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: 313166

Reported Deaths: 7228
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21496257
Hinds20294414
Harrison17814309
Rankin13573278
Jackson13411246
Madison10066217
Lee9962173
Jones8364163
Forrest7649152
Lauderdale7181240
Lowndes6370145
Lamar621686
Lafayette6171118
Washington5323133
Bolivar4797132
Oktibbeha461498
Panola4561105
Pearl River4499145
Marshall4397103
Warren4380121
Pontotoc419572
Monroe4100133
Union409076
Neshoba4026176
Lincoln3950110
Hancock377786
Leflore3487125
Sunflower335790
Tate332484
Pike3301105
Scott315373
Alcorn311968
Yazoo310769
Itawamba299477
Copiah296465
Simpson294788
Coahoma294379
Tippah287768
Prentiss279560
Adams269582
Marion268880
Leake266273
Wayne262341
Grenada260386
Covington256381
George246848
Newton246061
Winston226881
Tishomingo225967
Jasper220848
Attala214173
Chickasaw207157
Holmes188673
Clay184754
Stone182033
Tallahatchie178140
Clarke177879
Calhoun170132
Yalobusha163337
Smith162234
Walthall133845
Greene130333
Lawrence128323
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry125938
Amite122842
Carroll121728
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis106932
Tunica104826
Claiborne102230
Benton99125
Humphreys96133
Kemper95428
Franklin83623
Quitman80216
Choctaw76118
Wilkinson66930
Jefferson65428
Sharkey50317
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 530325

Reported Deaths: 10966
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson763971520
Mobile40908804
Madison34717503
Tuscaloosa25730452
Montgomery24314588
Shelby23401249
Baldwin21107307
Lee15856171
Calhoun14488314
Morgan14282279
Etowah13819353
Marshall12210223
Houston10557280
Elmore10044205
Limestone9954150
Cullman9649193
St. Clair9644242
Lauderdale9419241
DeKalb8825185
Talladega8214175
Walker7223277
Autauga6918108
Jackson6804112
Blount6651137
Colbert6292134
Coffee5506119
Dale4828111
Russell440638
Chilton4279112
Franklin425582
Covington4118118
Tallapoosa4019152
Escambia393276
Chambers3559123
Dallas3547151
Clarke350861
Marion3113100
Pike310577
Lawrence299898
Winston274072
Bibb260464
Marengo249264
Geneva249077
Pickens234160
Barbour230757
Hale222677
Butler215969
Fayette212062
Henry188744
Cherokee184445
Randolph179941
Monroe177340
Washington167039
Macon158750
Clay156156
Crenshaw152057
Cleburne148741
Lamar141934
Lowndes138653
Wilcox127030
Bullock123041
Conecuh110129
Perry107526
Coosa107128
Sumter104332
Greene92334
Choctaw60424
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