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Majority of Californians supports teachers striking over wages, poll finds

Scenes from Sac City Unified teachers one-day strike

Rosa Parks first-grade elementary school teacher Lucia Drake explains why Sacramento City Unified School District is striking on April 11, 2019.
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Rosa Parks first-grade elementary school teacher Lucia Drake explains why Sacramento City Unified School District is striking on April 11, 2019.

Teachers who have gone on strike in Sacramento, Los Angeles and Oakland demanding higher pay have the backing of most California adults, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll released Wednesday.

Sixty-one percent of Californians say they support public school teachers striking for pay increases, according to the nonpartisan think tank’s survey. An equal share say teachers in their communities aren’t paid enough.

Earlier this month, more than 1,500 Sacramento teachers staged a one-day strike to protest what they say are unfair labor practices in the school district.

It followed days-long protests in Oakland and Los Angeles earlier this year.

Although most Californians agreed with teachers’ salary demands, they’re less keen on those teachers’ demands to crack down on charter schools in the state, the poll found.

Charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run, have drawn harsh criticism from California’s teachers unions and have been a sticking point in recent teachers’ strikes.

But Californians are divided on charter schools, the PPIC found. Forty-nine percent support them, while 46 percent oppose. Most say they’re concerned about charters siphoning funding from traditional public schools.

“Charter public schools get mixed reviews,” PPIC President Mark Baldassare said in a statement. “Many Californians say it is important to have the option of a charter school, but there are concerns about the fiscal impacts on traditional public schools.”

The poll results came out the same day California lawmakers on the Senate Education Committee approved SB756, a bill to cap the number of charter schools in the state for five years.

The California Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union, supports the bill. It would still need approval from both legislative chambers and the governor to become law.

The poll found 90 percent of Californians want charters held to the same transparency and accountability rules as other public schools. Lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom passed a law to do that earlier this year.

Nearly two-thirds of Californians say they support Newsom’s proposals to expand preschool and kindergarten programs, according to the survey. About three-fourths say K-12 education should be a high priority for the governor, who has promoted early education as a signature issue.

The PPIC surveyed more than 1,500 California adults online in English and Spanish during the first half of April.

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