FILE - Classroom teacher

A teachers union-sponsored poll of Illinois residents found that most think public school teachers should be paid more, receive their pensions earlier, and have the state provide more funding for public education. 

They also said high quality public schools are more important than lowering taxes, reforming the state’s pensions, reducing violence, and balancing the state’s budget, a constitutional requirement.

Fifty-seven percent also told them that the state of Illinois “was headed off on the wrong track.”

A thousand respondents gave We Ask America and Normington-Petts answers between November 13 and 21. 

Fifty-two percent said public school teachers were paid too little and sixty-two percent say teachers should be able to retire with their full pension benefits at 60, compared to 67 for teachers hired after 2011. The average Illinois worker retires at 63, according to smartasset.com.

Teachers hired before 2011 can retire with full pensions at 55 with some exceptions.

The polling’s feature question found that, on a scale of one to 10, how important a number of issues were. Eighty-one percent said “having high quality public schools” was important, a higher percentage than solving the state’s pension and budget issues or lessening gun violence.

“The State of Education Report tells us we have a long way to go when it comes to fixing the teacher shortage,” IEA President Kathi Griffin said in a release. “The people of Illinois have spoken. We need to invest in our public schools, give our educators a louder voice at the table and truly put our students first.”

Some of the data show the polling is similar to the makeup of Illinois and different in others. 

The people polled skew 43 percent Democratic compared to 35 percent Republican and 21 percent independent.

One question on the poll asked if they, or anyone in their immediate family, works or has worked in a public school. Twenty-seven percent said yes. According to the Illinois State Board of Education’s most recent figures, there are 170,915 total active full time public school personnel, or 1.3 percent of the state’s population. 

Sixty-nine percent of respondents were from the Chicago metropolitan area, which includes Cook County and the five suburban collar counties, about the same breakdown as the state’s overall population.

Chicago Public Schools, the area and state’s largest public school system, recently agreed to a new contract with their teachers union that included a 16 percent raise for teachers who are already given total compensation of nearly $100,000 annually. Thirty five other districts in that same area are paid more than the median CPS teacher. 

The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent with 95 percent confidence.

Staff Reporter

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Bloomington/Normal and Peoria, and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.