Schools need teachers; teachers need housing

Last year, as the rate of unfair evictions in San Francisco rose due to speculation and skyrocketing rents, Dean Preston and the SF Tenants Union decided to take action. Realizing that most people don’t learn their rights or seek help until they’re already facing eviction, they created the Tenant Bootcamp project. Traveling from neighborhood to neighborhood, the Bootcamps empowered tenants by teaching them how to proactively fight back against unfair evictions before bad landlords had the chance to take advantage of them.

Among the crowds who turned out to learn their rights were more than a hundred educators. Educators worried that they wouldn’t be able to stay in San Francisco — worried that they were one eviction notice away from losing both their homes and jobs.

Supervisor David Campos’ legislation to stop the unfair evictions of educators and families during the school year offers a critical protection for our school children. Real estate speculation is driving out educators and families from The City at alarming rates, and the San Francisco Examiner has reported on what is rapidly becoming a serious teacher shortage. The current crisis calls for an immediate intervention to protect our schools.

Unfortunately, critics of the Campos legislation echo some of the misguided industry talking points of eviction lawyers and landlord lobbyists who of course oppose this legislation. Allegations that the ordinance would somehow harm educators and families by discouraging landlords from renting to them are unfounded and ignore the law.

California law already prohibits discrimination based on source of income and against families with children. Our city attorney can sue any landlord who is found to be illegally discriminating against protected groups. Concern that landlords might violate the law is not a reason to oppose sensible eviction protections. It’s a reason to be even more vigilant about enforcement.

The fact is, our educators are particularly vulnerable to displacement from San Francisco. The school district is losing teachers and faces recruitment difficulties because salaries are just too low to afford a market-rate home in The City. The starting salary for a fully credentialed teacher is less than $3,400 a month and the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is a staggering $3,620 a month.

A recent survey of teachers, educators and other school employees by the United Educators of San Francisco showed that 70 percent of all respondents are renters, and almost 60 percent are afraid that the high cost of living in San Francisco would prevent them from staying in The City and continuing to work for the school district.

The people we trust to teach our children need our help. If we don’t take immediate action to protect teachers from evictions, San Francisco Unified School District will not be able to staff its schools with qualified staff.

The children who attend San Francisco public schools need a stable school environment. They need educators who come to work every day, able to focus on their classrooms; not educators, distracted by worries about whether or not they will lose their homes.

City Hall must focus their efforts on stopping unfair evictions and building affordable housing for educators and families. Campos’ teacher eviction protections are a sensible first step to protect our schools, educators and, most importantly, our school-aged children.

Lita Blanc is president of the United Educators of San Francisco. Dean Preston is the founder and executive director of Tenants Together, California’s statewide organization for renters’ rights.

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