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City asks investors for funding for rent subsidies, loan payment assistance as part of teacher retention plan

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The City is turning to investors in the tech world to sponsor proposed rent subsidies and loan repayment programs for teachers. (Jessica Christian/2017 S.F. Examiner)

In an effort to recruit and retain educators, The City is looking for sponsorship for several proposed “teacher incentive” programs that potentially could help them tackle credential-related debt and pay rent, among other things.

The City is turning to investors in the tech world who could help sponsor the proposed programs, which were pitched to company founders in March with hopes the funding would be received by September.

A memo obtained by the San Francisco Examiner lists Salesforce as a potential investor. In the memo, Hydra Mendoza McDonell, deputy chief of staff for education and equity in the Mayor’s Office, indicated The City is currently exploring a loan repayment program for teachers with “existing loan debt from their teacher credential programs,” as well providing rent subsidies for educators.

According to the memo, The City would pay off these loans for teachers at “twice the rate” so that their debt can be resolved “in half the time and ease their liabilities.”

The City is also looking into how it can help teachers paying more than “30 percent of their salary toward rent” with subsidies.

“We will pay, on a sliding scale, a portion of their rent so they can have additional funds for childcare, food, transportation, etc.,” reads the memo, which was part of a stack of “continuity of work” briefings requested from each city department head after Mayor Ed Lee’s unexpected death in December.

The memos aimed to inform then-Acting Mayor London Breed on imminent and long-term projects planned over the year.

On Tuesday, Mendoza McDonnell confirmed to the Examiner that “a couple of different ideas were pitched to founders” in March regard to keeping teachers housed and working in the district.

“We submitted a concrete [proposal] for founders to chew on to figure out [if] this something they want to invest in or tweak or change it up a bit,” she said.

The City currently offers the Teacher Next Door Program, which provides downpayment assistance to educators purchasing their first home in San Francisco, as well as funding for legal assistance to educators threatened with eviction. The proposed rent subsidies would be different, according to Mendoza McDonell.

“This would be something more specific for teachers as a recruitment and retention tool,” aiming to “keep teachers in the community in which they serve,” she said, though the eligibility criteria for the proposed subsidies remains unclear.

How much financial support the rent subsidies would offer and how many teachers could be served is dependent on “the funding that the organization would have available,” said Mendoza McDonell.

Another proposal on the table is facilitating the credentialing process for prospective teachers and paraprofessionals by funding educator tuitions and bolstering existing pathway programs and partnerships.

Mendoza McDonell said the school district had some 40 vacancies two years ago, compared to only 4 openings in the 2016-17 school year. “We were able to get a pool of teachers through pipelines and really focused on people that are from the community, teachers of color, and paraprofessionals.”

Currently, the San Francisco Unified School District provides several Alternative Certification Routes meant to help aspiring teachers obtain their credentials, including Pathway to Teaching; The San Francisco Teacher Residency Program; a program that assists paraprofessionals to become teachers; and placements through partnerships with universities.

The school district has also partnered with The City to build the first affordable housing complex for educators and paraprofessionals.

Susan Solomon, executive vice-president of United Educators of San Francisco, said that while “housing is great, it takes a while to build,” adding that rental subsidies and tuition payments for teachers could go a long way.

“When we talk about the crisis in San Francisco, we often say that [rental subsidies] would be helpful,” she said.

S.F. Examiner Staff Writer Joshua Sabatini contributed to this story.

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