Ed leaders seek funding to help teachers with housing

Ed leaders seek funding to help teachers with housing

(Calif.) There is a lot of overlap in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s school spending priorities and those of state education officials, but one thing state schools chief Tony Thurmond would like to see emphasized is a commitment to fund teacher housing.

In high-cost regions like the Bay Area, the cost-of-living far outpaces teacher pay, forcing many to live an hour or more away from the schools in which they work.

Lupita Cortez Alcalá, chief deputy superintendent of public instruction, told members of the Senate’s education budget subcommittee last week that promoting affordable housing specifically for teachers would benefit not just the educators themselves, but also their students.

“We need to invest in affordable workforce housing so that our educators can live in the communities where they work,” Cortez Alcalá said during the committee’s hearing last week. “It’s vital that our districts, charter schools and county offices recruit the best and brightest teachers for our students.

“If we invest in our teachers they will then be able to invest in our children,” she continued. “By investing in affordable housing in the communities they teach in they can take their two hours of commute time and invest it in building stronger connections to the communities they serve.”

Providing affordable housing for teachers has proven difficult throughout the country in recent years.

While a handful of states have begun providing financial assistance to teachers looking for homes in the neighborhoods closer to their schools, some districts have come up with their own solutions. In 2017, a district in Colorado began exploring the idea of developing tiny houses for teachers, while St. Louis Public Schools last year began converting an abandoned elementary school into affordable housing for faculty.

In California, lawmakers have taken several stabs at addressing the issue. Last year as an Assemblyman representing Richmond, Thurmond introduced a bill seeking to create a program to provide financial assistance to school districts to help fund the development of housing for school employees, including teachers.

The bill–which failed to make it to former-Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk–would have provided educators with down payment assistance to purchase a single-family home in their district. It would have also made a pre-development grant and loan program available to developers that partner with qualified school districts to design, construct, finance and operate a housing development for school employees.

Brown did sign a separate bill in 2016 that allowed local education agencies to build housing on school property and restrict occupancy to district workers.

Though Newsom’s his state budget proposal doesn’t specifically mention spending for teacher housing, the governor said he has asked lenders to provide developers with low-interest loans to build housing for those in professions such as teaching and nursing.

Cortez Alcalá noted last week that despite the lack of teacher housing funds, the superintendent appreciates the governor’s increase in funding for other priorities–especially those related to early learners and special education.

“We appreciate the governor for placing a top priority on education,” Cortez Alcalá said. “We have an unprecedented opportunity to do more with more–the opportunity to build a comprehensive education system that serves all children and families.”

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