Imagine spending hours in the classroom every day teaching the next generation and then having to go to a second job to make ends meet. That’s the reality for numerous teachers in Arkansas.
“I’ve been doing this extra job thing for almost seven years now, so it’s like second nature,“ said Toni Workman, teacher at Huntsville School District. “This is where I want to be and this is where I am going to stay, so I’ve made adjustments to stay in this career that I love. School is my life. I can definitely see myself retiring from this profession.“
Toni Workman has worked in education for almost two decades. She said she moved to Arkansas from Oklahoma two years ago for greater opportunities. She’s now in her second year with the Huntsville School District
“A lot of Oklahoma teachers walked out and went to the state capitol and wanted teacher raises and things like that,“ she said. “Two years ago, that was me. I feel here in Arkansas, they do value what we do. They do appreciate our profession.“
Even though her salary is higher now, the single mom of three has to work more than one job to provide for her family.
“I won’t lie, it is stressful at times,“ said Workman. “As a mother, you do what you have to do to provide for your family.“
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, across the United States, 18 percent of teachers say they work multiple jobs. That’s nearly one in five teachers.
“Without teachers, quality teachers, we aren’t going to improve education in our state,“ said Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed HB1145 into law this year raising the minimum salary for teachers.
“That’s fundamental in making sure that they understand that they are appreciated, but also it’s to recognize what a difference they make for our students,“ he said. “Whenever we do this, I think they realize how important their profession is. We are seeing an increasing number of students consider the teaching profession. We want to make sure that pipeline continues to be strong for the future.“
Under the law, the state will increase the minimum salary $4,000 over the next four years. The state also set aside $60 million for school districts below the minimum to reach the new mandated salary.
“Most of these are rural districts,“ said Hutchinson. “They are districts that do not have a high urban population. They’re struggling financially, so we are setting aside money that they can tap into over the next four years.“
Teachers like Workman believe HB1145 is a step in the right direction. She said she loves teaching and cherishes the moments where she can see the impact she has on her students. But, she dreams of a day when teaching will be enough.
“I do see the light at the end of the tunnel,“ she said. “In three to four years when my kids graduate college, hopefully I won’t have to work these extra jobs and I can look back and say wow I did this to help my family and it was worth it.“