Carolina Forward’s newest poll delivers a searing rebuttal to the plans for education enclosed in the North Carolina Senate’s budget proposal. Across the board North Carolinians back educators and exhibit preferences antithetical to the austerity policies Senator Berger has decided yet again to pursue in his crusade against public education. This is still an education state despite ten years of attacks on public schools.
It is widely known that people do not trust politicians. But there is a group North Carolinians do trust: public-school educators. Asked if they trust teachers and principals to do what’s best for our kids’ education, voters say yes by a 60% to 36% margin:
Democrats and Independents trust public educators by wide margins. By an overwhelming margin of 84%-12%, Democrats trust educators in our state. But Independents do too, with a solid 53% majority trusting educators. Not as promising is evidence that bad-faith propaganda from the state’s hard-right seems to have persuaded Republican voters, 54% of whom do not trust educators. But the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of North Carolinians do not seem moved by wild tales of school “indoctrination.” This view unites people across the color line, with Black, white and “other” respondents agreeing by similar margins.
These results suggest that Republicans have been unsuccessful in sowing distrust in public schools even among their rural base. Fifty-four percent of rural voters say they trust teachers and principals to do what’s best for our children’s education. Suburban voters, likewise, trust educators. This may help explain why Democrats have had success picking up seats in the inner-ring suburbs, and indicates that a continued emphasis on education could help the party expand to the outer-ring suburbs in the future. The Democrats’ urban base is especially supportive of public educators, with 71% expressing trust.
Just as they trust educators, North Carolinians overwhelmingly believe our teachers are underpaid. This is hard to deny when Senate Republicans are only willing to give a begrudging 3% raise over two years. North Carolina voters agree: by almost a 1-to-2 margin, only 31% of voters saw our teachers as being paid “fairly,” compared to a whopping 64% who believe teachers are getting short shrift.
Democrats, Independents, and even Republicans agree that teachers are not paid fairly. Support for this position varies from 74% among Democrats to a narrower majority of 52% for Republicans. Republican voters may be leery of public schools, but they still support teachers where it counts.
Urban and suburban voters overwhelmingly believe teachers are not paid fairly. This is the rare issue where suburbanites take almost as progressive a position as voters in the cities. Sixty-eight percent of suburban voters think teachers are not paid fairly, barely lower than the 72% of urban voters who take the same position. Hard-pressed rural voters are a bit more likely to say educators are paid fairly, perhaps unsurprising given the economic hardship endemic in rural areas. But by a wide margin, they still say teachers are not paid fairly. Right-wing pundits may say North Carolinians want austerity budgets, but the reality is North Carolina voters in every type of community think teachers deserve a better deal.
Overall, this new poll suggests that Republicans have a long way to go in persuading voters that they support education. Despite making a public show about the issue for a few months every two years at election time, the GOP’s dedication to austerity policies show through. A huge swath of voters see and interact with public schools and teachers every single day, which makes it extremely difficult to convince them that teachers are, for example, engaged in a widespread conspiracy of “indoctrination.” Instead, they believe that our educators should be supported and paid fairly - and we agree.