It’s hard to find anyone who has spent much time at all around a school that will tell you that teachers are overpaid. In fact, most people that know children and all their levels of rambunctiousness will tell you that teachers are underpaid.
But that’s not just hyperbole. A recent study of teacher salaries by GOBankingRates revealed just where each state in the union falls when it comes to average teacher pay. No surprises — some of the lowest paid teachers are in states now hitting the news for teacher strikes.
Texas, it seems, is at the lower end of the scale, but not as bad as other states (like, for instance, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Dakota, North Carolina, and Arizona as the five states with the worst teacher pay. And definitely not as good as the top five states — Alaska, New York, Connecticut, California, and Massachusetts.
Mississippi — the worst state for teacher pay — has an average salary of $42,990.
Alaska — the best — has an average teacher salary of $77,007. Texas has an average teacher salary of $55,093. According to Glassdoor.com, the average Dallas ISD teacher salary is somewhere around $51,310. According to a proposed salary schedule for the last school year, Dallas ISD starts teachers somewhere around $50,000. However, stipends, incentives and bonuses can bring that figure up considerably. In a presentation last year, Dallas ISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa said the average fifth-year teacher in Dallas ISD is making around $57,000.
Now for a little back-of-the-envelope math with our fictional example teacher, Ms. Jane Smith. Let’s pretend that teachers work 40 hours a week (find your nearest teacher and ask them if they’ve ever worked only 40 hours a week). In Dallas ISD, teachers are paid for 187 days of work a year (and let’s be clear, I worded it that way because again, ask a teacher if they never work a weekend, or don’t come early in August to start setting up their classroom, aren’t busy looking for ways to punch up their lesson plans all summer, etc.).
Now, doing a bit of math (and you know, I’m a journalist for a reason), if Ms. Smith works eight hours a day (hold on, Ms. Smith is laughing hysterically so we need to wait for her to catch her breath because an eight hour day might as well be a leprechaun riding a fur surfboard with Jesus), that’s about $38 an hour for Ms. Smith, a fifth-year teacher.
But Ms. Smith would like to point out that a) she doesn’t work eight hours, it’s more like 10-12 a day and b) her $57,000 has to last all year, and she doesn’t get paid for summers unless she takes a summer job. Oh, and she has to pay her student loans on time every month, because if she gets in arrears in Texas she can’t work. Oh, and she spends about $1,000 a year or more on school supplies. Oh, and two of her kids in her class don’t have access to laundry facilities at home, so she frequently takes their dirty clothes home and washes them so they can learn without worrying they stink.
So some more envelope math. First, we need to deduct about $3,000 right off the top of that yearly salary, because that’s how much she pays in to the Texas Retirement System (I’m going off of this Houston Chronicle article from 2013, but noodling with this withholding calculator gave a much higher number).
Ms. Smith takes home about $1,000 a week after insurance and taxes, but she puts aside $500 right off the bat to save for her summer bills. Average rent in Dallas for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,124 a month. Then she pays about $500 a month in student loans. Now she needs to make her car payment — nothing fancy, but it’s another $300, plus insurance, $100. She pays $200 in utilities every month. She pays about $100 in gas for her car. It’s another $250 a month in groceries. So that leaves her with roughly negative $374 a month to pay for extra school supplies, clothing, and things like personal hygiene products and you know, fun.
And that’s during the school year. Saving $500 each week means she has roughly $4,000 per month to cover her needs.
So yeah, Ms. Smith has two jobs so she can afford to buy toilet paper. And she’s not unusual — most teachers have side hustles. In fact, for most, their side hustles have side hustles.
Can you think of another profession where a college degree is required, but you’ll need a second job to be able to afford to do it? I can only think of one, and I’m in it.
Bethany Erickson is the education, consumer affairs, and public policy columnist for CandysDirt.com. Contact her at email@example.com.