Low pay, student loans forcing Indiana teachers to get second jobsJune 7, 2019
EVANSVILLE — Brian Smith has held a second job for 16 years while being a full-time elementary school teacher. He currently teaches at Bend Gate Elementary in Henderson. The Evansville resident commutes regularly.
Smith’s second job is at Kona Ice of Evansville. Starting in mid-April and going until early November, he works — mostly on weekends during sporting events — at the well-known tropical shaved-ice truck.
When school concludes in the summer, Smith works 40 hours each week at Kona Ice. During the school year, he contributes 15-25 hours weekly depending on the events.
“It’s a fun job because everybody is excited about seeing you,” he said. “It’s not a hassle because I am able to be social.”
Why does he have a second job?
The average starting teaching salary in Kentucky is a little over $36,000, according to National Education Association. Kentucky ranks 32nd in the country for starting salaries for teachers.
Smith is in the process of saving for his children’s college. He also needs additional income for family vacations, holidays and to help make charitable donations to families in Henderson around Christmas time.
“I have two kids of my own,” Smith said. “I would like to get a leg up with my children’s college. Being able to add a little bit here and there into their college funds helps.”
Smith isn’t alone. One out of every five teachers nationwide must take another job to make ends meet.
Many teachers are picking up second jobs to pay off student loans and have money to direct into their children’s college funds, to compensate for low teacher pay and to supply their individual classrooms throughout the school year.
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‘I have to make this payment’
When 28-year-old Shelby Phelps isn’t grading essays after school, you can find her taking orders and serving pizza at Spankey’s Una Pizza on Evansville’s West Side.
In addition to her full-time career as an English and journalism teacher at Central High School, Phelps also oversees her school’s yearbook club, teaches summer school and participates in TeachPlus, a paid teacher advocacy fellowship.
But that’s not enough.
Phelps also waits tables on Friday and Saturday nights.
“I was on deferral for my student loans,” she said. “Once that picked up again, I was like, ‘I have to make this payment.’ With the paycheck that we make, it’s hard to save money.”