Florida Teachers Scramble To Survive by Taking Second Jobs at Disney World

in Disney, Disney Parks, Featured, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

Statue of walt disney holding hands with mickey mouse, known as the "partners" statue, with cinderella castle in the background at a sunny disney theme park.

Credit: Becky Burkett

With Teacher Appreciation Week coming to a close, it’s time to take a look at the state of teaching in Florida. Last week, the National Education Association released its teacher pay ranking across the country and Washington D.C. and found that Florida ranked 50th, only ahead of West Virginia.

disney donates school supplies
Credit: Disney Parks Blog

Related: Disney Worked Behind the Scenes to Strip Cast Members of Basic Human Rights

The average salary for a teacher in Florida was $53,100, which averages out to $4,425 per month before taxes. Estimates suggest that the average cost of living in Central Florida is between $6,500 and $7,000 a month, which is five percent higher than the national average.

So, with expenses far outpacing teacher pay in Central Florida, teachers must take on a second job to make ends meet. With the Walt Disney World Resort being the largest employer in the area, it would only seem natural that a teacher would turn to Disney World for part-time employment.

However, with the political attention that has been given to teachers in the state recently, Disney World and other local theme parks have become more than just part-time jobs. Teachers have had to take on second full-time positions to make ends meet.

So, let’s appreciate the job teachers have to do and examine how low pay and political pressure have changed teaching in the state and the types of jobs that teachers take on when working at Walt Disney World.

Statue of a man pointing, accompanied by a cartoon mouse, in front of a fairytale castle under a blue sky with clouds, surrounded by visitors.
Credit: Javier Parigini, Flickr

So, let’s appreciate the job teachers have to do and examine how low pay and political pressure have changed teaching in the state and the types of jobs that teachers take on when working at Walt Disney World.

Teaching in Florida

When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education Act, known by its critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, it created confusion for teachers. They were unsure what they could and could not say to students about themselves and their families and what was allowed under the law.

School boards started investigating teachers for the types of movies they showed and the books they read with their students. A fifth-grade teacher was suspended and later resigned after she showed her students Strange World (2022), which has an openly gay character.

Then, the waves of book banning started. The Parental Rights in Education Act allowed parents to challenge books in public and school libraries. In 2023, the American Library Association estimated that 2,300 book challenges were brought in Florida, the most in the nation, and nearly 1,200 more than in Texas, the second-place state.

Florida Teacher on the left, shocked DeSantis on the right, and Disney Movie 'Strange World' 2022 as a background. Florida Teacher Investigation
Credit: Inside the Magic

And then there is the pay. Florida used to rank near the middle in the United States in terms of teacher salaries. Then came former Florida Governor and current U.S. Senator Rick Scott.

During Scott’s tenure as governor, Florida teachers saw their wages stagnate and then drop. From 2000 to 2019, teachers in Florida saw a 6.1 percent decrease in their salaries in real money, not adjusted for inflation. Scott was governor from 2011 to 2019.

Then came Florida Governor Ron DeSantiss. When DeSantis took office in 2019, the average teacher salary in Florida was $48,395 and has since risen to $53,100, a $4,705 increase.

However, since the end of the Pandemic, Florida has seen a drastic increase in residents, which has exploded the cost of living in the state. Some estimates say that since 2022, inflation in Florida is 10 percent, the highest in the nation.

Disney cast members posing in a frame that reads "we are the magic"
Credit: Disney

Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar said:

Once again, despite a thriving economy, Florida is failing to prioritize the needs of students by not fairly compensating teachers and staff. Time and time again, anti-education politicians say they support teachers — but the proof is undeniable: in the past five and a half years Florida’s. Ron DeSantis took office, Florida’s public-school teachers have experienced a stagnant and declining average salary.

Last year, DeSantis signed a $1 billion bill to increase teacher pay throughout the state. However, during this legislative session, he signed several bills that would allow students to use funds at private schools rather than their local public schools and increase the salaries of private school teachers.

This has combined to create one of America’s most significant teacher shortages. The Florida Education Association estimates that 18,000 teachers left Florida classrooms at the end of last school year, and with school ending in a few weeks, the FEA is expecting another massive exodus.

Disney World Cast Members hold pin boards
Credit: Disney

Spar said: 

I would bet that for many of those, it’s because of financial reasons, it’s because they can’t do their jobs anymore, and it’s because of the increased stress and anxiety that teachers are feeling in the classroom right now.

The Florida Legislature tried to address this shortage by allowing military veterans and other school personnel like custodians and paraprofessionals to work toward teacher certificates.

However, this program has not been successful. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Orange County School District only got three new teachers through the program.

The article said: 

The idea sounds good. But it ignores the root problem. It’s not that aspiring teachers can’t get degrees. It’s that most people don’t aspire to be teachers in this state anymore.

The teacher shortage isn’t just a Florida problem. It’s an American problem. States throughout the country are struggling to find educators, who are not only treated like political punching bags, but have to deal with behavioral problems, disrespect and toxic parents.

In America, teachers are asked to be cops, counselors, nurses and social workers.

Cast Members gather together to celebrate the 30th Anniversary on Main Street as Don't Say Gay bill gets an online friend
Credit: Disney

So, with teachers in short supply and those who are working needing extra money, they have turned to jobs at the Walt Disney World Resort to fill in the financial gaps. Disney World has provided them with some much-needed relief.

Jobs for Teachers At Disney World

Abigail Capellini is a full-time teacher at Reedy Creek Elementary School and works as a photographer by night and on weekends. She covers weddings at Disney World on the weekends.

Capellini said: 

They ask me how I juggle it all. Requires some nights after putting my kids to bed. I’m editing and responding to emails. We deserve more pay. Competitive pay. A lot of other careers get paid more, and we’re working with the future of our country.

By some estimates, more than 80 percent of Florida teachers have to work a second job to help make ends meet. With Walt Disney World being the largest employer in Central Florida, many of them turn to Disney for the extra money to make ends meet.

A PhotoPass Disney Cast Member takes a photo facing the camera in front of Cinderella Castle.
Credit: Disney Parks Blog

But beyond working as photographers, what other jobs are available for teachers at Disney World?

Like most things in life, it depends. Disney World’s website currently has 151 jobs available for people with educational backgrounds.

Science teachers can find jobs working with the animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom or plants at The Land Pavilion in EPCOT. For history teachers, there’s always Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom or the American Pavilion at EPCOT.

Teachers who want to remove themselves from their subject matter while at a second job can become cast members in the park and work on rides or attractions or at one of the shops.

However, the most interesting job available to a teacher is that of a project manager. Essentially, the job is to bring people together for one common goal and make sure that everyone does their part and is on schedule. And really, isn’t that what teachers do daily in their classrooms?

disney cast members at mickey's retreat
Credit: Disney

Teacher Appreciation

With the end of the school year rapidly approaching across the country, it’s time to say thank you to the teachers who helped shape you into the person you are today.

And sure, teachers do get the summers off, but as you’ve seen, they are just heading to their second job to pay the bills.

Hopefully, this new Florida Legislation will help fix the problem of teacher pay in the state, or the struggle to find new people to fill classrooms will continue in Florida and across the country.

Who was the best teacher you ever had in school? 

in Disney, Disney Parks, Featured, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

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