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District policies target teachers’ second jobs

With starting salaries for teachers hovering around an average of $38,600, educators are tapping the rising gig economy for second jobs as Uber or Lyft drivers, Airbnb hosts, Etsy shop owners, and Teachers Pay Teachers contributors.

This has led districts to consider new policies to prevent disruptions or distractions.

Public school teachers are 30 percent more likely than other professionals to work a second job, with nearly 1 in 5 supplementing their salaries during the school year, according to federal data.

“Teachers aren’t paid well compared to other professionals,” says Dick Startz, a professor of economics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“They often have opportunities to make more money, and that’s why they take second jobs.”

Rise of the gig economy

Teachers are embracing the gig economy—companies contracting out flexible and freelance workers for individual jobs. One U.S. Airbnb host in 10 is a teacher. In 2017, 45,000 teachers made their homes available for rent using the site.

Uber offers educator initiatives: In 2016, it ran a promotion for drivers who were teachers in which a portion of a ride fare was donated to a teacher’s classroom.

The internet also presents the opportunity to sell lesson plans and classroom materials. Last year, more than 70 percent of U.S. teachers sold, purchased or downloaded materials on the marketplace Teachers Pay Teachers, according to CEO Joe Holland.

Some teachers use social media hashtags such as #TeachersOfInstagram to gain a following and promote their products.

More than 100,000 teachers have sold work on the platform in the past year, with payouts ranging from enough to pay a few bills to providing a major source of income, Holland says.

District rules and regulations

Typically, districts do not regulate teachers’ outside income.

But while platforms like Teachers Pay Teachers and Etsy can offer a way to monetize classroom materials, issues regarding intellectual property rights could arise if a teacher sells documents or curriculum that was designed during the school day or with other teachers, says Deb Delisle, executive director of ASCD.

Issues may also emerge if second jobs interfere with the teacher’s performance—for example, if the teacher drives for Lyft before school and comes in late or unprepared, Delisle says.

At Gervais School District in Oregon, the average starting teacher salary is $36,000. Teachers are prohibited from doing outside work during the school day, and cannot use their employment at the school district to leverage additional income, says Creighton Helms, principal of Gervais Elementary School.

“You can say, ‘I’m a fifth-grade teacher,’ but if you were to attach the name of the school district itself and use that as a way to supplement income, that’s prohibited,” Helms says.

The district does not have a policy about teachers selling lesson-related material, so long as it is not sold as a district-specific product, Helms says.

“It would be almost unenforceable to determine when a lesson plan was specifically written,” Helms says. “I have never heard of a district that protested that.”

More districts will likely create policies covering jobs teachers take to supplement their income, Helms says.

“The teachers’ primary responsibility is to fulfill their contract with the school district,” Delisle says. “But teachers aren’t being paid what they need to support themselves or their families.”