By Kayla Henard
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
For fourth grade teacher Rachel Ferrer, the work day never seems to end.
The 25-year-old third-year teacher at Hilltop Elementary in Anne Arundel County considers herself an overachiever. She works her day job as an elementary educator along with being a Baltimore Blast cheerleader and she works a second job as a server at Ledo Pizza in her free time.
“I try not to think about how much I work because being busy is just part of my everyday routine and in reality bills need to be paid,” Ferrer said. “I sometimes don’t get home until almost midnight but I wake up and do it all again without complaint.”
Multiple jobs for an educator is not uncommon. Nearly 17 percent of teachers nationwide have additional jobs outside of teaching to make ends meet, according to Chris Chapman, a statistician from the National Center for Education Statistics. Nearly 4,800 teachers in Maryland alone obtain additional jobs.
Ferrer is officially paid $48,186 as a teacher, but says she takes home about $36,000 a year when taxes, health insurance and union dues are taken out of her bi-weekly pay check.
“In a two-week period, I sometimes make more money serving pizza than I do teaching children, and that is scary thought,” Ferrer said.
Richard Benfer, the president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County (TAAC), said the low pay issue is only getting worse. He said teachers in Montgomery, Prince Georges, Howard and Calvert counties are all paid more than educators in Anne Arundel.
“This makes it very difficult to recruit because Anne Arundel County is getting the reputation of not being able to pay employees what is bargained,” Benfer said.
According to William Reinhard, a spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education, Maryland provides increasing amounts of funding to local school systems, which can be used for any purpose, but local systems set the salaries in negotiation with their unions.
Ferrer, like many other college graduates, is still paying off school loan debt on top of her monthly bills and says that she is required to further her education within a certain amount of time from the start of her teaching career.
“Being able to afford to live is hard enough, but the thought of going back to school for another degree and being forced to work less is extremely stressful and overwhelming,” Ferrer said.
Jeffrey Kenton, an education expert at Towson University, believes the profession is overlooked and undermined far too often.
“I must strongly assert that all teachers deserve higher pay. Teaching is hard, honest, legitimate work,” Kenton said. “Unfortunately, it is work that is undervalued by the public at large.”
Kenton also notes that Maryland teachers are on the higher end of the pay scale compared to most of the country. He suggests that all county school systems in Maryland offer programs to repay student loan debt in exchange for three to five years of service.
Benfer says that job security in teaching will remain at a high because there will always be a need for qualified educators as long as there are students enrolling.
“I myself waited tables all through high school and college,” Benfer said. “When I got my first teaching job I had to continue moonlighting as a waiter for 10 more years. This is not a new problem, but I could look at the pay scale I was on and determine what I would be making when I could make a car purchase, plan on a home or marriage, and knew that I would continue on the pay scale each year.”
Ferrer is also thankful for the overall job security of being a teacher and says it is one of the main reasons she entered the profession.
“Regardless of how full my plate is, I enjoy going to work every day knowing I am making a difference,” Ferrer said. “However, I wish teachers received more resources for the massive job they do without having to break their backs.”