Poll: Americans say teachers are underpaid, half of Republicans oppose book bans Are parents, teachers and the public feeling as divided as the headlines make it seem? A pair of new NPR/Ipsos polls reveals division, to be sure, but also surprising consensus.

Poll: Americans say teachers are underpaid, about half of Republicans oppose book bans

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From heated debates about book bans to new laws restricting how teachers can talk about race and gender identity in class, America is deeply divided. And those fissures are ripping through our public schools. Now a new NPR/Ipsos poll sheds some light and brings some refreshing nuance to those debates. NPR education correspondent Cory Turner joins us now. Cory, given all the stories these days about fights over what should or what should not be happening in our schools, how are parents really feeling right now?

CORY TURNER, BYLINE: Yeah, well, they tell us in our poll that they overwhelmingly trust their child's teachers A, to make decisions about classroom curriculum. But here's the trick. Many also say they are worried about what their child is being taught or may be taught. Democrats not so much, but nearly half of independents are worried. And for Republican parents, it goes up to 65%. So I asked Mallory Newall - she's a vice president at Ipsos - how does she make sense of this tension between parents saying they trust teachers while also saying that they are worried about what their children may be learning?

MALLORY NEWALL: I think we're seeing the effect of partisan cues from political leaders that have sent signals for these parents to be worried about what's going on in the classroom. And it's easy to get them to doubt.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So what about putting that doubt into action? I mean, in general, are Republicans saying they support efforts like we've seen in Florida to restrict how teachers can talk about things such as race, sexuality and gender identity?

TURNER: The short answer is not broadly, though it does depend some on who is doing that restricting. So let me explain. The poll reveals a very real mistrust of federal and state-level officials getting involved in classrooms. Just 20% of all respondents and only 38% of Republicans support state lawmakers doing the kinds of teacher restrictions we've seen in Florida. Here's Amanda Hickerson (ph). She's a Republican mother of two in Virginia who responded to our poll.

AMANDA HICKERSON: I wouldn't go to my mechanic and tell him how to fix my car. I don't know how to fix my car. That's why I send it to the mechanic. So why are we doing this to our teachers? It just doesn't make any sense to me.

TURNER: Now, I should say, A, we also asked if folks would feel better about teacher restrictions if they come from the local school board instead of state officials. Democrats and independents were still broadly opposed, but support among Republicans does go up, with nearly half in support.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. Now, what about what's among the most controversial topics - book bans, pulling books from school libraries?

TURNER: Yeah. So there's even less support among Democrats and independents for book banning. Among Republicans, support tops out at 41%, but nearly 46% are clearly opposed. I spoke with one mother in Texas who identifies as a Christian conservative. She told me she supports removing books that depict sexual acts. But when I asked about banning books because of their handling of, say, race or politics, which we have also seen, she told me, those don't offend me at all because that opens up a child's mind. I also spoke with several Republican respondents who said, look. This country was founded on liberty. And book banning just doesn't feel American. And it also feels kind of pointless, they told me, when kids can find much worse much faster on the internet.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR education correspondent Cory Turner. Cory, thanks.

TURNER: You're welcome, A.

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