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Support for teachers unions at an all-time low

Published: Wednesday, June 13 2012 9:30 a.m. MDT

A new survey by Harvard's Program on Education Policy and Governance and Education Next has found that public support for teachers unions is eroding.

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Public support for teachers unions is eroding, according to a new survey by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and Education Next. Researchers asked:

“Some people say that teacher unions are a stumbling block to school reform. Others say that unions fight for better schools and better teachers. What do you think? Do you think teacher unions have a generally positive effect on schools, or do you think they have a generally negative effect?”

Participants were asked to choose one of five responses: very positive, somewhat positive, neither positive nor negative, somewhat negative, and very negative.

The results are dramatic. Only 22 percent of the public has a very positive positive view of unions in 2012, down from 29 percent in 2011. More striking, only 43 percent of teachers have a very positive view, down from 58 percent the year before. Teachers holding a negative view nearly doubled to 32 percent from 17 percent in 2011.

Researchers also found that when participants were given only two choices on their assessment of union impact, 71 percent of teachers said unions had a positive impact. However, the public split down the middle on the either/or option: 51 percent said unions had a negative impact, while 49 percent said their effect was positive.

Evidence of declining support for public sector unions abounds around the country. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's victory in the recall election "shows us that, despite all the noise, unions are in decline in traditionally Democrat-leaning Midwestern states," writes David Harsanyi for Human Events. In California, a solidly blue state, there is wide support for decreasing public employee pensions.

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