Teacher Preparation

‘I’m Not Getting Paid What I’m Worth': Teachers Share How They Get By

By Alix Mammina — April 02, 2018 4 min read
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Babysitting, delivering pizza, mowing lawns—for some educators, the jobs they might have worked in high school are now what helps them pay the bills.

Low teacher pay has made national headlines over the past month. Teachers in West Virginia received a 5 percent pay raise last month after a nine-day strike, and Oklahoma teachers just secured a $6,100 pay raise after threatening to shut down schools across the state. Still, thousands of teachers in Oklahoma walked out of the classroom today to protest years of deep funding cuts to education. Before this year, they hadn’t received a pay raise in a decade, which has led many to leave the profession or take on second or third jobs.

We asked educators on Twitter to share how they get by—and found that multiple jobs and 12-hour workdays aren’t a rare sight in the teaching profession.

Tyler Sainato, a 7th grade teacher in Nashville, spends her spare time promoting hair products and selling lesson plans online—a growing practice that Education Week recently covered in a PBS News Hour segment. “I never really have time off because I’m always moving onto the next thing in hopes to bring in a few extra bucks,” Sainato tweeted. And for New York teacher Lori Griffin, working four jobs was the only way to pay for her daughters’ college educations. “Now I only work 2 [jobs], but what other professional career requires ‘only 2'??!” she tweeted.

Many educators struggle to balance multiple jobs as they attempt to further their education, lead extracurricular activities, and raise families. “I would love my work day to end at 3, sadly 4/5 nights I work until 7 & care for my 16yo son with special needs. I’ve reached a level of exhaustion I never knew existed!” educator Rita Ann Molino tweeted.

Some shared their experiences with making a mid-career change to teaching—and taking a significant pay cut in the process. “I make 1/4 of what I made as an engineer,” said Twitter user @MrsIngrody, a high school physics and math teacher.

In some cases, pay cuts and low wages eventually drive teachers out of the profession. In a recent Education Week Teacher essay, former teacher Jennifer Johnson shared her hopes of returning to teach in the rural Oklahoma community where she was raised—and her realization that doing so would mean a $17,000 pay cut from her previous teaching job. “Although it was heart-wrenching, I made the choice to leave the classroom,” Johnson wrote.

Teachers shared similar stories on Twitter. “I’m leaving teaching after 25 years. My new school will only credit me for 13 years, so I am not taking another pay cut. I say enough. I’m not getting paid what I’m worth,” @duffysmom2 tweeted.

For more information on how teacher salaries, pensions, and benefits work in schools, check out this Education Week primer on teacher pay. And to stay updated on teacher strikes across the country, make sure to follow our Teacher Beat blog.

Have a story about low teacher pay? Share in the comments below or on Twitter with #HowTeachersGetBy.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.