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'You have to really swallow your pride': Utah teachers describe working multiple jobs

Published November 29, 2016 8:45 am

Making ends meet • Educators who find it hard to live on a Utah teacher's salary have to "swallow their pride" and seek extra work.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Lehi • Thanksgiving is an all-too-rare day off for Orem resident David Cichoski.

He teaches third grade at Freedom Elementary School in Highland and logs night and weekend shifts as a cashier at Costco.

The extra work nets him roughly $2,000 a month, Cichoski said, but requires days that routinely stretch from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.



"It really spoils you," Cichoski said of holiday relaxation, "because it's hard to get back into that routine of go, go, go."

The state auditor's office recently released a report that confirmed what was already anecdotal fact: Utah teachers are among the lowest-paid college graduates in the state.

And a 2014 study by the Center for American Progress found that 16.1 percent of U.S. teachers and 16.9 percent of Utah teachers are also employed outside the school system.

"The big myth about getting the summers and holidays off? No, you don't," Cichoski said. "You have to work it."

Cichoski has taught for 13 years and worked at Costco for eight.

He said it was an adjustment at first to gather shopping carts in the parking lot and perform other tasks at a retail store less than three miles from his classroom.

"You have to really swallow your pride," Cichoski said. "It just gives me that little extra edge to pay all the bills."

He works every Saturday and Sunday at the store and said he plans his whole life around the two nights each week that don't include a Costco shift.

And while he hopes to keep both jobs until he retires, Cichoski said he feels the weight of spending so much time away from home.

"You just watch your kids grow up without you," Cichoski said.

More than a day's work • In addition to teaching science at Salem Hills High School, Brad Shuler logs between 12 and 20 hours a week working for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a security guard at the Provo City Center Temple.

He typically works swing and graveyard shifts over the weekend, which at times have meant driving from one job to the other Monday morning and catching whatever sleep he can before classes start.

"Sleep is kind of a variable in my life," Shuler said. "If I get sleep, it's good, and if I don't, I just try to manage."

The security gig — as well as research jobs over the summer — adds between $10,000 and $20,000 to his annual income.

Shuler said he'd probably stay busy in the summer independent of his school district salary, but would cut back on his night and weekend work if education paid better.

"It would definitely be nice to not have to work so much to make the ends meet," Shuler said.

Many Utahns work multiple jobs, but teachers are regularly expected to spend personal time grading assignments and preparing lesson plans.

Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley said the long hours and low pay within education affect morale and contribute directly to the state's teacher shortage.

Enrollment in Utah's college and university education programs is in sharp decline, and 42 percent of working teachers leave the profession within their first five years, according to the Utah Board of Education.

"It's becoming more and more difficult," Horsley said, "to attract quality teachers — and teachers in general — to the industry."

The starting salary within Granite School District is $36,714, according to budget director Mitch Robison. And lifting pay by 1 percent, the equivalent of roughly $30 each month for an entry-level educator, would cost the district $2.1 million.

While schools are funded from several sources, the bulk of teacher compensation is derived from state per-pupil spending through a formula called the weighted pupil unit, or WPU.

Those spending levels are set by the Legislature each year, but Utah's large child population and low income-tax rate combine to make Utah schools the lowest funded in the nation on a per-student basis.

That translates directly into low teacher pay, Horsley said, which in turn prompts educators to seek additional work or higher-paying careers.

"Some people are even being discouraged by current teachers from going into the field of teaching," Horsley said.

Cichoski said he felt drawn to classroom work, but was also enticed by job security and benefits like health insurance and a pension.

Population growth and the teacher shortage have preserved job security, he said, but lawmakers shifted the retirement system from pensions to retirement accounts in 2010 and teachers are now expected to pay more out of pocket for health insurance.

"What is drawing them into the classroom when this is the future?" Cichoski asked.

'Voting with their diplomas' • After divorcing in 2004, Teresa Case took a job teaching evening adult-education classes in addition to her daytime work as a special-education teacher at Ogden High School.

"It was hard to make it on a teacher's salary," Case said. "I had to find some kind of supplement."

Case remarried in 2014 and trimmed her evening hours in half that year. And, in 2015, she chose not to take a summer job for the first time in more than a decade.

"At first it was really weird," she said. "I didn't know what to do with myself."

Within the education system, there are a number of ways for teachers to boost their earnings, including extra work at their schools or teaching positions at other institutions.

Case's adult-education job is through Weber School District while her daytime work is through Ogden City School District.

Sand Ridge Junior High teacher Zachary Hancock adds to his Weber School District paycheck by teaching driver education. He also teaches online courses through Brigham Young University-Idaho and a web-based charter school.

Hancock is in his fourth year of teaching and said he's already feeling the strain of the workload.

"If I did get offered a job that was paying basically as much as I make working all these jobs," Hancock said, "I'd probably take it."

He said it's nice to be able to do his online education jobs from home, where he can be around his children. But he sometimes feels guilty, he added, that he can't devote more energy to his social studies classes at Sand Ridge.

"I wish I could give more attention to the kids here," Hancock said. "But, at the same time, my family is the most important."

Utah lawmakers will meet in January to begin drafting next year's education budget.

Public school enrollment is forecast to grow by more than 10,000 in 2017, meaning lawmakers must find $115 million to maintain current funding levels and, by extension, teacher salaries.

Any additional increases to per-student spending would be diminished by health care and retirement costs before reaching teachers' wallets.

Education advocacy groups have floated the idea of an income tax increase of seven-eighths of 1 percent, which would net $500 million for Utah schools.

Utah's Legislature is typically wary of tax increases, but Salt Lake City Democratic Rep. Joel Briscoe said steps must be taken to attract college students to education programs.

"They're voting with their diplomas," Briscoe said. "They're telling you something about what they think about going to work inside public schools."

Briscoe taught for 26 years and left the profession in 2008. While a teacher, he worked at a public opinion polling firm and on a school maintenance crew that painted bleachers, rafters and facades when classes weren't in session.

Education is exhausting work, he said, and made even more challenging by the pressure to take additional jobs.

"Most teachers would be full-time teachers" — and only that, Briscoe said — "if it paid."

bwood@sltrib.com Twitter: @bjaminwood

 

 

 

 

 

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