Contracts for teachers in the town of Hopkinton don’t expire until next year, but the teachers’ union there is already gearing up for negotiations.

Hopkinton Teachers Association President Becky Abate said the recent teacher strikes in Newton and Andover inspired them to think about asking for better benefits.

“What Andover and Newton got, especially the parental leave, was jaw-dropping for my members,” Abate said. “It didn’t seem like it was in the realm of possibility, so we are going to ask for more than we would have before.”

More Massachusetts teachers’ unions in the state are on strike or considering it, despite a 1973 law that makes it illegal for public employees including teachers to do so. But a new GBH News/CommonWealth Beacon poll conducted by the MassINC Polling Group found that 50% of people in Massachusetts thought teacher strikes should be legal.

A little more than a third of those polled said strikes should remain illegal, and another 16% didn’t respond to the question (toplines, crosstabs).

Following the pandemic, Massachusetts educators took to the picket line in Andover, Brookline, Haverhill, Malden, Melrose, Newton and Woburn.

Somerville State Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven, who co-sponsored a bill this year to legalize public employee strikes, said she was not surprised by the poll results and sees the level of community support for legalizing them growing.

“They’re also fighting for their students. They’re fighting for their schools. They’re fighting for their communities,” Uyterhoeven said. “Often the reason people go on strike is not just simply about wages and benefits, but it’s also about ensuring that students are getting the mental health support they need and the resources they need to thrive so that we are not just scraping by.”

The bill stalled in a committee on Labor and Workforce Development in February. And it has its opponents because teacher strikes also come at a cost — not only to learning, but to working parents, who must scramble to cover child care during a strike, and their employers.

Thomas Scott, co-executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, which opposes the measure, said legalizing strikes will probably make them more common.

He said when the state Legislature in Pennsylvania legalized strikes for public employees, including school districts, that’s what happened.

More than 130 teacher strikes took place in Pennsylvania in the nearly 20-year period between 1999 and 2018, according to the Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative think tank in Pennsylvania. That's more than six strikes a year.

A Mother Jones Magazine tally of teacher strikes across the United States found that 740 of 839 strikes that took place between 1968 and 2012 occurred in Pennsylvania.

Teacher strikes also strike a blow to learning and a school community, Scott said.

“There are a lot of implications for how it really impacts the culture of relationships, between school committee, administrators, teachers, families, parents and even their relationship with the school,” he said. “In some cases, the longer a strike occurs, those damages become even more significant.”

Legal or not, the number of teacher strikes in Massachusetts has been on the rise in recent years. The longest was the Newton teachers’ 11-day strike in January. School was canceled and a court fined the teachers’ union $625,000. Parents also filed lawsuits against the union seeking damages they said would “easily exceed $25 million.”

Parents said the strike caused “real damage,” such as learning loss, emotional distress, missed work shifts and out-of-pocket costs for tutors and day camps, according to the court complaint.

Newton Teachers Association President Michael Zilles said the strike was costly for the union as well, leaving it with a $300,000 deficit. But he said they had no alternative.

“The rules are stacked against us,” Zilles said. “It’s just clear that the school committee has no ultimate incentive to bargain in good faith.”

Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said she was unavailable to comment through a spokesperson.

In Hopkinton, a wealthy community famous as the starting point for the Boston Marathon, teachers watched Newton educators win a 12% pay increase over four years with great interest. Teachers there were also guaranteed at least eight weeks of paid leave.

“I don't know how that would play out in a town like Hopkinton, but I think it's a win for Newton, and they deserve to feel that after everything that they sacrificed,” Abate, the union president, said recently.

But no strike is under consideration in Hopkinton right now, she said, calling it a very last resort.