Moon­light­ing up among fi­nan­cially strapped school­teach­ers

About half of Texas ed­u­ca­tors sup­ple­ment their in­comes with sum­mer em­ploy­ment

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - CITY | STATE - By Shelby Webb

Sum­mer tra­di­tion­ally is a time for teach­ers like Chris Wil­liams to take a break af­ter a busy and stress­ful school year, but this year he finds him­self work­ing to the point of ex­haus­tion.

Mon­day through Thurs­day, Wil­liams works 7½-hour days as an in­struc­tor at a sum­mer school. Then he logs in an­other 15-20 hours on week­nights and week­ends as a sales as­so­ci­ate at the Barnes & No­ble on West Gray near Shep­herd.

“For me, if I did not have to work at Barnes & No­ble or any kind of sec­ond job, I wouldn’t spend more sum­mer time watch­ing Net­flix or at the beach,” Wil­liams said. “I would re­ally spend more of that time do­ing things that are rea­sons why I got into the pro­fes­sion in the first place — help stu­dents make con­nec­tions.”

Wil­liams and about half of Texas teach­ers take on sum­mer jobs to help sup­ple­ment their in­comes, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey funded by the Texas State Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion.

Moon­light­ing, es­pe­cially dur­ing the sum­mer months, has long been a pop­u­lar way for teach­ers to earn more money. But data in­di­cate it has be­come more com­mon, es­pe­cially with the rise of the so-called free­lance econ­omy and ser­vice apps such as Uber and gro­cery-shop­ping ser­vices.

Wil­liams said that with­out his sec­ond job, which he also works dur­ing the school year, he would be un­able to live close to his job at Stephen F. Austin High School, east of down­town.

He said his book-sell­ing gig pro­vides him with about $400 or $500 ex­tra a month, de­pend­ing on his hours. He earns $54,000 teach­ing.

But his moon­light­ing presents Wil­liams with a Catch-22: He took the book­store job so he could live closer to his school and

“I would love to ... be more in­volved in the class­room and less in­volved at my re­tail job.” Chris Wil­liams, teacher at Stephen F. Austin High School

spend more time with his stu­dents, but the sec­ond job keeps him too busy to spend more time with them dur­ing the school year.

“There are a lot of things I would like to do in school — start­ing clubs and or­ga­ni­za­tions, and stu­dents have asked me to spon­sor things,” Wil­liams said. “I would love to do that and be more in­volved in the class­room and less in­volved at my re­tail job.”

Teach­ers wear a range of hats dur­ing the sum­mer months: swim in­struc­tor, free­lance writer, Uber driver, sum­mer school in­struc­tor, camp coun­selor cashier, tax au­di­tor, etc.

Many rea­sons for jobs

Dale Bal­lou, an as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor of pub­lic pol­icy and ed­u­ca­tion at Van­der­bilt Univer­sity who has stud­ied teacher moon­light­ing, stressed that teach­ers take on sec­ond jobs or sum­mer work for a myr­iad of rea­sons, not just stag­nant salaries and ris­ing liv­ing costs.

“It’s def­i­nitely a mixed bag, but it’s cer­tainly not true that all these teach­ers are work­ing sec­ond jobs purely out of dire fi­nan­cial cir­cum­stances,” Bal­lou said. “A lot of teach­ers work­ing sec­ond jobs are do­ing these fairly sub­stan­tial ac­tiv­i­ties — not just check­ing gro­ceries at a lo­cal gro­cery store, but some­times ac­tiv­i­ties of a pro­fes­sional na­ture such as hav­ing a photo stu­dio on the side.”

While salaries in the Hous­ton area for the 201617 school year ranged from a low of $50,000 for a new teacher in the Spring Branch ISD to a high of $63,748 for teach­ers with more than 20 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in Alief ISD, ed­u­ca­tors say it’s still dif­fi­cult to make ends meet in the na­tion’s fifth-largest metropoli­tan area.

Gov. Greg Ab­bott an­nounced he would ask state law­mak­ers in a spe­cial ses­sion this month to re­quire that ev­ery teacher in the state get a $1,000 an­nual pay raise.

Ab­bott says lo­cal school dis­tricts should dip into their pock­ets to pay for the in­creases by repri­or­i­tiz­ing how they spend and chang­ing how they hire and re­tain teach­ers.

“Texas doesn’t need to spend more. We just need to spend smarter,” Ab­bott said.

With about 350,000 teach­ers in Texas, dis­tricts statewide would have to shell out $350 mil­lion an­nu­ally if the Leg­is­la­ture or­ders such raises, ac­cord­ing to the Texas Ed­u­ca­tion Agency.

Last month, the Hous­ton ISD’s board adopted a bud- get that would cre­ate a $160 mil­lion short­fall, in part, to give teach­ers pay raises rang­ing from 2-4 per­cent based on ex­pe­ri­ence — less than the 5 per­cent across­the-board raises that teach­ers and ad­vo­cates wanted.

A Texas Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion sur­vey last year found that 49 per­cent of teach­ers re­ported work­ing over the sum­mer while about 31 per­cent worked a sec­ond job dur­ing the aca­demic year, up from 42 per­cent and 28 per­cent re­spec­tively in 2000.

Fi­nan­cial bur­dens

El­iz­a­beth San­tos re­called that when she went to work for the Hous­ton ISD in 2008, she never thought she would have to take a sum­mer job.

The 35-year-old English teacher at North­side High School said she took a sec­ond job as a Span­ish and SAT tu­tor when she be­came pinched fi­nan­cially af­ter her first year on the job.

But the stress on her fi­nances grew af­ter she gained cus­tody of her niece and nephew, and she was un­able to raise a fam­ily on her teacher’s salary alone.

Things are bet­ter now — San­tos is en­gaged, and now her house­hold has two in­comes — but she will con­tinue to spend her sum­mer months work­ing at North­side High.

“We’re still work­ing in sum­mer — any good teacher will be work­ing on how to per­fect their craft,” San­tos said. “Fi­nan­cially it’s a bur­den. If I don’t work sum­mer school, it’s not even that I won’t get ahead; I’ll just be mak­ing it. A lot of my peers are sin­gle moms, and it’s hard enough to be a teacher, but it’s even harder to be a teacher and sin­gle mom.”

Mark Mul­li­gan / Hous­ton Chron­i­cle

Chris Wil­liams, a his­tory teacher at Stephen F. Austin High School, stocks shelves re­cently in the mu­sic sec­tion of Barnes & No­ble on West Gray.

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