When the Cost of Living Skyrockets, Teachers Can’t Live Where They Work
You might think that teachers have a pretty good deal, getting the summer off and 12 months of pay to boot, but teachers’ compensation is pretty low, especially when it’s compared with other professions that require similar levels of education and training. Other public servants, like police officers and firefighters, also opt into a career that, despite its importance, leaves something to be desired in the salary department. But, shouldn’t teachers and all public servants who work tirelessly and selflessly to better communities be able to afford to live in the area where they work? Here are a few things to think about.
(Photo Credit: Alain Picard/Flickr)
1. There are benefits for students and the community when teachers live where they teach.
Good teachers can work anywhere and make a difference, but there is something a little extra special about a teacher who really knows and understands the culture and community in which he works. If that knowledge is gained through personal experience, such as living or even growing up in the area, all the better.
Community members understand the needs of the families (and therefore the students) in their area, and local teachers can bring interesting insights to the table when discussing the needs of the community at large as well. Good schools play an important role in the community; they don’t stand apart from it. Therefore, shouldn’t at least some of the educators who act as the backbone of our schools, which ideally also serve as community centers, actually be from that community, or at least feel they have the option of living there if they choose?
2. Increasingly, teachers are unable to afford to live where they teach.
When the cost of living skyrockets, as it has in San Francisco for example, it’s hard for a lot of people to keep up. (If you haven’t seen the video Al Jazeera released last month about how the Tanner family of Full House and Fuller House fame would actually fare in the real San Francisco today, you really should take a peek.) Teachers and other public servants have become increasingly unable to live where they work in these cities, and this concerning.
“This is where all the tech jobs are. And it’s pushing out your community helpers. The cost of living just keeps going up and up,” Tara Hunt, a career teacher from Palo Alto, told NPR, as Jezebel reported. “Who do we blame? Do we blame the homeowners who are renting out their property? Do we blame the city?”
3. There are some practical concerns when teachers can’t live where they teach.
It’s important that people keep in mind that as important members of the community, teachers have a special need to live where they work, compared to other professionals. Educators have responsibilities and duties within their school district that extend beyond regular working hours (as do many of their job responsibilities.)
“You want [teachers] to coach a team, you want them to teach all day, you want them to be a faculty advisor, you want them to be able to give your kid extra help before school, after school — whenever,” Kelly Henderson, a Boston area teacher said. “We’re constantly forced to make that choice: Do I stay and watch my students in the school play, or do I go home and remember what my husband looks like once in a while?”
4. This has been the state of things in some areas for a long time.
Some areas have been dealing with this problem for a while, because the cost of living in these places has always been high. This is a difficult arrangement for these teachers, and their students and families, but because the situation has been this way for some time, it’s not felt in the same way as in places that are having to adjust to the increasing cost-of-living difficulties.
San Francisco, for example, has been famously expensive for quite a while, but cost of living has skyrocketed in recent years. The San Francisco Public Press reports that it now takes an income of $171,000 a year to afford a two-bedroom apartment in the city … 210 percent the area’s median income.
5. Some cities, like San Francisco, are trying to do something about it.
Officials in California seem to recognize that this is a problem, and they’re even trying to change things. In May, San Francisco will re-launch their Teacher Next Door Program which will “assist teachers employed with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) with the purchase of their first home in San Francisco.” Other cities in California are considering different solutions, like offering subsidized condos or apartments to teachers specifically.
When teachers, and other public servants, can’t afford to live in the community where they work, they aren’t the only ones to pay a price. It’s wise for cities to consider other solutions. It’s important for teachers to keep the realities of this situation in mind when they go to apply for a job. Whether or not they can afford to live there too, and how much that matters to them, is something worth thinking about.
Tell Us What You Think
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Gina Belli works as a teacher, freelance writer, and educational consultant, and lives in her beloved home state, Connecticut. She likes to write about education, work-life balance, and the economy. Given her arresting capacity to over-analyze anything interpersonal, her writing often tends to focus on some of the more emotional aspects of workplace connections and disconnections, as they relate to partnerships and teams, personality and communication styles, and leadership. In her free time, she likes to putter around her renovated one-room schoolhouse home, take walks in the woods, and eat as much guacamole as she can get her hands on.