MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Teachers in this country are fired up.
UNIDENTIFIED TEACHERS: (Singing) We're not going to take it. No, we aren't going to take it.
KELLY: That is from a teacher walkout in Oklahoma last month. Today, schools in Arizona are closed because teachers are on strike there. We've also seen walkouts recently in West Virginia, in Colorado, in Kentucky. A new NPR and Ipsos poll of teachers from around the U.S. shows most of them support teachers' right to strike. The poll also finds that 59 percent of teachers have had to work a second job at some point to make ends meet.
NPR's Anya Kamenetz is here with more about these poll results. Hey there.
ANYA KAMENETZ, BYLINE: Hi.
KELLY: So 59 percent of teachers - that's kind of amazing for having to work a second job on top of teaching.
KAMENETZ: Yes. And again, this is a representative sample of teachers from all 50 states. And on top of that, almost half said they had to run up debt to pay the bills, and most said they had at some point worked a second job. One of them who told us this was Dayna Smith, a 15-year veteran high school English teacher in Gilbert, Ariz. And she talked to our producer Clare Lombardo.
DAYNA SMITH: I've been tutoring. I've done babysitting. I've cleaned houses. At one point, I did some office cleaning in the evening.
KAMENETZ: And of course that's on top of the demands of the job itself. More than three quarters of teachers told us they'd help students outside of school hours. And more than 8 in 10 had bought school supplies out of their own pockets.
KELLY: Wow. So does - do those numbers help explain some of the support that you're finding, that this poll is finding among teachers for these teacher strikes?
KAMENETZ: Yeah, I think so. You know, 4 out of 5 of these teachers told us they're at least somewhat supportive of the right to strike for teachers, and that's a little bit higher than the general public. However, these feeling are nuanced. I mean, teachers feel a real sense of responsibility, I think, towards their students. So Eva Schultz, who's a fifth grade teacher in New Haven, Conn., told us...
EVA SCHULTZ: I see the long-term goal. But short-term, I think it's going to be difficult for those students.
KAMENETZ: And Smith, our teacher in Arizona, felt the same way. In fact, we reached her during the walkout, and she wasn't on the picket lines. She said she was very sympathetic to the cause, but...
SMITH: My problem is that we're public employees, and we're not hurting a nameless, faceless corporation. We're hurting the people we're supposed to be here to serve.
KELLY: That's interesting to hear, and I wonder if - Anya, if you can put this in context for us in terms of what may be coming next, where we are in the arc of these strikes and walkouts.
KAMENETZ: Yeah, so, you know, a little less than half of teachers nationwide are actually in a union. And most of these walkouts have occurred in right-to-work states where unions are smaller and weaker. And so with so much of this organizing happening grassroots, over social media, it really raises the question of whether there's enough political structure in place to keep this movement rolling.
KELLY: All right, thanks, Anya.
KAMENETZ: Thank you.
KELLY: Anya Kamenetz with NPR's Ed team.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.