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Paid summer breaks and other common myths about teachers

As teachers in several states across the United States protest for higher pay and more funding for public education, ...

Posted: Apr 16, 2018 11:44 AM
Updated: Apr 16, 2018 11:44 AM

As teachers in several states across the United States protest for higher pay and more funding for public education, lawmakers and onlookers are debating whether teachers deserve more money.

But many of the arguments against teachers' demands are based on misconceptions about the teaching profession and how they're compensated.

Here are a few common myths about teachers and their pay.

MYTH: Teachers work less than other professionals

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average length of an American school day is just over 6.5 hours. But teachers work much longer than that.

Kristen Emanuel, a 7th grade teacher in New York City, said she regularly works 11 hours a day. Nine of those are spent at school.

More than 3.5 million full-time teachers in the United States are required to work 38.2 hours a week on average, according to the NCES. But when taking into account all other school-related activities teachers participate in -- like after school conferences, staff meetings and extracurricular programs -- they actually end up working 53.3 hours during a typical work week.

For most other professions, a typical American work week in 2017 was 42.3 hours, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Emanuel stays at the school late to work on lesson plans and prepare for the next day, she said, knowing it will be harder to get work done at home with her three kids.

When she finally leaves work, Emanuel makes her kids dinner and puts them to bed. "And the second they're down, I start grading papers and doing lesson plans for the next day," she said, adding she also spends 4 to 5 hours grading papers on the weekend.

"I love my students, but it's also emotionally exhausting, physically exhausting and mentally taxing," Emanuel said.

Leslie Busch, a special education teacher in Kentucky, agrees. "It's not a 9 to 5 and leave-your-stuff-at-work kind of job," she said. "You live it. You breathe it. It's there with you all the time."

MYTH: Teachers have a paid summer vacation

"That's a misconception on many people's minds," Busch told CNN. In fact, teachers are only paid for the days they work. For Busch, that's 187 days a year.

Busch said many teachers, including herself, choose to have a portion of each of their paychecks withheld during the school year so they can continue to receive a paycheck through the summer. That means about 9 months' worth of money is spread out over 12 months.

Several teachers in different states told CNN they choose to have their pay prorated so they can have a steady stream of income over the summer, but they're not getting paid to lounge by the pool, they said.

"I get a paycheck," Busch said. "I do not get extra pay."

Emanuel also chooses to have her pay spread out. "It's about budgeting," she said, "and allocating pay."

"I do it myself because I just like to have that steady stream of income," she told CNN, adding that some teachers choose not to have their pay withheld, and receive the money up front. But those teachers won't get a paycheck over the summer.

MYTH: Teachers are given all their supplies

Many teachers have to pay for classroom supplies out of their own pockets, further adding to the financial burdens many educators are facing.

A 2016 study by educational publisher Scholastic found teachers, on average, spent $530 of their personal money on supplies for their classrooms.

They're buying supplies for students like pencils, notebooks, tissues, books, lesson plans, technology and software, the study showed.

Kerrie Dallman, the president of the Colorado Education Association (CEA), said each year she'd spend between $800 and $1,000 on average buying supplemental textbooks and classroom materials, but most CEA members pay about $650.

Emanuel, the teacher in New York City, buys books, posterboard, tape, scissors, staplers, hand sanitizer, tissues and organizational materials, she said. "It really runs the gamut."

It's gotten better in recent years, she said, with organizations like DonorsChoose.org helping teachers supply their classrooms. But she said still spends at least $1,000 each year.

MYTH: All teachers receive an adequate wage

Besides the teaching work they take home, many educators take on extra work or second jobs to supplement their incomes.

In the 2015-2016 school year, 17.9% of public school teachers had a job outside of the school system, according to data from the NCES. Another 44.5% took on extracurricular activities within the school system that netted additional pay.

Dallman said she worked all kinds of jobs to make extra money when she was in the classroom, teaching high school social studies.

"In the past I've coached swimming, I've coached softball," she said. "I have worked for UPS as a truck loader in the summer in 100-degree heat in a semi-truck at midnight."

The CEA collects information from its 35,000 members to see what additional jobs they take to supplement their salaries, and there are many examples of teachers driving for Lyft, working at Walmart or doing landscaping, Dallman said.

Colorado teachers aren't alone, either. Educators in Oklahoma told CNN about working 2, 3 or even up to 6 jobs to make ends meet.

"I think it's a real testament to an individual's commitment to teaching when they could probably go find another job and earn more money," Dallman said.

"But," she adds, "they stay in the classroom because of their passion for our students."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 482902

Reported Deaths: 9425
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison33063488
Hinds31021589
DeSoto30610358
Jackson23687348
Rankin21340370
Lee14909220
Madison14166271
Jones13404227
Forrest13160240
Lauderdale11601305
Lowndes10443176
Lamar10214130
Pearl River9098221
Lafayette8241137
Hancock7514112
Washington7102150
Oktibbeha6964124
Monroe6514164
Neshoba6475201
Warren6464164
Pontotoc630393
Panola6250126
Marshall6126123
Bolivar6115144
Union574186
Pike5613136
Alcorn537290
Lincoln5303131
George471472
Scott459196
Leflore4476140
Prentiss446779
Tippah446480
Itawamba4444100
Adams4416116
Tate4394101
Simpson4335112
Wayne433066
Copiah431787
Yazoo423386
Covington415792
Sunflower4148104
Marion4099104
Leake397586
Coahoma3957100
Newton370875
Grenada3556104
Stone350860
Tishomingo336289
Attala325387
Jasper314162
Winston304691
Clay296473
Chickasaw287065
Clarke282190
Calhoun266141
Holmes262187
Smith250649
Yalobusha221047
Tallahatchie220450
Walthall211058
Greene209045
Lawrence206833
Perry199953
Amite198452
Webster196542
Noxubee178939
Montgomery172454
Jefferson Davis168342
Carroll162137
Tunica153334
Benton142535
Kemper138640
Choctaw127026
Claiborne126834
Humphreys126637
Franklin116728
Quitman103926
Wilkinson101936
Jefferson91333
Sharkey63020
Issaquena1926
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 789054

Reported Deaths: 14022
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1115991765
Mobile708511234
Madison49865633
Shelby36274315
Baldwin36242495
Tuscaloosa33931548
Montgomery33190678
Lee22680220
Calhoun21211410
Morgan19816335
Etowah19300462
Marshall17680274
Houston16823386
St. Clair15442305
Cullman14602258
Limestone14581188
Elmore14480264
Lauderdale13520281
Talladega12958236
DeKalb12199237
Walker10588330
Blount9720157
Autauga9667137
Jackson9385158
Coffee8882175
Dale8609173
Colbert8534184
Tallapoosa6673181
Escambia6591121
Covington6452167
Chilton6385144
Russell607255
Franklin5795101
Chambers5416134
Marion4800120
Dallas4705189
Clarke463279
Pike462397
Geneva4413117
Winston425895
Lawrence4117108
Bibb409381
Barbour347270
Marengo326285
Monroe320053
Butler318290
Randolph305956
Pickens305274
Henry301858
Hale292685
Cherokee289855
Fayette279673
Washington245448
Crenshaw238470
Cleburne235851
Clay228565
Macon220158
Lamar197743
Conecuh182046
Lowndes170758
Coosa170235
Wilcox159736
Bullock149243
Perry136537
Sumter124536
Greene121443
Choctaw73427
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While some cool mornings are again in store for the weekend, afternoons start to warm up a bit, so plan on dressing in layers if you're heading to the MSU or Bama games, because you'll need to utilize them in different ways.
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