Teaching Profession

Summer Jobs Have Become an (Unwelcome) Tradition for Many Teachers

By Elizabeth Heubeck — May 31, 2023 4 min read
Image of a computer at a desk with "Job Search" in the search window.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

During the school year, Dianna Bunker is busy. A career advocate at Russell Unified School District 407 in Kansas, she wears several hats: managing students’ individual plans of study, creating individual student and master schedules, assisting with Individualized Education Programs and 504 meetings, and advising on scholarships and postsecondary planning.

Her position pays $49,000 a year. To bump it to $53,000, Bunker takes on additional roles: career and technical education coordinator, testing coordinator, lunchroom supervisor, and professional-development chair. By the time school lets out for the summer, she’s ready for a break.

But she doesn’t get one. This summer, Bunker will run the high school’s monthlong summer school program, for $1,600, or roughly $33 an hour for 48 hours total. She may also update its credit-recovery program at a rate of $25 per hour. Bunker, a single parent who said she takes the additional roles to pay expenses, expressed mixed feelings about her summer side hustles.

“I am thankful that my districts have had these opportunities for me, but I do not like that I have to work extra in the summer to help pay bills,” said Bunker. “I have a master’s degree and make less than the majority of my friends who only have undergraduate degrees.”

A necessity, not a choice

As Bunker’s circumstances illustrate, summer for teachers isn’t necessarily synonymous with vacation. Instead, it’s a time when a sizable chunk of teachers take on second jobs—not because it’s how they choose to spend their time but because they need the extra income.

Among the nation’s public school teachers, 16 percent worked nonschool summer jobs, according to a recent Pew Research Analysis. Among them, younger and less experienced teachers were most likely to take on a summer job. About one-third of teachers with a year or less of teaching experience had a nonschool job over the summer break, and 26 percent of teachers under 30 worked a summer job outside the school system. In comparison, just 13 percent of teachers with a minimum of 15 years of teaching experience, and 12 percent of teachers 50 and older, held a non-school summer job.

Further, the analysis may not take into account the less traditional ways that teachers generate income during the summer. For instance, during the summer months last year, U.S. teachers earned $110 million as Airbnb hosts, according to the company, which operates an online marketplace for short- and long-term home and room rentals.

Teachers who work in the summer earn less than similarly educated professionals

Paying down debt, health-care costs—these are the reasons Terrance Anfield, a kindergarten teacher at Center for Inquiry School 27 in the Indianapolis school district and a former advocacy fellow for the Association of American Educators Foundation, gave for working most summers. He ticked off a number of jobs he’s held over the summers to supplement his teacher’s salary: working at summer camps, seasonal worker at a department store, maintenance work, lawn care.

Anfield, an educator with eight years of experience, makes an annual salary of $50,000. Most summers, he earns an extra $5,000-$10,000 doing various other jobs. Anfield estimated he would need an annual salary of between $75,000 and $80,000 in order to comfortably take off each summer.

That amount also would bring Anfield’s salary in line with workers who have the same or less education. Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show that teachers, among the nation’s most educated workers, earn on average far less than workers with similar education levels. In 2019, the average annual salary of full-time elementary and middle school teachers with a bachelor’s degree or more was $53,800. In comparison, workers in the following professions—who also are far less likely than teachers to have a master’s—averaged the following salaries in 2019: human resources workers $77,430; accountants and auditors, $84,050; and registered nurses, $82,210.

Lawmakers recognize need for better teacher salaries

The discrepancy in pay has not gone unnoticed by federal policymakers.

“Teachers make on average 20 to 30 percent less than other professions with similar degrees. That’s unacceptable. We’ve got to not normalize teachers driving Uber on the weekends. We can’t have that. ” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona told Education Week this month in an exclusive interview. “They’re professionals. Treat them like professionals.”

This congressional session saw multiple proposals to increase teacher pay to a minimum of $60,000. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., earlier this spring introduced the Pay Teachers Act, which proposed raising public school teacher salaries nationwide to $60,000 or higher. Former teacher, Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., introduced the American Teacher Act in December 2022, which also proposes a teacher salary minimum of $60,000. Despite generating significant support and publicity, neither bill has gone anywhere.

A version of this article appeared in the June 14, 2023 edition of Education Week as Summer Jobs Have Become An (Unwelcome) Tradition For Many Teachers

Events

School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Creating Confident Readers: Why Differentiated Instruction is Equitable Instruction
Join us as we break down how differentiated instruction can advance your school’s literacy and equity goals.
Content provided by Lexia Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Download Downloadable: 5 Ways Principals Can Help With Teacher Burnout
This downloadable gives school leaders and teachers various ways to spot and treat teacher burnout.
1 min read
Silhouette of a woman with an icon of battery with low charge and icons such as a scribble line, dollar sign and lightning bolt floating around the blue background.
Canva
Teaching Profession Massages, Mammograms, and Dental Care: How One School Saves Teachers' Time
This Atlanta school offers unique onsite benefits to teachers to help them reduce stress.
3 min read
Employees learn more about health and wellness options during a mini benefits fair put on by The Lovett School in Atlanta on May 8, 2024.
Employees at the Lovett School in Atlanta meet with health benefits representatives during a mini benefits fair on May 8, 2024.
Erin Sintos for Education Week
Teaching Profession Opinion How Two Teachers Helped Me Weave a Dream
A journalist and debut book author dedicates her novel to two of her high school English teachers.
Anne Shaw Heinrich
3 min read
0524 heinrich opinion keller fs
N. Kurbatova / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Teaching Profession Data Average Teacher Pay Passes $70K. How Much Is It in Your State?
Teacher pay is growing faster than at any point since the Great Recession. But it's lower than a decade ago when accounting for inflation.
3 min read
Illustration of a man holding oversized money.
Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty