Low Pay, High Housing Costs: Not a Good Equation for Teachers

The rising cost of housing, along with the pandemic, has transformed the lack of housing affordable to teachers in expensive parts of California from bad to worse. Solutions so far only address half the problem or don’t go far enough.

2 minute read

March 7, 2023, 10:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

View from behind young girl student wearing headphones and raising her hand as she attends online class with dark-haired female teacher on laptop in front of her

Hananeko_Studio / Online learning

The increasing gap between teacher salaries and the cost of owning or renting a home are making it increasingly hard for teachers to make ends meet. To afford the cost of living, many teachers are forced to work an extra job, commute long distances, or rely on in housing provided by their school districts.

A recent article by Edwin Rios for the Guardian focuses on California as the poster child of the teacher workforce housing affordability problem, but also as a case study of early policy responses to the challenge—a challenge is exacerbated on both sides of an equation found in other parts of the country as well. The cost of housing is rising, and teachers are significantly underpaid relative to other jobs.

Research published by the Economic Policy Institute in August 2022 “found that public school teachers nationally make nearly 24% less in weekly earnings than similarly credentialed college graduates in other fields,” explains Rios. “When benefits such as healthcare were taken into account, the total compensation penalty was 14%, the widest gap since 1979.”

After laying out the scale of a problem that cuts across issues of land use, racial demographics, and numerous social outcomes, the article also digs into how some governments, at various levels, are responding to the challenge. “In California, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill last October that would make it easier for districts to build housing specifically for teachers and school employees on district-owned properties beginning January 2024,” for example. According to an “Education Workforce Housing” report published by the California School Boards Association (CSBA) in collaboration with researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, Berkeley; more than 40 districts around the state of California are considering workforce housing projects.

The potential for school districts to provide more workforce housing is far greater that has been realized. Local educational agencies in California own 151,500 acres of land, for example, according to the press release announcing the study. But the article never strays to far from the idea that solutions to teacher workforce housing challenges will also have to ensure that teacher salaries are competitive enough to attract the talent and work ethic required of the job.

Thursday, March 2, 2023 in The Guardian

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