Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

Priced-Out: The Effects of the Housing Market on Educators in San Francisco

By Elia MorelosPublished February 19, 2019

Teachers, faculty and supporters rallied Tuesday in front of the offices of the San Francisco Unified School District demanding higher pay to counter the high cost of living in The City.
The San Francisco Unified School District is currently experiencing a high teacher turnout rate. This is in part due to the high housing costs in San Francisco, ameliorated by the tech boom in the Bay Area. SFUSD needs to refocus their efforts on making sure that their educators are able to live in the areas that they teach in.

The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) is the seventh largest school district in California, educating 54,063 students and employing 3,582 employees as of October 2018.  In its Board Policies, the San Francisco Unified School District and County Office of Education acknowledges that “schools are an important community resources” and they abide by their policy that “every school shall involve its administrators, staff [and] parents … in a process of developing its educational programs [which will] be in harmony with school site [and] area goals.” SFUSD recognizes the importance of the involvement of teachers within the communities that they serve, but there has not been enough action taken to fulfill the goals of their policy. Teacher shortage is widespread throughout the City – housing in the Bay Area has risen to incredulous amounts due to the tech industry boom beginning in the 1990s. Approaches heralded by the public education system toward the housing crisis in San Francisco is imperative in retaining teachers in a city that already has an immense shortage of educators. Addressing these concerns in a proactive manner will also improve the relationship between students and their academic performance.

Average home prices in San Francisco range from $880,000 to $1 million; the average monthly rent of a one-bedroom apartment ranges from $3,000 to $4,000 a month, depending on the area. In 2012, the average salary of a San Franciscan teacher was around $59,000 and has been stagnant ever since. Even teachers who have been in the District for more than ten years report a low salary. Just one year into the job, San Francisco teachers would need to allocate 50 percent of their income to rent, qualifying their housing as cost burdened households (those who pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing). By the fifth year of teaching, teachers in San Francisco are spending 69 percent of their paycheck on housing, teachers in Oakland are spending 46 percent, and teachers in San Jose are spending 43 percent. This means that three out of the ten most expensive cities for teachers in the United States are located in the Bay Area. Of the 821 school districts in the state, San Francisco Unified School District’s average annual income ranks as 528th.

Research shows that community engagement depends on the involvement of all members in the community it serves. For teachers who commute due to high housing prices, this sense of community is shaky. Teacher-student relationships are essential to the progression of a student. As documented by Midgley, students who go from low teacher communication to high teacher communication in a transitional year (from elementary to middle school or middle school to high school) demonstrated an increase in performance in mathematics and other academic subjects. In an intervention headed by Murray & Malmgren, low-income students were paired with teachers to see how much this interaction would affect their performance – five months after, the GPA of students involved in the intervention had improved. Low-income, high-need students who experience low self-esteem and low confidence in terms of employment opportunities have improved their self-esteem, improved their academic efficiency, and increased their confidence in higher-paying jobs after interacting with teachers. In a city where 55 percent of its students identify as socioeconomically disadvantaged, the importance of teacher-student relationships is high.

To foster a strong teacher-student relationship, SFUSD needs to control the retention rate of its teachers. Given that SFUSD is one of the highest-paying districts in the United States, increasing the average salary of teachers may not need to be a priority; but providing vouchers and affordable housing options in the neighborhoods they teach in is essential. This way, teachers will grow accustomed to the areas their students live their day-to-day lives in, allowing connections to foster naturally.


Works Cited