Teachers are calling it the “ teacher side hustle.” We all know it as a second job. As prices continue to rise at an ungodly pace across the country, many teachers are finding that a side hustle is becoming necessary.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over half of all K-12 teachers supplement their teaching salary with a teacher side hustle. This is not just a summertime fling, either. No, teachers, like most of us in the United States, are seeing salaries remain virtually unchanged while inflation has taken on wings and is flying high over us all.
“Making ends meet” appears to be the constant theme seen in teaching circles. When school is out for its short summer break, their main gig turns to a teacher side hustle in order to afford the simple basic day-to-day items such as food and gas for their vehicles. But what many teachers complain about, which is one reason why you see so many ends up on the picket lines, is that their base salary can no longer afford even the basics.
“If not for the entire year, many [teaching] colleagues pick up extra jobs over the holidays or summer to make extra money,” said Joanna Pettis to Education Week. Pettis is a 1st-grade teacher in Florida who throughout her entire 22-year career as an educator has held on to a number of different side hustles to pay her bills. Her year-round teacher side hustles include a daycare worker, a volleyball coach, and a fitness instructor. Pettis claims to earn an extra $6,000 annually to help offset her base teaching salary. For many teachers, though, their side hustle, while bringing in the much-needed extra cash, can also cause numerous problems. One issue teachers try to avoid is making too much money with their side hustle as it could put them into another tax bracket. Sometimes it can’t be helped with the cost of living being what it is.
Ellainn White is another Florida teacher who has been at it for 28 years. Her teacher side hustles include retail work, teaching summer school, and tutoring. Early on, White’s side hustle allowed her to pay for the roof over her head. As time went on, she needed that extra cash for things not related to paying her bills. “Movies, dinner out once in a while, small trips, etc. Paying off my student loan and my car were also factors,” White told Education Week.
Other teachers chimed in on why a teacher side hustle is necessary. Their responses came by way of an article written by Education Week’s Elizabeth Heubeck. Some spoke about the simple need for survival. Some state that teaching salaries and benefits have not risen to the level with the increases in the cost of living. Other teachers talk about the hidden costs teachers take on themselves trying to bring in supplies for their classrooms. Here are some of their responses:
“When you can’t buy a modest house on two teaching salaries you know there is BIG trouble with the education profession. All teachers knew they would NEVER get rich teaching, BUT they did not take a ‘vow of poverty’ either.” – Don R.
“Yep…36 years experience and my raise this year was $150. My insurance costs went up more than that. Next year would have been a whopping $398 raise, but I decided to retire instead. 🙄” – Karen C.
“I probably spend an average of $500 a year—especially for books for my classroom library. $500 x 20 years? 🤯 I wish I hadn’t done that math 🤦🏻♀️ This doesn’t even include all of the professional development I pay for on my own.” – Sarah A.
The mounting pressure for a teacher side hustle to make ends meet can cause other issues. “Exhaustion,” says White. Burnout is a real thing. Not only do teachers put in long hours with the regular demands of teaching, but adding on a teacher side hustle can make 10-hour days turn into 16–18-hour days.
Charity Turpeau let her feelings be known when she appeared on Good Morning America to discuss the teacher side hustle trend. “With the workload, demands from the state, pandemic restrictions, and lack of pay, I feel as if I am doing less of what I love, which is teaching ….The paycheck does not match the amount of workload we are given and the overtime we work to try and complete it all.”
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Another teacher in Florida, Matt Yount, describes what he calls the “snowball effect” that teachers feel when they have to take on a teacher side hustle to make ends meet. It isn’t only the teacher who suffers, but the students as well. “You’re not your freshest; you’ve got to save some [energy] for Uber driving or DoorDash or whatever you do on the side,” he complained. “Teachers are in survival mode. And it’s yielding negative results.”
With teaching salaries remaining stagnant, it is no wonder some school districts are seeing teachers fleeing by the dozens. In Missouri, Governor Mike Parson is asking to increase teachers’ minimum salary up to $38,000 annually. Right now the state offers teachers the lowest starting salary in the nation at $25,000. Until a salary increase happens, teacher side hustles will stay at the status quo. Unfortunately, classrooms take the hit and children will suffer. Along with that, good teachers will also find alternate professions where a side hustle is no longer necessary.