In San Francisco, the average one-bedroom apartment rents for over $3,000 a month. When I first heard that San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, inspired by the story of a homeless teacher, intends to allocate $44 million toward housing for public-school teachers, I imagined the Tyrell Corporation headquarters protruding from the center of an empty parking lot on the outskirts of the city. Each night, an army of tired teachers would slide into a few thousand utilitarian capsules wedged into its futuristic façade—skinny beds, hot plates, shared bathrooms, low ceilings.
The plan: a 130- to 150-unit building in a district with more than 3,600 full-time teachers who could, if a similar experiment in Los Angeles is any indication, actually end up earning too much to even qualify for the housing. While it’s unlikely to fix the problem, it’s certainly noble in spirit.
Both teachers and students benefit when teachers can live in the communities they serve, and when school districts nationwide look to hold on to priced-out teachers, from North Carolina to Colorado to Washington, D.C., they’re increasingly considering subsidized housing as a solution.
Broadly, cities suffer when they purge workers charged with their nourishment—police officers, firefighters, social workers, and small business owners as well as teachers. I know two San Francisco city planners who ironically can’t afford to rent in San Francisco. In education, the persistent turnover of teacher talent particularly undermines schools seeking to maintain stability and elevate academic standards. Like cops who police neighborhoods in which they have no personal stake, commuter teachers are less equipped to understand and meet the needs of their constituents