Illinoisans believe teaching is harder than ever, support fixes

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Education Association (IEA) will release its sixth annual IEA State of Education report on Tues., March 12, the only bipartisan poll monitoring Illinoisans’ views on all aspects of public schools. The findings will be shared during a news conference today on Zoom at 10 a.m.

The poll results show Illinoisans believe all students have a right to a public education and support public schools, but they also acknowledge teaching has grown increasingly difficult and support solutions to address the problems.

“It’s abundantly clear that the people of Illinois see the hard work our educators are doing and they deeply value public education. We can look at the results of this poll over the last several years and clearly see a trend: people have a growing appreciation for their teachers, education support staff and our higher education faculty and staff.  But they also know teachers and support staff jobs have gotten much more difficult, and that they’re still underpaid and undervalued,” IEA President Al Llorens said.

“The data clearly show us Illinoisans have a growing support for public education, the education support staff (ESPs) and teachers who do that work,” Normington Petts Pollster Jill Normington said. “We’ve been doing this poll for six years now, and because of that, we have some great comparables and the ability to see trends. This year we saw increased support in nearly every area of our poll from teacher pensions to funding for public schools.”

The results tell us having high-quality public schools is more important than balancing the state budget, reforming pensions and jobs/economic growth.

Other key findings from the State of Education report include:

  • 76% of people think teaching has become harder over the last few years;
  • 79% of the public say they are very worried about the teacher shortage;
  • 74% believe funding for public schools should increase;
  • 58% believe teachers are underpaid;
  • 71% of people say education support staff are underpaid;
  • 87% of the public would support changes to make schools safer;
  • 91% of Illinoisans believe that students have a right to a public education;
  • 80% of residents believe more money should be spent combatting mental health issues among college students.

“What all this should tell us is that public education is a very important issue to the people of this great state, and they don’t want the status quo, they want better for our students, teachers, faculty and staff. They overwhelmingly believe all children have a right to a high-quality, equitable public education.” Llorens said. “Strong schools are an investment in the future of our students and also the future of our state. However, we are never going to have strong, equitable schools for all students until our schools are fully funded, until our education support staff are paid a living wage and until our teachers’ and faculty pay and benefits are on par with the work they do. We can’t have great schools without great teachers and education support staff.”

The poll, conducted by both a democrat polling firm, Normington Petts, and a republican pollster, Next Generation Strategies, surveyed 1,000 Illinoisans Jan. 22-25. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent with 95 percent confidence.

“This is the only poll like this in our state. It’s the only time we really get to see what the people of Illinois think about public education, and we’re doing that in a truly bi-partisan way,” Next Generation Strategies Pollster Pat Brady said.

For more information on this year’s results, as well as previous years, view the IEA State of Education page.


At 135,000 members strong, the Illinois Education Association (IEA) is the largest union in Illinois. The IEA represents PreK-12 teachers outside the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty and support staff, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.

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Bridget Shanahan
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