Events in Los Angeles (“David Geffen gives $100 million to build a school for the children of UCLA staff and others,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 12) and San Francisco (“San Francisco is the latest city to recognize teachers don’t earn enough to live there,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 12) are evidence that the cost of living has to be addressed if efforts to recruit top educators are to be successful.
UCLA has accepted a $100-million gift from entertainment mogul David Geffen to establish a college-prep school on its campus for grades six through twelve that will enroll half of its 600 students from UCLA-affiliated families and half from the local community. The gift is intended to help UCLA attract instructors who suffer sticker shock when seeking to live in neighborhoods with good schools.
The mayor of San Francisco announced a five-year plan to provide housing assistance to 500 San Francisco Unified School District teachers to keep them in the city. It will offer forgivable housing loans of about $250,000 annually. (About 73 percent of voters approved the move in the last election.) The city will use $50 million for maintaining and building affordable housing in the Mission district. It builds on the existing Teacher Next Door program, which gives SFUSD teachers $20,000 loans to buy their first home in the city. The loan is entirely forgiven if the teacher remains in the district for 10 years.
These are desperately needed measures not only in Los Angeles and San Francisco but also in New York City and Boston, where the cost of housing is prohibitive even for teachers earning otherwise fairly decent salaries. There was a time when the cost of housing constituted a relatively small portion of a teacher’s monthly salary. When I moved to Los Angeles in 1962 and began teaching two years later, I paid $125 monthly to rent a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment with high ceilings, total privacy, and an unobstructed view of the magnificent grounds of the nearby Mormon Temple. That meant I was able to drive to the high school where I spent my entire 28-year career in 10 easy minutes. Today, that apartment would rent for $2,100 a month.
My point is that teachers are being driven away from the classroom when their monthly take-home pay is disproportionately consumed by the cost of housing. Even though they earn far more today than I ever did, they are far worse off. That’s why I applaud these new efforts. I hope they are adopted by cities across the nation.
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.