For many teachers, summer break is no such thing

The idea of summer as two months paid leave for America’s teachers is full of holes.

Nearly half planned to take a second job, according to a recent survey, while 76 percent will be doing some kind of professional development — and not all of them are even paid by their districts over the summer months.

“Although it is unknown the full set of reasons why teachers work second jobs, a driver of their decision can be linked with financial reasons,” said Emma Garcia, research manager at the Learning Policy Institute.

Garcia pointed to a study by her organization showing 6 in 10 teachers took out student loans for their education and 36.7 percent reported working multiple jobs to pay back that debt.

“The proportion of teachers having worked multiple jobs is larger for those with larger monthly repayment bills,” she said.

In a We Are Teachers survey, 49 percent of educators said they will be picking up a second job over the summer this year, with 90 percent of those jobs in education-related fields.

Thirty-seven percent of surveyed educators said they will be working at a summer school, 25 percent are going into tutoring and 28 percent will be helping develop curricula, according to the poll.

“I would say its significant, enough to make a difference, where the majority of the reason why educators work is because it’s a means to an end. Financially, we don’t make enough to go a month or two without a paycheck,” said Tatiana Rivadeneyra, teacher credential program director for Alliant International University. “So the majority of educators do it because they need it financially.”

And the current landscape for summer jobs is at an interesting crossroads: The total 2024 summer openings are down 17 percent from last year but still up around 25 percent compared to 2019.

“The reason why you see a pullback, but it’s still quite strong, is that a lot of these summer seasonal positions are tied to in-person services, leisure and hospitality, education — so camp counselors for kids going to camp,” said Nick Bunker, director of economic research at

Along with summer jobs, a large number of teachers also spend their time working on some kind of professional development, keeping up with the latest changes in education such as the science of reading and adapting to AI.

The way teachers get paid in general depends on their district: Some only do paychecks 10 months out of the year, and others allow teachers to choose if they want to be paid on a 12-month or 10-month cycle.

“I did that, for example,” Rivadeneyra said. “I’d take the 10 months I worked, I’d take the big chunk of money [at the end of the year] and then what I’d do is, nine times out of ten,” take another educational position between spring and fall.

“You go into the profession knowing you are going to work over the summer in some way,” she added.

The National Education Association (NEA), one of the largest teachers’ unions in the country, released a report last year about the summer pay gap, encouraging teachers to budget their money or open a separate savings account for money dedicated to the two-month lull in paychecks.

“If you’ve exhausted all the ways to reduce your expenditures and still don’t have enough money, balance the costs (childcare, for example) and benefits (extra income) of a short-term, part-time job. It doesn’t have to be flipping burgers. Maybe a friend’s lawn care business is shorthanded in summer. Maybe when neighbors are on vacation, they need someone to pick up mail and newspapers, harvest the garden or take care of pets,” the NEA suggested.

The salaries of educators have been a driving factor in the teachers shortage that fell upon the country over the pandemic and drags on today, discouraging many from entering the field.

An NEA report found that, when adjusted for inflation, the average teacher salary declined 6.4 percent over the past decade.

“It is worth noting that teachers make, on average, 23.4 percent less than other college-educated individuals in 2022 and that starting salaries are, on average, $44,530,” Garcia said.

A study by the Learning Policy Institute found that 17.1 percent of teachers will take on a second job even during the academic year.

Garcia said such second jobs are typically within the school system such as coaching, teaching evening classes or mentoring other educators.

“Education has not kept up with life demands, financially,” Rivadeneyra said. “So when I was teaching, I was working as an adjunct professor somewhere else.”

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