Blogging Bayport Alameda

May 13, 2016

Got to be carefully taught

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:03 am

At the School Board meeting on Tuesday night the School Board recognized Ruby Bridges teacher, Mandie Cline as Teacher of the Year, but on the same night teachers came up to speak out about how it is becoming increasingly difficult for Alameda teachers to afford living in the Bay Area on their teachers’ salaries.

According to the teachers that spoke, Alameda teachers are the second lowest compensated teachers in Alameda County.  Add to that the high cost of Bay Area living and there is a recipe for an exodus.  In fact the teachers also spoke about how Alameda’s teachers have to abandon AUSD for greener pastures because of the low compensation.

At some point we, as a community, need to decide what we are going to do to retain our experienced and veteran teaching staff.

Unsurprisingly we are not the only community to struggle with salaries and increased cost of living, but unlike Alameda some communities have attempted to address the issue by helping with housing costs.  Earlier this year Governing magazine pointed out that where housing is expensive, there is a lack of teachers:

In many urban areas, the cost of housing is so high that educators simply cannot afford to live anywhere near the school where they teach. As a result, many wind up with a tortuous commute after working long hours.

These housing shortages are problematic not only for recruitment but also when it comes to retention of teachers. That’s because a new, young teacher might be able to afford an apartment or a house by renting with roommates, but if they get married and have children, it can be impossible for the family to find an affordable place to live.

When districts fail to retain teachers, the quality of the educational system suffers. According to Anne Podolsky of the Learning Policy Institute, “we found that teaching experience is positively associated with student achievement throughout a teacher’s career.” On top of that, educators who live in the same area as their students also have a better understanding of their pupils’ roots, the places they gather and the general ambience of the community.

And NPR covered the issue as well pointing out that teachers are paying a disproportionate amount of their income on housing alone:

Inside, third-grade teacher Tara Hunt, a 16-year veteran, is preparing for the next teaching day. She gets up around 4 a.m. to make it in from the coastal village of Capitola — a commute that can take two hours in traffic.

She desperately wants to move closer to work. But, so far, that’s not happening.

“This is where all the tech jobs are. And it’s pushing out your community helpers,” she says. “The cost of living just keeps going up and up.”

Hunt can’t help but wonder: “Who do we blame? Do we blame the homeowners who are renting out their property? Do we blame the city?”

I ask Hunt what percentage of her monthly income she’s spending on housing: “More than 50 percent for rent, no question. Not including utilities.”

The general rule, I remind her, is that you shouldn’t spend more than one-third. “Right,” she says, laughing “Whoever came up with that rule never lived in California. They’re from Missouri or Ohio.”

But here’s what some cities are doing:

Cities and communities, meantime, are scrambling to find solutions. Scores of cities have added affordable-housing quotas to rules on new development. Some are debating building subsidized condos or apartments specifically for teachers.

Palo Alto’s City Council is exploring several ideas including subsidized housing for teachers and other public servants who can’t afford local rents but make too much to qualify for low-income housing.

San Francisco is taking several steps, including forgivable housing loans, mortgage assistance and, eventually, affordable housing specifically for teachers. In May the city will restart its Teacher Next Door program, which offers city teachers up to $20,000 toward the purchase of their first home.

Alameda has yet to really address the housing shortage for teachers and is still in a sort of denial about the need to properly compensate the teaching staff.  Neglecting one is bad enough, but both will lead to more attrition that will make Alameda no longer the place of “great schools” like we are accustomed to bragging about.




  1. So what’s the turnover among teachers in Alameda compared to higher paying districts? Are teachers leaving in droves across the board, or just from certain schools? This would bolster the argument.

    But consider this. Most of the time when teachers leave a new teacher is hired at a much lower salary. This saves the district money. From the district’s standpoint there is no incentive to pay teachers more money. This is why the district has given golden handshakes to veteran educators to retire in the past.

    Just as an example of the distict’s largesse, did the most recent teacher of the year get any cash or just a nice certificate and a photo opportunity?

    Comment by Captain Obvious — May 13, 2016 @ 6:36 am

  2. This was an issue long before the current housing situation. Even during the bust of ’08/09 AUSD teachers were underpaid. They earn about half an average fireman’s compensation. The recent housing issue is just gasoline on what was already a fire.

