Study says more taking second job
More Texas teachers are struggling to pay their bills.
Just ask the 4 in 10 teachers — a record figure — who moonlighted this year.
A new survey by researchers at Sam Houston State University shows that the percentage of teachers who held second jobs this past school year was the highest in the three decades that the study has been conducted.
The survey also pointed to a potential toll in the classroom as two-thirds of those who moonlight said the quality of their teaching would be better if they didn’t have to work another job.
But most say they can’t afford to quit.
The figures represent a jump of nearly 50 percent from two years ago.
Teachers also were asked about working during the summer months — and 56 percent reported they held a job while on summer break. That figure also was up from the previous survey in 2008.
Nena Harrison, a third-grade math and science teacher at Marcus Elementary School in Dallas, is not surprised by the increase in moonlighting. She works two extra jobs during the school year: one as an after-school tutor five days a week and the other as an adult education instructor two days a week.
That’s 11 hours of additional work on top of her regular classroom duties at Marcus. The average moonlighting teacher works an extra 15.2 hours a week.
“It can be tough for a teacher with a family to make ends meet,” said Harrison, whose biggest expenses include college tuition for two children, her student loan payments and the mortgage on her house. Except for her first few years as a teacher, she has always held a second job during the school year.
“My regular salary has never been enough to cover all the expenses, and that was especially true when my husband was out of work for a while,” she said. “But that’s just the way it has to be right now. It could be worse. Some teachers I know are working as waitresses.”
In conducting the survey, Sam Houston State researchers questioned 907 teachers this spring about outside employment and its effects on their regular duties. The study is financed by the Texas State Teachers Association and has been done every two years since 1980.
“It’s a shame that so many of our dedicated educators have to struggle with extra jobs to support their families, but they have no choice,” said Rita Haecker, president of the association.
She said the findings underscore the need for improved salaries.
Although many lawmakers say higher teacher pay should be a priority in every session, the Legislature may have trouble delivering on that priority next year because of a revenue shortfall that is expected to approach $18 billion over the next two years.
Most state agencies have already been told to cut their budgets in anticipation of the financial crunch.
The study also noted that 47 percent of those surveyed said they have seriously considered leaving the profession. But that would be difficult for many of them because a majority are the major breadwinners in their families.
Special-education teachers Marie Heil and her husband, Aaron, started a lawn business, Top Notch Landscaping, to make ends meet.
“To maintain our lifestyle and to be able to afford things for our own children, this is what we do to cover that,” Marie Heil said. “We are super busy.”
The average salary of teachers who were questioned in the study was $50,019 a year, a figure that was up nearly $2,500 from two years earlier. The average classroom experience of those surveyed was 17.7 years.
When the first survey was done in 1980, the average teacher salary was $14,113. Calculated in today’s dollars, that amount would translate to $37,368.