Young teachers work multiple jobs to supplement low salaries

State commission to recommend $60,000 minimum salary for teachers

By Max London

In addition to the paid hours teachers spend at school and the extra time they spend grading and planning lessons, many teachers also choose to hold a second job outside of the classroom to earn additional income.

Forty-one percent of Maryland public school teachers have held a second job in the last year, according to an Aug. 10 survey sponsored by the Maryland State Education Association. Among educators under 30, that number jumps to 61 percent.

The wage gap between teachers and similar professions can drive college graduates away from teaching at a Maryland public school when they graduate, a spokesman for the MSEA said. A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute found that in Maryland, teachers are paid 14 percent less than other professionals with four-year college degrees.

The Kirwan Commission, a coalition of elected state representatives and education advocates from across Maryland, produced a preliminary report in January 2018, finding that Maryland’s education system could better compete with national and global education standards by increasing salaries. The final report is expected to be issued by the end of this year with a list of recommendations to the state legislature. Among the suggestions, the commission is likely to propose a minimum public school teacher salary of $60,000 a year by 2024 as well as a raise in all teachers’ pay by 10 percent between 2020 and 2022.

Science teacher Mira Chung teaches from 7:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every school day, but along with an extra hour or two per day of grading and lesson planning, Chung also works 15 hours a week at the Bethesda Apple Store. She said she hopes the new minimum salary becomes a reality.

“It would be so great if the report becomes a reality, and I think it would incentivize more people to come into the career,” Chung said. “If I had more money, I could devote more time to teaching, and I think I would be a lot more happy because I could spend more time with my friends and my family.”

Many new educators have to take on a second job because they’re still paying off student debt, MSEA spokesman Adam Mendelson said. Thirty-seven percent of teachers and support staff in Maryland public schools are still paying off student loans, the study found.

When English teacher Omari James isn’t teaching, he coaches Crossfit, a high-intensity fitness program, at a Rockville gym. He trains clients from five to eight p.m before going home and returning to Whitman at 6:30 a.m. the next day. Working both jobs has added stress to James’ life, he said.

“I’m sleeping a lot less,” James said. “I have to have my calendar planned out for a month to try to keep everything organized, and it can be hard explaining to my friends that I can’t spontaneously meet with them.”

Delegate Anne Kaiser (D-District 14), a member of the commission who represents Montgomery County, said he hopes the potential increase in teacher pay encourages more teachers to take up the profession and increases productivity and efficiency for current teachers.

“Protecting and promoting our teachers has been a priority of mine since day one,” Kaiser said. “Montgomery County’s teachers are a large part of the reason our schools have been nation-leading for almost a decade. The work of the Kirwan Commission will revolutionize the way we train teachers, the way they work and their access to advancement opportunities.”