Quantcast
Connect with us

Many Texas teachers have second jobs or live paycheck to paycheck. They’re watching the teacher pay debate anxiously.

Published

on

“I never anticipated that I would take a summer job at Wendy’s just so that I could replace a broken dishwasher,” said one high school English teacher who makes $45,000 per year.

When Jenifer Whitley-Lemke first became a teacher 25 years ago, she thought fast food jobs would remain in her past.

“I knew it would be difficult, but I never anticipated that I would take a summer job at Wendy’s just so that I could replace a broken dishwasher,” said Whitley-Lemke, who is 48 and teaches English to high school sophomores in Jacksonville.

With her annual teacher’s salary of $45,000 and a daughter in college, Whitley-Lemke has also tutored students and given piano lessons to avoid a negative bank account.

Her story is common. Nearly 40 percent of teachers said they worked another job during the school year in a 2018 survey by the Texas State Teachers Association. In the summer, 56 percent of teachers worked an extra job, according to that same survey.

ADVERTISEMENT

With stagnant salaries and and rising insurance costs, these numbers have been consistently increasing since the teachers association began surveying its members six years ago, said President Noel Candelaria. In 2016, 31 percent of the group’s members reported moonlighting during the school year and 49 percent reported moonlighting in the summer.

Now that the Legislature is working on a variety of school finance measures, struggling teachers are hoping for change. The Senate has passed a $5,000 across-the-board pay raise for teachers and librarians in the state, though that proposal’s future in the House is unclear.

Meanwhile, the lower chamber is expected to vote Wednesday on its version of comprehensive school finance reform. Teacher pay is likely to come up during the debate. As lawmakers negotiate, educators are watching anxiously.

ADVERTISEMENT

Paycheck to paycheck

The average teacher salary in Texas was roughly $53,000 for the 2017-2018 school year, according to the Texas Education Agency.

In bigger districts, teachers often earn more, as is the case for Brady Mayo, who teaches principles of business at Bellaire High School in Houston for $66,000 per year. But it’s still not enough for the 52-year-old teacher with three kids in college.

“I’m a single parent and I’m trying to make that work, and I can’t unless I work three jobs,” he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Mayo’s kids work, but he has to help them pay for their tuition and car loans. So, on top of teaching, Mayo works for a test preparation company in Sugar Land on weekends and weeknights. He also helps coach baseball for Bellaire during the offseason.

To make it through especially rough years, Mayo said he has sold his plasma. And he has done everything to save money, including moving in with his mom two years ago.

“It’s ridiculous, but that’s what we have to do to get by,” Mayo said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Like for Mayo, living under a teacher’s salary is hard for many single parents.

When Holly Cooper divorced in 2000, her take-home pay amounted to roughly $20,400. She worked as a waitress, tutor and babysitter to sustain herself and her baby.

Today, Cooper is 43, remarried and runs a furniture refurbishing business with her husband, in addition to teaching kindergarten at New Diana ISD for $49,000 a year.

ADVERTISEMENT

She says the business has been a relief, allowing her to earn extra income under a flexible schedule.

“It helps us make ends meet. It has helped us pay for vehicle repairs, medical expenses,” Cooper said. “With the other things to make money, I missed out on personal activities that my kids are involved in.”

But other teachers aren’t lucky enough to have family businesses, meaning they have to pull away from other important things in their lives to make ends meet.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I’m spending less time with my family, and it’s less time that I could be spending on my lesson plans,” said Robyn Ammons, who first began teaching in Waco in 2006 around the time she got divorced.

Ammons, 41, now works at La Vega ISD, teaching high school electives such as floral design for $46,000 a year, and occasionally helps local events coordinators on top of working concession stands.

Billy Terry, a 42-year-old sixth grade social studies teacher at White Oak ISD, recently quit coaching and running his own business to spend more time with his daughter. To survive on his $42,000 salary, Terry has had to cut corners wherever he can.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I have not eaten, so I can make sure my daughter had to,” he says. “I don’t get all my prescriptions anymore.”

