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.
Mr. 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 expected to, combined.
“The second job was to get back what was lost through cuts,” said Mr. 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 one in five today. They are bartenders, waitresses, tutors, school bus drivers and even lawn mowers.
Now, with the severe cuts many school districts have made, teachers like Mr. 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.
Rita Haecker, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, said cuts in education have forced many teachers to take furlough days. It’s an extra strain because, unlike in the past, many teachers are now the primary breadwinner, either because they are a single parent or their spouse is unemployed, she said.
“It affects their morale in the classroom,” she said. “The last thing we want is our teachers worried about how they are going to pay their bills.”
The average salary for a public school teacher nationwide in the 2009-10 school year was $55,350, a figure that has remained relatively flat, after being adjusted for inflation, over the past two decades. Starting teacher salaries can be significantly lower; compared with college graduates in other professions, they earn more than $10,000 less when beginning their careers.
“I think people have felt the need to supplement their teaching salaries in order to have a middle-class lifestyle,” said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, which published a study this year concluding the average weekly pay of teachers in 2010 was about 12 percent below that of workers with similar education and experience.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which collects data on student performance across the globe, advised the United States earlier this year to work at elevating the teaching profession in order to improve student performance. The recommendations included measures such as raising the bar for who is selected to become a teacher, and providing better training and better pay. In many nations where students outperform the U.S. in reading, math and science, including Japan and South Korea, teachers earn more than they do in the United States.
“International comparisons show that in the countries with the highest performance, teachers are typically paid better relative to others, education credentials are valued more, and a higher share of educational spending is devoted to instructional services than is the case in the United States,” the OECD report concluded.
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.