1 in 5 Teachers Needs a Second Job

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(Courtesy of The Chicago Sun Times)

MIAMI — By day, Wade Brosz teaches American history at an A-rated Florida middle school. By night, he is a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness.

Brosz took the three-night a week job at the gym after his teaching salary was frozen, summer school was reduced drastically, and the state bonus for board certified teachers was cut. He figures that he and his wife, also a teacher, are making about $20,000 less teaching than expected to, combined.

“The second job was to get back what was lost through cuts,” said Brosz, a nationally board certified teacher. “It was tougher and tougher to make ends meet. I started personal training because it’s flexible hours.”

Second jobs are not a new phenomenon for teachers, who have historically been paid less than other professionals. In 1981, about 11 percent of teachers were moonlighting; the number has risen to about one in five today. They are bartenders, waitresses, tutors, school bus drivers and even lawnmowers.

Now, with the severe cuts many school districts have made, teachers like Brosz, who hadn’t considered juggling a second job before, are searching the want ads. The number of public school teachers who reported holding a second job outside school increased slightly from 2003-04 to 2007-08. While there is no national data for more recent years, reports from individual states and districts indicate the number may have climbed further since the start of the recession.

In Texas, for example, the percentage of teachers who moonlight has increased from 22 percent in 1980 to 41 percent in 2010.

“It’s the economy, primarily,” said Sam Sullivan, a professor at Sam Houston State University, which conducts the survey.

Rita Haecker, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, said cuts in education have forced many teachers to take furlough days. It’s an extra strain because, unlike in the past, many teachers are now the primary breadwinner, either because they are a single parent or their spouse is unemployed, Haecker said.

“It affects their morale in the classroom,” she said. “The last thing we want is our teachers worried about how they are going to pay their bills.”

The average salary for a public school teacher nationwide in the 2009-10 school year was $55,350, a figure that has remained relatively flat, after being adjusted for inflation, over the last two decades. Starting teacher salaries can be significantly lower; compared to college graduates in other professions, they earn more than $10,000 less when beginning their careers.

“I think people have felt the need to supplement their teaching salaries in order to have a middle class lifestyle,” said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, which published a study this year concluding the average weekly pay of teachers in 2010 was about 12 percent below that of workers with similar education and experience.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which collects data on student performance across the globe, advised the United States earlier this year to work at elevating the teaching profession in order to improve student performance. The recommendations included measures like raising the bar for who is selected to become a teacher, providing better training and better pay. In many nations where students outperform the U.S. in reading, math and science, including Japan and South Korea, teachers earn more than they do in the United States.

“International comparisons show that in the countries with the highest performance, teachers are typically paid better relative to others, education credentials are valued more, and a higher share of educational spending is devoted to instructional services than is the case in the United States,” the OECD report concluded.

While moonlighting isn’t unique to teachers, they do tend to have second or third jobs at a higher rate than other professionals. One researcher estimates their moonlighting rates may be four times higher than those of other full-time, college educated salaried workers.

Eleanor Blair Hilty, an education professor at Western Carolina University, said most teachers make around $5,000 through outside work. Yet when asked if they would quit if given a raise in the equivalent amount, most said no. Her conclusion: teachers are getting something more from their second job other than an extra paycheck.

“A lot of it has to do with what I think is wrong with the teaching profession,” Hilty said, noting that teachers have little autonomy and control over what and how they teach. “They found their moonlighting jobs to be satisfying.”

Policies on moonlighting vary by district; some have no written guidelines, while others merely advise teachers to ensure any outside work doesn’t interfere with their duties at school.

In North Carolina, a survey conducted in 2007 found 72 percent of teachers moonlight, whether it’s an after-school job or summer employment.

“There’s a culture of silence,” Hilty said. “Everybody knows that moonlighting goes on and they know it’s part of what teachers do but nobody likes to talk about it very much.”

Michelle Hartman, a language arts and science teacher at a Plantation, Fla., elementary school, is balancing two other jobs, one as an organist with the local Presbyterian church, playing at church services, weddings and funerals, and another doing janitorial work twice a week at her father’s accounting firm.

The single mother has a master’s degree in educational leadership and has been a teacher 15 years. But she says she cannot afford to leave any of her extra jobs, which she said brings in about $6,000 a year, in addition to her $46,000 teaching salary.

“I’m tired some days,” Hartman said. “But no matter what, it doesn’t matter because I know I need to be there for the students.”

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