When critics argue that teachers aren’t underpaid, they cite the short work year and generous health benefits. In doing so, they conclude that teachers receive about five percent more than they could in the private sector (“Public School Teachers Aren’t Underpaid,” The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 8, 2011). But what they don’t take into account is the high cost of housing in large cities (“Teachers sound off on SF’s slow pace on housing crisis,” San Francisco Chronicle, Mar. 23).
In this regard, San Francisco stands out, although it is not alone. The city has the highest cost of housing in California. The last time I checked a one-bedroom apartment went on average for $3,500 a month, according to apartment rental startup Zumper. That has caused many teachers to endure daily commutes of from two to five hours in order to find affordable housing. Others work two or three side jobs to bring in additional income.
Despite these realities, the average pay for public school teachers in San Francisco ranks 528 among 821 school districts in California. It’s little wonder that it’s so hard to recruit and retain teachers to the San Francisco Unified School District. Dedication does not pay the bills.
To address the issue, a site dedicated for teacher housing is expected to be selected this summer in San Francisco, with proposals ready by the end of the year. That’s a step in the right direction, but teachers won’t be able to move in until 2022 at the earliest. In the meantime, they will continue to seek jobs in other areas where their paychecks are not disproportionately eaten up by exhorbitant rent.
The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.