Living ‘paycheck to paycheck,’ these teachers moonlight to make ends meet

Sanya Manor:

Unfolded laundry sits in a basket and dishes stack up in the sink at Dawn Cardenas’ home.

“Things that are not important don’t get done,” said Cardenas, who teaches at O’Banion Middle School in Garland ISD.

Instead, Cardenas, 54, devotes nearly all of her time to making sure her four grown children —three of whom are in college — have enough money for rent, groceries and incidentals. Sometimes a single textbook can cost $400.

That means that on top of teaching U.S. history, Cardenas also sells cosmetics at Dillard’s. In one week, she spends close to 75 hours teaching, preparing for class and communicating with parents. She works 25 to 30 additional hours at the department store.

Cardenas is one of many teachers who moonlight to make ends meet.

Nearly one-third of teachers who responded to a survey released by Sam Houston State University in August said they have a second job to supplement their income. That’s down from 44 percent in 2012 and 41 percent in 2010.

Public school teachers who moonlight during the academic year put in an average of about 13 hours a week at their extra jobs, the study found. Eighty-six percent of them wanted to quit their extra jobs, but reported they’d need a $9,000 raise to do so.

At $51,758 a year, teacher pay in Texas is more than $6,000 below the national average, according to a 2015-16 school year survey by the National Education Association.