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Affordable Housing for Teachers (ART)
Affordable Housing for Teachers (ART) is vital for the progression of education. A litany of concerns such as rising premiums, insufficient salaries, scant resources, and challenging working conditions have caused the deep-seated problems pushing many teachers to quit and others to not even consider it.
In 2018 teachers in five states pushed back on the stagnant wages and rising health care costs by walk outs and strikes. Many lawmakers and districts around the country are interested in ways to make teaching more sustainable, one of those ways would be housing incentives. As home prices and rents have increased, teachers are beginning to be unable to live in the communities they serve and are forced to endure long commutes that add to the stress of the job.
According to a Learning Policy Institute Analysis, nearly 25 percent of former teachers said housing incentives might entice them to return to teaching. Housing may be easier to address because it is less reliant on policy changes and legislative gridlock. Not to mention, a home is meaningful and powerful, heavily connected to a sense of belonging to a community and desires to put down roots. It’s not surprising that teachers want to live close to work so they understand the environment that shapes their students’ lives. When teachers have this kind of access, it allows them to create a connection deeper than surface level with not only their students but also their families that extend beyond lessons and grading. According to research done by the Department of Applied Psychology, this kind of student-teacher-family relationship can greatly improve student outcomes.
Teachers also want to be able to coach teams, participate in activities, and show up at events - not rush to get on the road to beat traffic. Andrew Simmons, a Public High School Teacher and Writer in Oakland, stated this exact issue in one of his latest articles for Edutopia, saying “I live an hour and a half drive each way from where I teach. I leave for work at 5:30 a.m. and rush out of school at the final bell. I can’t tutor, lead clubs, attend games, or go to plays because I won’t make it in time to pick up my daughter from preschool if I do. And while I’ve tried to explore the neighborhoods near the school, these experiences barely skim the surface of understanding the community my students call home. I know this lack of context impacts my relationships with my students and my general presence in their lives.”
While housing may not solve the problem in its entirety, any time we can help teachers afford a place to live will reduce the cost and anxiety of living on a fixed salary and improve the impact teachers have on students.
Attracting and retaining knowledgable educators is one of the most important aspects of a efficient education system, a system that must prepare a variety of students with the complexities of today’s knowledge-driven economy. Due to the recent surge in the demand for teachers, along with the increasing amount of teachers leaving the profession, hinders students academic and economic welfare. Teachers who leave the profession prematurely hurt student learning and costs taxpayers.
When the nonprofit Near East Renewal (NEAR) unveiled its affordable housing plan for teachers at town halls in Indianapolis, more than 200 interested teachers showed up. The city loses nearly 400 teachers a year, with many flocking to suburban schools where the salaries are higher and the housing is more affordable. Near Executive Director, John Franklin Hay, says he has high hopes that the plan will provide more affordable housing for teachers. “We want teachers, civically engaged people, to live in the city’s core,” Hay said, referencing the value in having teachers with a stake in the communities where they work. “This is matter of developing community leadership.”
Dare County, North Carolina offers two affordable apartment complexes just for teachers. Newark, New Jersey’s $150 million, 400,000-square-foot education community houses three charter schools, subsidized teacher housing, and amenities. Cities like Hartford, Chicago and Miami have also followed suit.
Ways School Districts Can Make a Difference
Increase teachers overall compensation by offering housing incentives. Such incentives include money for expenses such as rent, relocation, and down payment assistance, as well as discounted homes and subsidized teacher housing, that have been proven to impact teacher recruitment and retention.
Create local pathways into the profession. High school career pathways and teacher preparation models (Grow Your Own) are a start. These kinds of examples target talented individuals from he community to a career in education and help them along the pathway into the profession.
Increase in teacher salaries in schools and communities where salaries are not competitive or able to support a middle-class lifestyle. Some states have funded statewide salary minimums that raise and equalize pay, as well as salary incentives for accomplishments such as National Board Certification or taking on additional responsibilities. Districts can negotiate salary structures that incentivize retention and make compensation packages more competitive in the local labor market.
Induction and Support for New Teachers. After districts hire talented teachers, strong induction and support for novice teachers can increase their retention, accelerate their professional growth, and improve student learning. Teachers who receive this have been found to stay in teaching at rates more than twice those of teachers who lack this kind of support.