50 Years of American Voices


PDK International

The 50th annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools

“Even as most Americans continue to say they have high trust and confidence in teachers, a majority also say they don’t want their own children to become teachers, most often citing poor pay and benefits as the primary reason for their reluctance.

“Among key findings in this report are the remarkable support for improving teacher salaries — and record-high compunctions about entering the profession, in part given poor pay. Two-thirds of Americans say teacher pay in their community is too low; just 6% say it’s too high. An overwhelming 73% say they would support teachers in their community if they went on strike for higher salaries, including about 6 in 10 Republicans.

“As things stand, 54% of Americans say they would not want their child to become a public school teacher, a majority for the first time in a question initially asked in 1969. Poor pay and benefits are at the top of the list of reasons why, cited by 3 in 10 of those who’d rather not see their child go into teaching. In a related result, funding remains the most commonly cited problem facing the public schools, a result that’s been consistent since the early 2000s."

What was happening in American education in 2018?

Feb. 14, 2018: A former student opens fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., killing 17 students and staff members. This shooting sets off a new nationwide discussion about school security with Stoneman Douglas students taking the lead.

2018 Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Getty Images 960334470

An expelled student killed 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (Getty Images)

March 6, 2018: After a nine-day strike, West Virginia teachers struck a deal with the state legislature for a 5% pay raise.The state also agreed to look into rising health insurance premiums, and freeze them temporarily.

May 18, 2018: Eight students and two teachers are killed and 10 others injured in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas.

June 27, 2018: In Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31, the U.S. Supreme Court decides public service employees no longer must pay dues or agency fees but may still receive union-negotiated benefits.

Aug. 22, 2018: Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos considers allowing school districts to divert federal money from educational programs to buying guns for teachers, igniting a firestorm of responses from educators and others.

What else was happening in the United States?

Jan. 24, 2018: Olympic gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar is sentenced to 175 years in prison for criminal sexual conduct.

Feb. 16, 2018: Special counsel Robert Mueller announces that 13 Russians have been charged with interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

March 7, 2018: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had an affair with President Donald Trump, files a lawsuit against him, alleging that a nondisclosure contract she signed is invalid.

March 6, 2018: The opioid epidemic is reported to be worse than previously believed.

March 13, 2018: President Trump fires Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

April 26, 2018: Comedian Bill Cosby is found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault. He is later sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison.

May 25, 2018: Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein is charged with rape and several other counts of sexual abuse in one of the most prominent cases of the #MeToo movement.

July 13, 2018: A federal grand jury charges 12 Russian military intelligence officers with hacking Democratic Party computer networks during the 2016 presidential election.

July 16, 2018: President Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, later praising Russia and Putin, which draws sharp criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.

August 2018: In one 10-day period in August, singer Aretha Franklin, Arizona Sen. John McCain, and playwright-composer Neil Simon die.

Sept. 5, 2018: An unnamed senior Trump official writes in the New York Times that members of the administration are working to frustrate parts of the President's agenda to protect the country from his "worst inclinations.”

Oct. 6, 2018: The U.S. Senate confirms Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court in spite of accusations of sexual assaults.

Nov. 6, 2018: The Democrats regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives during the mid-term elections and also gain seven new gubernatorial seats.

Nov. 7, 2018: Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigns at the request of President Donald Trump.

Nov. 30, 2018: Former President George H.W. Bush dies at age 94.

Dec. 20, 2018: Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis resigns after failing to persuade President Donald Trump to reconsider his decision to withdraw remaining American troops from Syria.

Dec. 22, 2018. A partial shutdown of the government begins after Congress fails to agree on a budget.

Share “2018”:


We welcome your conversation about the poll results and the other information we’ve assembled here. What did we forget? What do you remember about this year? How do you think the events of this year influenced the responses to our questions?