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Texas Teachers Moonlight to Make Ends Meet

On average, school districts spend $21,000 to recruit and train a new teacher, but four years after graduation, only 10 percent who enter the profession still are in the classroom. Photo: Ilmicrofono Oggiono/Flickr

by Eric Galatas

AUSTIN, Texas – A new report puts a spotlight on the economic stress facing people who choose a career in teaching.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, nearly six out of ten teachers nationwide turn to “moonlighting” or side jobs to supplement their income and, in some cases, just to make ends meet.

Clay Robison, public affairs specialist at the Texas State Teachers Association, sees a direct connection between the current teacher shortage and poor teacher pay, which forces a majority to take on second and even third jobs.

“Because they’re not paid enough,” Robison said. “And they have families to support, mortgages to pay, car payments to make – like other professionals do – but they’re not paid professional salaries.”

Robison pointed to a recent survey showing that most teachers forced to moonlight said the extra hours negatively impact their performance in the classroom.

He added that the teacher shortage already is having an impact. Of the state’s 350,000 teachers in the 2017-2018 school year, he noted some 32,000 were not properly certified for the subjects they teach.

The report’s authors emphasized that moonlighting gigs are not extra summer or holiday jobs, but work that happens in addition to a teacher’s regular schedule.

When teachers are burning the candle at both ends, Robison said, it also creates a retention problem. School districts spend an average of $21,000 for each new teacher they recruit and train. It is money the report concludes could be spent on other priorities, including raising teacher pay.

As Robison observed, “It’s probably easier to put up with, say, maybe a principal whom you have difficulty working with if you’re making $65,000 or $70,000 a year than if you’re making $40,000 a year.”

He said parents and entire communities are affected when teachers – and school systems – don’t get the support they need.

The report notes that teachers play a critical role in society, in part because teaching is the single occupation upon which all other occupations are built.

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