More than half of North Carolina public school teachers work second jobs to make ends meet. North Carolina lawmakers refuse to prioritize public education and it is putting stress on our very important educators. Teachers are spending on average $500 on essential school supplies for their classrooms because of funding cuts over the last decade. With the new tax reform bill on the horizon which cuts the deduction teachers can make to offset some of these costs, things only seem to be getting harder. Our lawmakers simply must make education a priority again. Education before tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Quality public education is essential for our future.
Carolynn Phillips rushed from her day job teaching middle school art to an afternoon coaching girls’ track to earn an extra stipend. On weekends, she had to pick up a few shifts waiting tables to make sure her family could eat. When none of her friends could spare a shift, Phillips spent hours in an art studio rolling hundreds of clay tentacles for octopus statutes to sell.
Summers were filled with work, when she could find it. She remembers one lean summer when she drove six hours from her home in Brunswick County to work an art fair in Atlanta. A week of work netted her a $500 check, well worth the 12-hour drive for Phillips.
“Everything to get by helps,” she said.
The Leland Middle School art teacher knew she would not be living a luxurious life when she chose to be a teacher more than a decade ago. She wanted to share her love of art with students and stay on the same schedule as her two school-age sons. She thought the retirement benefits were attractive. But she did not expect the pay situation to be so dire.
Even before the 2009 recession, she knew her teacher salary alone could not pay her bills. The rollbacks of state funds on her husband’s band instructor income only put more strain on her already tight budget. In the first year of the recession, they earned $6,000 less than the previous year. Phillips realized she needed to do more to provide for her young family, especially after she and her husband divorced.
Carolynn Phillips teaches her middle school art students. Kirk Bado/EducationNC
She found work in art studios. In the summers, she would find odd jobs, all the while fulfilling her responsibilities as a teacher planning for the upcoming school year.
“I’ve been behind a desk at a retail job laying out lesson plans for the fall,” Phillips said. “I was so tired. I didn’t have the down time I needed. When I wanted to give 100 percent to anything, I just couldn’t.”
Phillips’ story is not unusual. More than half of all North Carolina public school educators have a second job in the school year, either within the school system or outside employment.