An AVID teacher at Herbert Hoover Middle School instructs her class on how to take an electronic quiz in San Francisco on May 2, 2017. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

An AVID teacher at Herbert Hoover Middle School instructs her class on how to take an electronic quiz in San Francisco on May 2, 2017. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Teacher housing is critical to the success of our children

I still feel that day in my bones: No day before and no day since can compare to the first time I taught debate. Since then, my students have always been the prism through which I’ve tried to view the world. And while I was never a credentialed teacher, I learned that we couldn’t help our kids if we didn’t grapple with how hard it is for educators to afford to live in the cities where they serve.

That’s why I feel so much sympathy for San Francisco teachers, and why I feel that educator housing is so important.

You don’t need me to tell you that San Francisco is desperately unaffordable. As the Chronicle reported, our cost of living was by far the highest amongst the 821 school districts in California — and our average teacher salary was ranked 528th.

Few people will disagree that teachers are struggling in San Francisco. But despite this political consensus, the process to build educator housing is bizarrely lethargic. We have made some progress, especially with the Mayor’s Office finally announcing funding for a site with 140 units — but this is deeply inadequate to handle the scale of the problem.

One hundred forty units, when the district employs 4,500 thousand teachers, built at the earliest in 2022? Entire classes will enter and graduate high school before a single educator moves into a single unit. And while I applaud Superintendent Vincent Matthews for introducing a resolution about teacher housing, the district can do more — first, they need to hire a real estate professional to oversee the process, rather than rely on existing staff without the necessary expertise.

We must do better. One of the reasons we haven’t generated the political will to do to so is because we haven’t framed the problem correctly. Everyone is sympathetic to struggling teachers, but many correctly point out that it’s hard for all of us. Retail workers, restaurant workers — nobody has it easy. So why focus on educators?

It’s about our kids. Teachers are not just sympathetic because they are good people doing good work; teachers are critical to the success of our children and, in turn, our society. Economist Raj Chetty, the pre-eminent economist focused on education and economic mobility, argues that within our education system, nothing affects a child’s potential for success as much as their teacher. The difference between an adequate teacher and an excellent teacher can be the difference of $80,000 over the course of a lifetime.

Yet, how do we expect our teachers to be excellent when they don’t have a roof over their heads? When they commute three hours a day? How can we recruit when stories of homeless teachers dominate our headlines?

Companies in The City produce the best jobs in the world — then import folks to fill them. San Francisco kids need San Francisco jobs.

One hundred forty units is unacceptable. Waiting until 2022 is unacceptable.

Our great kids need great teachers. Our great teachers need great housing. And we need it yesterday.

Armand Domalewski is a debate coach at Mission High School with the Bay Area Urban Debate League and works at the Golden State Opportunity Foundation on statewide anti-poverty and economic opportunity issues.

Just Posted

San Francisco health experts recommend that pregnant women should receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as a booster shot. (Unai Huizi/Shutterstock)
What pregnant women need to know about COVID and booster shots

Questions regarding COVID-19 booster shots for pregnant people have been pouring in… Continue reading

Examiner reporter Ben Schneider drives an Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle along Beach Street in Fisherman’s Wharf on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Could San Francisco’s tiny tourist cruisers become the cars of the future?

‘Fun Utility Vehicles’ have arrived in The City

Badly needed rain cooled off pedestrians on Market Street in The City on Wednesday. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Storm door opens in San Francisco — what will the rains bring?

‘Come Monday, fire season in Northern California should be done’

The so-called “twindemic” that public health officials in California and elsewhere warned about last year — the combined threat of influenza and COVID-19 — was largely eased by the wide use of face masks, physical distancing and reduced travel, experts say. But their concerns are back this year. (Shutterstock)
COVID and the flu: Is a ‘twindemic’ threat lurking again?

‘Because of so little disease last year, population immunity is likely lower’

49ers' quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hopes to return to the field this weekend to lead San Francisco against the Colts. (Photo courtesy of 49ers)
NFL Week 7 picks: Niners face crucial matchup against the Colts

San Francisco could join Seattle on the brink of irrelevancy in the NFC West with another loss

Most Read