Gov. Ron DeSantis on the standardized testing issue, after he last week announced his goal of replacing the state’s current Florida Standards Assessment model, which provides students with a single high-stakes test at the end of each school year, with more frequent shorter tests to gauge student success.

Given it’s a gubernatorial priority, which has cross-party appeal and support from the FEA, the issue is likely to come up during the 2022 Legislative Session. Lawmakers will likely address school masking as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on; DeSantis’ administration continues to push back against local mask mandates despite a lower-court ruling against his Executive Order banning such mandates. The FEA survey, however, did not address that issue.

The survey has a 3% margin of error at a 95% confidence level.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


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