‘This needs to pass’

When Ammons and Mayo learned about Senate Bill 3, which proposes $5,000 pay raises for public school teachers in the next two years, they saw a glimmer of hope. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has named the bill one of his top priorities this year, and it has already unanimously passed the Senate.

“I might be able to not have to work during the weekend,” Ammons said. “And hopefully I would not be living paycheck to paycheck.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Mayo says he would still have to work two jobs, but the raise would help him with at least one car payment a month.

“The $5,000 is small, but it is very meaningful,” Mayo said. “It’s clear. It’s tangible.”

But not everyone is convinced that a $5,000 across-the-board raise is the best course of action. Some school district leaders say they need more flexibility with any additional funding.

ADVERTISEMENT

And the House’s $9 billion school finance bill, does not guarantee across-the-board raises. Instead, it grants school districts the discretion to decide how to spend their extra funds. On Wednesday, at least one Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, is hoping to change it to include a directed pay raise.

After learning about the House proposal, Mayo drove to Austin to speak against the bill and its merit pay provision at a March 12 public hearing.

Mayo didn’t get to speak at the hearing, which lasted past midnight. Since then, the merit pay provision of the House bill has been stripped, but Mayo is still concerned SB 3 won’t make it through the House.

ADVERTISEMENT

“This needs to pass,” Mayo said. “You talk to most teachers and they say ‘I won’t believe it until I see it’ because this is usually what happens. Somewhere along the way it gets lost.”

For Whitley-Lemke, $5,000 is not enough.

“We have set the bar so low,” she says.

With the raise, Texas’ average teacher salary would still be about $2,300 behind the national average, according to the National Education Association.

But the raises also sound too good to be true for Whitley-Lemke, who says she’s pretty “sure there’s going to be some sort of catch.”

Terry said the raise would be “a nice gesture” from lawmakers, but he will probably still leave education.

“I like my profession, but the pay is killing it. I’m being pushed out,” Terry said. “I’m looking for another job as we speak.”

Disclosure: The Texas State Teachers Association has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.


Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Facebook

Disney heiress who went undercover to Disneyland ‘livid’ at conditions and pay

Published

on

Heiress Abigail Disney went to one of her family's resorts to see conditions for workers herself and was disgusted by what she saw.

In comments to Yahoo News podcast "Through Her Eyes," Disney described how she went to Disneyland in California undercover and found that workers at the resort were treated poorly—and underpaid.

"Every single one of these people I talked to were saying, 'I don't know how I can maintain this face of joy and warmth when I have to go home and forage for food in other people's garbage,'" said Disney.

Continue Reading

Facebook

Ex-Peru president wanted for corruption arrested in the US

Published

on

Former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo was arrested in the United States Tuesday to face extradition to his home country on corruption charges, authorities in the South American nation said.

The 73-year-old is suspected of involvement in the sprawling Odebrecht scandal in which the construction giant paid hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes throughout the continent to secure huge public works contracts.

The Peruvian attorney general's office announced on Twitter that Toledo "was arrested this morning for extradition, in the United States."

Toledo has been formally charged with receiving a $20 million payment from Odebrecht to grant it the tender to build the Interoceanic Highway that links Peru with Brazil.

Continue Reading
 

Facebook

Comic-Con mines past for future hits on 50th edition

Published

on

A smorgasbord of sequels, prequels and reunions from "Terminator" to "Game of Thrones" awaits thousands of misty-eyed comic book geeks and sci-fi nerds descending on San Diego this week for the world's largest celebration of pop culture fandom.

The 50th edition of Comic-Con International will see 135,000 cosplayers, bloggers, movie executives and humble fans pile into a sweaty convention center for glimpses of their heroes, in town to promote the next mega-hit films, TV shows and comic books.

This anniversary edition promises to be more nostalgia-laden than most -- among those expected to appear are Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton, who will soon reunite on screen for the first time since 1991's "Terminator 2" for Paramount's killer cyborg sequel "Dark Fate."

Continue Reading
 
 
 

Copyright © 2019 Raw Story Media, Inc. PO Box 21050, Washington, D.C. 20009 | Masthead | Privacy Policy | For corrections or concerns, please email [email protected]

close-image