Every educator has at least one colleague who leaves the classroom, cafeteria, or school bus at the end of the workday or sacrifices weekend time with the family to rush to another job. Maybe you are that person.
When I taught at Orchard Elementary in Utah in the ’80s, the joke around the lunch table was that teaching paid a perfectly adequate, even handsome…supplemental income.
We made a list one year and found that our professional teaching faculty included a waitress, a lifeguard, a shoe salesman, a clerk in Sears’ lingerie department, a disc jockey, a furniture mover, and a secretary.
I was the secretary. I typed 90 words a minute and had a friendly phone voice, so I filled in through a temp agency for vacationing secretaries. I’d go to my second job after dropping my own boys off at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club. Good times. Not.
If you’re a teacher with a part-time job, you’ve got lots of company. A National Center for Education Statistics report says that 18 percent of full-time public school teachers hold part-time jobs.
Nationally, teachers who supplemented their income with part-time work earned an average of $5,100 from jobs in fields other than teaching, and an average of $4,500 in jobs related to the teaching field, such as tutoring.
In the Winter 2018 issue of NEA Today, educators opened up about why they take a variety of part-time jobs, such as managing dental offices, tutoring, bartending, delivering pizzas, landscaping, driving for rideshare companies, and clerking at hotels. And it’s not for the thrill of it.
“We work second jobs because our salaries alone are not sufficient to pay our bills, let alone save for the future,” one teacher said. In a recent survey, 85 percent of San Francisco teachers said they are anxious about their financial situation, compared to 63 percent of other employed adults. That’s not good for educators or students, and it certainly doesn’t help us attract people to our field.
Teachers’ pay continues to fall behind the pay of comparable workers with similar levels of experience and education. In 2015, teacher pay was 17 percent lower than for comparable workers. Two decades earlier, it was 1.8 percent lower.
No wonder educator pay is in the spotlight. The #RedForEd movement has taken off, with educators across the nation walking out of schools, surrounding state capitols, and rallying supporters to demand the resources that educators and students deserve. The movement is also inspiring hundreds of educators to seek office this year.
If you’re an educator, what can you do to advocate for better salaries and benefits? You can join with the educators participating in the #RedForEd movement. Sign up to get email or text updates. Join the movement in your states and communities—or if it doesn’t yet exist, get it started. You an also get active with your NEA local affiliate. Through unity, we make a difference for all of us.
There’s much we can do to win the respect, salaries and benefits that educators deserve, as well as the resources—such as modern textbooks and technology—that students need.