Just when you thought the liberal capital of the U.S. couldn’t get any more desperate, along comes the San Francisco Bay Area with a story that sets the bar for liberal ideals. After 10 teachers resigned when the school year ended in June, they had to ask why. It wasn’t a decision to retire, they hadn’t reached their burnout point, or looking to shift careers. Instead, they wanted to live in the district they were teaching in and couldn’t afford to live there. As such, time for a new home.
The Milpitas, CA school district took this challenge to heart and sent out letters to parents. With virtual hat in hand, they asked them to fill out a form if “you have a room for rent at your home and would like to share the housing opportunity with our Milpitas Unified School District educators.” The link to the form asks them how many rooms they happen to have for rent, and what they would charge the educators to live there.
In true California style, the district received 53 responses claimed Scott Forstner, a representative of the school district. Many believe that this is a sign of caring for the teachers and the well-being of the school in general.
Then again, this district has failed its teachers from the get-go. They haven’t been able to keep pace with inflation and pay the teachers enough to live in their districts. With 1,000 employees in the Milpitas district, and about half of them teaching, it’s easy to see how the problem can be so widespread. As it is, many people cannot afford to live in the district, and the schoolteacher’s salary certainly would have a tough time keeping up with that cost.
Across the nation, this has been a problem for decades. The criminally low wages combined with a lack of a budget for supplies, and overzealous parents who believe their little angel can do no wrong make for a horrific combination. For many in places like Milpitas, this means the job isn’t worth taking or staying at. Who wants to rent a room for $900 a month and share a place with three or more roommates while teaching kids? Especially when that $900 can cover the rent of an entire apartment or even a mortgage in other districts.
This problem runs deep, and nobody has stepped up to fix it. While the people in the district certainly don’t want to pay more in taxes, they need to if they want to pay teachers better salaries. When you can only attract bottom-of-the-barrel teachers, your students achieve bottom-of-the-barrel results. Many districts have learned this the hard way.
In 2016, Redfin performed some analysis comparing the houses on the market with teacher salaries. They found that in 31 of the most-populated counties in California, just 17% of the homes available were affordable under a teacher’s salary. Just four years prior, that number was at 30%. The “affordable” point for them was the rent taking up one-third of their salary. This isn’t very beneficial to them as they try to attract teachers into the district.
Other districts have gone so far as to have housing built for their teachers and offered them places to live for five years at rates far below the market price. This attracts teachers and allows them an opportunity to fall in love with the area and save money to buy a home in the area. As the gap widens between affordability and not, the area will continue to lose valuable teachers and residents. Until they find a way to either skyrocket salaries or plunge their pricing down, they won’t find new residents very easily.