Teachers forced out of profession by high inflation, nearly stagnant salaries
One California school district is getting into real estate to keep teachers in the classroom as housing and living expenses rise
DALY CITY, CALIF. – In some of America’s most expensive cities, residents are having to pack up and leave as rent prices rise. Inflation is keeping teachers from moving into these major cities like San Francisco in California, fueling the need for more staff when school districts are already struggling to hire.
Rent prices in San Francisco have gone up more 16% in the past year, the real estate company Redfin reported in June. The most recent teacher salary data shows that the average salary for teachers has gone down in the past decade by 3.2%, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In California, the average salary is up 3.7%. Still, teachers say it doesn’t help with the rising costs of nearly everything.
"The prices here are astronomical," Jefferson Union High School District Superintendent Toni Presta said. "We have teachers we want to hire, and they might be from across the country, and they can’t afford to live here," she explained.
Even some people who live in the area struggle to afford the high cost of living. "It’s difficult to make ends meet with rent, food and other bills you have to pay and still have a life," Davonte Byrd said.
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Byrd now works with the Jefferson Union High School District in San Mateo County, just outside of San Francisco. He was couch-surfing for several months until he was able to find a well-paying job and an affordable rent. In San Francisco, the median rent price is more than $3,750, according to Redfin. He’s paying half.
To help provide a solution for affordable housing while retaining and recruiting staff, the Jefferson Union High School District built an apartment complex for district employees on an empty parking lot that they already owned. The apartments are offered at almost half the market rate to employees. A $30 million bond was passed in 2018 by voters in the area to help build the complex. District leaders said the housing is helping.
"We started our year fully staffed, and most of neighboring school districts did not start the year fully staffed," Presta said.
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Rebecca Jasmin lives in the complex and works as a health teacher. She said she was couch-surfing as well until she could find an affordable place to live in the area.
"The rent that I was looking at, was like $2,200 per month, like a matchbox, a tiny little space," she said. Jasmin left teaching previously because of low pay. She said having the housing makes it more affordable.
"People are able to live here, work here and afford it, and that’s really remarkable in the Bay Area," Presta said.
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There are about 230,000 thousand less staff working in education across the country now compared to this time in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"Low pay, the areas I wanted to be, the housing, it just wasn’t workable," Jasmin said.