LINCOLN - A new Economic Policy Institute report puts a spotlight on the economic stress facing people who choose a career in teaching.
Nearly six out of ten teachers nationwide turn to "moonlighting" or side jobs to supplement their income and, in some cases, just to make ends meet.
Maddie Fennel, executive director with the Nebraska State Education Association, says there's a direct connection between the current teacher shortage and poor teacher pay. She notes that teaching is a difficult job on a good day, and you need to be 100% on your game.
"And when you know that you're concerned about paying your own bills, and you had to work late the night before, cleaning people's houses or whatever second job that you picked up, it's difficult to have the energy you need to meet the needs of all your students," says Fennel.
Fennel says teacher salaries are not keeping pace, and notes Nebraska teachers are earning only 1% more than they earned in 2010 when adjusted for inflation. She adds that teachers earn 21% less than their college-educated peers.
She believes low pay is a big reason there are 50% fewer people enrolling in colleges of education than ten years ago because people do not see teaching as a viable profession that will allow them to take care of their families.
The report's authors emphasize that moonlighting gigs are not extra summer or holiday jobs, but work that happens in addition to a teacher's regular schedule. Fennel says when teachers are burning the candle at both ends, it also creates a retention problem.
School districts spend $21,000 on average for each new teacher they recruit and train - money the report says could be spent on other priorities, including raising teacher pay.
"Because teachers are so committed to doing what's in the best interest of their students, as well as their own families, sometimes that means they say, 'If I can't give 100%, then I need to walk away.' And so we're having a retention problem, not just a recruitment problem," says Fennel.
Fennel says parents and entire communities are affected when teachers and school systems, don't get the support they need. The report notes that teachers play a critical role in society, in part because teaching is the single occupation upon which all other occupations are built.