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Do Educators Have No Other Choice than to Work a Second Job?

My third year in education was the year I learned a very valuable lesson more than a decade ago at Ralph Johnson Bunche Middle School in Atlanta.

“If you’re going to survive as a teacher in the long run, you’re going to need to have a second job!”

Teachers having a second job isn’t new or uncommon. I learned from veteran educators that second jobs come in several different forms. Tutoring after school and on weekends during Saturday academy was one route some teachers chose as a second job. Others took on coaching positions for competitive clubs or sports teams. While many others took the most sought-after second job of all, working summer school.

I realized that the guidance I received so early in my career meant that if I wanted to be able to go out to eat once in a blue moon or build a family, I would need to have a second job because our salary as teachers would barely cover a mortgage, insurance or a car. Thank goodness teachers receive retirement, health insurance, and other benefits because if those weren’t offered, we wouldn’t be able to afford to be teachers.

Unfortunately due to the lower wages of support staff such as parent liaisons, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers, in some school districts teachers are able to take on the duties and responsibilities of these roles because of such a great need for the services provided. However, to me this speaks to a larger issue of how we are funding educational programs and how we are funding the salaries of the staff needed to build, operate, facilitate, and maintain the programs.

One year, my students did a research project on how we fund schools. During the presentations, one group used local data to highlight how fire and police departments, post offices, libraries and hospitals are funded. They concluded hospitals were closest to schools in need, structure, and operation.

I believe for us to see improvements within education we have to :

  1. Create new funding formulas for how we fund, operate, and maintain schools.

  2. Reimagine how we do K - 12 education.

New school funding formulas would change how we fund, operate and maintain schools and ensure that what we’re investing in is working. Reimagining how we do K - 12 education allows us to explore implementing universal Pre K and integrating Pre K into early education, changing school and teaching models and exploring year round school that includes field studies and workforce development training while we’re out of school.

If we start in these two areas, I believe it will help solve a lot of issues we’re seeing around teaching and learning. This includes addressing the teacher shortage crisis, helping to reduce teacher burnout, inequitable wages, and improving ways of providing on-hands training for teachers. If we’re really going to be serious about helping teachers avoid having to work a second, and for some, a third job, we must do the hard work of improving the infrastructure of education.

The benefits of teachers not having to work a second job allows teachers the ability and the time to truly reflect on their teaching practices, lessons, and data. Teachers have time to support extra curricular activities that continue learning, provide additional opportunities, resources, and development in a safe space. It allows teachers to spend time with their families and rest, recover, and reset to drive educational excellence daily. Most importantly, it shows teachers that the work we do daily in and out of classrooms is valued because it truly does impact how we all live in this world.


Jason B. Allen is an Atlanta, Georgia native. He is an eighteen-year educator and National Organizing Director for the National Parents Union. He has served as a classroom Language Arts, Reading, and Special Education teacher, district administrator, school administrator, board member and Chair of Ivy Prep Academy network. Jason earned his Bachelor of Arts in English and Masters of Art of Teaching Special Education.


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