Teachers rally in support of affordable housing. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Treating teachers like we want them in San Francisco

We’ve all heard the statistics. San Francisco is the most unaffordable place to live in the world:

A salary of $117,000 is considered low-income status.

The average home sells for $1.6 million

Median rent is over $3,500 a month.

Under these conditions, the city is becoming increasingly unfriendly to the public sector professionals who work to keep the city running—including our schools. Over 70% of our public school teachers are priced out from living in the city they serve.

With commute times of up to 3 hours a day, we’re losing precious hours of our teachers’ weeks to transportation. This dynamic is not helping any of our families. In a time where student achievement is at an all-time premium, we need our teachers to have more time for themselves and for the students they lead. What could happen if we gave them 15 hours of their workweek back? How would that help our city recruit and retain more talent to power our schools?

Unfortunately, the effects of a national teacher shortage are magnified in San Francisco.

When we take a closer look at the students being served in our public schools, we see that this is yet another issue that disproportionately affects our communities of color—especially our African American families. For cities everywhere, recruiting and retaining diverse teacher talent to address equity gaps in systems are already difficult tasks. Those responsibilities become much more difficult when we cannot afford to have people live where they work.

There are ways for the community to come together to help make San Francisco a welcoming city for all teachers. Urban Ed Academy (UEA) is taking a targeted approach to treating teachers like we want them to be here.

With an acute focus of recruiting more men of color into the teaching profession to serve students of color, the organization is taking a play out of the higher education system’s playbook: supply housing as an incentive to attract the professionals we want. As just one organization working on this issue, UEA has already successfully recruited four African

American male candidates to move to San Francisco to teach. The new residents graduated from Delaware State University and Texas Southern University, two historically black universities. The candidates are out there if we want to find them.

Urban Ed Academy’s new initiative, Man The Bay, combines a robust community recruitment package with housing—a basic idea that gets more complicated in the city with the most expensive housing costs in the world. Inspired by an existing city program, Home Match, Urban Ed Academy is working to create social exchange agreements with homeowners in Bayview, which starts with a strong offer: if you commit to housing a future black male teacher in the neighborhood, we will help you access resources to improve your home with partners like the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, the Department of Public Works, and Young Community Developers. Man The Bay can provide SFUSD with a powerful recruitment tool as they work aggressively to bring new educators into the district.

Urban Ed Academy is leading by example in expanding its efforts to address an issue that affects every school in San Francisco. With too many teachers in SFUSD schools wasting time crossing bridges and riding trains to come to work, we must create more opportunities for as many of them to live in community with the same families they serve.

Creating closer proximity between teachers and the communities they serve drastically shortens commute time and brings value beyond the dollars saved on travel. Perhaps Ms. Newt could take that yoga class she’s always wanted to check out. Maybe Mr. Brown could squeeze in a few more parent conferences. In any case, the formula of using housing to support teachers to be happier and more productive will yield more value for our students.

Urban Ed Academy and San Francisco Unified School District believe in making that social investment. Under the leadership of Mayor London Breed, we believe the city of San

Francisco is in an excellent position to join us in bringing as many teachers into the city as possible. Our students deserve to have their teachers here. The future of our city depends on their collective success.

Randal Seriguchi, Jr. is the Executive Director of Urban Ed Academy here in San Francisco. Shamann Walton is a member of the San Francisco Board of Education and Executive Director of Young Community Developers.

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