The end of the 2017-2018 school year saw teachers across the country strike for higher wages and improved classroom conditions. Teachers in Arizona, Colorado, West Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Oklahoma went on strike — sometimes for weeks — and were able to secure greater resources for educators in public schools.
These strikes ultimately had a huge impact on students, who weren’t in the classroom and weren’t learning with peers during the protests. So we wanted to find out — what do students think about teacher strikes?
In June, we surveyed nearly 2,000 high-school-age Quizlet users in the U.S. to ask how they feel about teacher protests. Our results show that while national awareness of and support for striking teachers is relatively low, students become much more supportive of the protests if they live in a state where their own educators have recently gone on strike. Here are our findings:
Trend #1: Students support striking teachers if their teachers are striking
Nationally, 43 percent of students we polled were in support of teacher strikes, with 11 percent against the strikes, and 46 percent answering “not sure.” But when we drilled down and looked at responses from students who lived in a state where teachers had walked out, we saw much greater support, with 85 percent of students supporting the educator protests. Of those in favor, 84% responded that it was because they thought their teachers deserved better pay.
Trend #2: Overall awareness of the strikes is low
While the strikes made national news, students nationally aren’t super familiar with them; only 52% of our student respondents were aware that strikes were occuring this Spring. The rest either weren’t aware or weren’t sure — signs that strikes either weren’t covered on news sites students read, or they weren’t discussed broadly outside of the states where strikes were occurring. Nearly 50% of all respondents said they hadn’t discussed the strikes with anyone — not friends, not parents, not teachers.
Trend #3: For students against the strikes, it’s all about time in the classroom
For students who weren’t in favor of the strikes, it’s because they want that time in the classroom with their teacher. Sixty eight percent of students who were against teacher strikes said it was “because it impacts the school day and finishing the curriculum.” After that, the second most popular response was “because it sets a poor example for students” (48 percent), followed by “because raising teacher pay will raises taxes for me and my family” (44 percent).
Trend #4: Students think their teachers deserve more
Separate from questions of support for striking teachers, we also asked students where they would direct funds if their schools had more money. Almost three in four students nationally (72 percent) said they would direct extra funds to teacher salaries. After that, 60 percent supported putting funds toward extracurricular activities. And the third most popular option students picked was in-classroom technology, indicated by 43 percent of students.
As we head into summer break, students and their teachers are taking time away from the classroom to rest up and make plans for the 2018-2019 school year. We’ll be waiting to see what happens as we head back to school in the Fall; will teachers in more states replicate the strikes seen earlier in 2018? Or were those five states both the beginning and the end of this trend?
Regardless of whether students do or do not support teachers striking for better support, there’s room for improvement across the board on ensuring students know about the issues that most impact them and their lives. From teacher strikes to student loans to freedom of speech on campus — there are so many issues affecting students today. The better we can provide information on all sides of an issue, the better equipped students will be to make their own decisions — and ultimately chart their own paths.