    The national average per-student funding is in the $11,000-12,000 per year range; the number varies depending on year & methodology. That means AUSD’s funding is ~15-20% below the national average (again, variance) even in this famously high cost operating area.

    The situation cries out for better funding & better pay for teachers, but we are hamstrung by the trifecta of Prop 13, Serrano and Prop 98. It would take a new state constitution to dig out of that mess, an event which happen shortly after Hell freezes over. Outside of that, we have a parcel tax as our only solution. When we try that, owners of seven figure properties plead poverty over a few hundred bucks.

    It’s an intractable and frankly depressing situation.

    As an aside, proponents of rent control should take a good long look at Prop 13. It was blunt and permanent cudgel applied to a temporary situation. It will ultimately harm & distort the housing market, and be as intractable as P13.

    Comment by dave — May 13, 2016 @ 6:48 am

  3. The District at one time was toying with the idea of putting subsidized housing on the old Island High site for new teachers, what happened to that? Seems they were going to squeeze 20 or 30 units in there.

    Comment by Not. A. Alamedan — May 13, 2016 @ 8:53 am

    • Are you referring to the Miller site near Coast Guard Housing or the one near Park? If near Park that is going to be affordable housing, but not specifically for teachers. If Miller, I believe the school district is trying to get the site back for student facilities.

      Comment by Lauren Do — May 13, 2016 @ 8:57 am

      • Park Street. Weren’t they thinking of teacher housing there? Mike? And who controls it now, still the District or was it traded to the city?

        Comment by Not. A. Alamedan — May 13, 2016 @ 9:20 am

        • That site was part of the land and money swap between AUSD, City of Alameda, Housing Authority to resolve pool maintenance and some outstanding land issues.

          Comment by Lauren Do — May 13, 2016 @ 9:32 am

        • As Lauren pointed out AUSD has swapped the old Island site on Everett with the City to receive a larger property on Alameda Point. Prior to the land swap AUSD had investigated the possibility of putting approximately 15 units on the site. We attempted to partner with a low income housing provider. Based on guidelines at the time, it was determined that teachers would not qualify and very few of non-teaching positions would qualify based on income guidelines. In addition, neighborhood residents were concerned the impact on parking.

          Comment by Mike McMahon — May 14, 2016 @ 8:53 am

  4. And right on cue the Chronicle has a whole piece on the topic today.

    Comment by Lauren Do — May 13, 2016 @ 9:00 am

  5. I wonder if more housing will be built on the site of Foster Freeze? Maybe that could be teacher housing.

    Comment by vigi — May 13, 2016 @ 9:45 am

  6. Palo Alto and other communities have decided that housing for the people who can screw up their kids (or not) is somewhat important. As for the people that fix their cars and serve them their food? They can continue to fuck off.

    Comment by BMac — May 13, 2016 @ 11:03 am

  7. Can anyone post in hard numbers the salary table for all school districts in Alameda County. Let’s look at base salaries, salaries at 5 years and then again at 10 years. Hard numbers, not averages, medians or a hybrid of salaries.

    Comment by Basel — May 13, 2016 @ 2:37 pm

    • Apples, oranges and pears is the problem trying to compare operating numbers from nearby districts. Each district’s ability to pay its teachers is a function of number of factors including funding prior Prop 13, all prior negotiations where there were tradeoffs between salary and benefits happened and the district’s overhead operating costs. In Alameda’s case, AUSD’s funding after Prop 13 was implemented resulting in three decades of lower State funding than neighboring districts. To address this inequity, prior negotiations led to tradeoffs where salary was given priority over benefits (i.e. medical insurance contributions by the District were capped). Finally, Alameda’s neighborhood schools lead to higher expenses for administration.

      Comment by Mike McMahon — May 14, 2016 @ 9:19 am

  8. Hi all,

    AUSD is currently in negotiations with the teacher’s union, so I can’t comment on the salary issue. Please know, however, that district staff are currently exploring the possibility of providing housing as a way of supporting our employees. We don’t have any details yet, but staff is investigating how this might work.

    Comment by Susan Davis (AUSD community affairs) — May 13, 2016 @ 5:32 pm

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