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Economy hands teachers a hard lesson in finances

Sat., Nov. 12, 2011

More take on extra jobs as salaries stagnate

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 they 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 1 in 5 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.

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.

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 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.”

Yet working an extra job inevitably does take a toll. On top of their work in the classroom, teachers have to grade papers and plan lessons – work they often do at home. One study on teachers who moonlight in Texas cited the case of a teacher who ended up grading papers at the restaurant where she worked. The same study found that all the teachers interviewed reported that moonlighting had a negative effect on their health. In the Texas survey, a majority said moonlighting was detrimental to their work in the classroom.

“Yes, they go 100 percent, but they’re still tired,” said Dave Henderson, a retired professor who worked on the study for many years.


 

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