CPS teachers take on second jobs to keep their ‘heads afloat’

By Zoe Collins Rath
Medill Reports

Tara Stamps is hunting for another job in either a hotel or an airport. The STEM teacher at Laura S. Ward Elementary School said she loves teaching but she needs another source of income because she will have to stretch $119 for another week.

“Cost of living in the city forces you to do creative budgeting or get a second job,” she said.

Stamps represents 1 in 6 teachers who work a second job, according to the Pew Research Center. The study found 18% of teachers had a second job during the 2015-16 school year and the second income during the school year made up an average 9% of their income.

Stamps makes $84,000 a year but after taxes, bills, pension, medical, her mortgage and other expenses leave $64,000. Stamps is also in credit card debt after paying for college visits with one of her sons and takes care of her daughter, grandchild, grandnephew, and another son.

“Having a second job would help keep my head up,” Stamps said.

There are more teachers working second jobs than people realize and are in similar situations to Stamps.

“I like to do things that $70,000 a year does not provide,” Michol Whitney said.

Whitney, a preschool teacher at Josephine Locke Elementary School, works for a company that provides child care services for people who bring their children to special events. She had it as a summer job during college, but kept it.

“I kept it because it is a good cushion so I can have extra money,” she said.

The extra money goes to traveling, an activity Whitney likes to do. Now, with the strike over Whitney’s extra income goes to physical therapy bills after reinjuring her ankle while picketing and $500 worth of damages her car picked up during the strike.

Sometimes teachers allocate money from extra jobs to students, like Teresa Martinez. Martinez spends nearly $2,000 on materials for her classroom and is an after-school tutor at Brighton Park Neighborhood Council.

Martinez is a seventh- and eighth-grade special education and English second language teacher at Nathan S. Davis Elementary School. After taxes, her $60,000 a year salary takes care of her mortgage, bills, and materials for her classroom but she had to spend more money for the teachers strike this October.

As a union delegate for her school, Martinez votes on the best interests of her students and fellow teachers. During the strike she gathered people to join the picket line, drove to Saturday meetings to meet with union members, and spent nearly $1,500.

“I had to buy gas for my car because I drove people around… sticks from Menards to make signs. … I bought gloves and hats… money for coffee and lunch,” she said.

Teachers said because of the strike they had to dip into their savings in order to balance their expenses. Teacher paychecks need to last, especially in the summer, since they are not paid.

“There are teachers who barely squeak by, by the time school comes by in the fall,” said Jesse Sharkey, president of Chicago Teachers Union.

Northwestern economics professor Matthew Notowidigdo said if some people are more willing to work, then they will work and if the opportunity comes they are going to be offered work.

Katie Delisle works as a math tutor during the summer. If a family has children taking a math course and may need extra help, they call Delisle.

Delisle said, “I don’t seek it [tutoring] out, but I do it if a family reaches out to me”.

Delisle is part of the 16% of teachers who have a non-school job during the summer. On average, a summer job makes up 7% of a teacher’s total income, according to Pew Research Center.

The 28-year-old teaches Advanced Placement calculus at Lane Tech High School. In addition to teaching and tutoring, she works with Math Circles of Chicago during the school year.

In her sixth year of teaching Delisle needs to finish paying off her student loans, so a second job tutoring comes in handy, especially in the summer. According to University of Chicago professor of economics, Derek A. Neal, teachers have historically worked in the summer.

The extra job helps with furlough and strike days even though Delisle balances her paycheck. But missing 11 days of work hurt travel plans because she and her friends had a trip to Colorado planned. Now, she cannot afford it, even with another job.

Stamps cannot even have a Thanksgiving dinner with her family because she does not have the money to pay for the extravagant meal with the money that she has. The next paycheck containing a teacher’s full pay will be the second week of January 2020.


Photo at top: Teresa Martinez (red coat)  pickets on the first day of the Chicago teachers strike on Oct. 17 outside of Chicago Public School headquarters. Martinez spends nearly $2,000 on materials for her classroom and is an after-school tutor at Brighton Park (Photo by: Zoe Collins Rath/MEDILL)