Why San Antonio could help teachers buy homes
In a desperate effort to combat a chronic teacher shortage, school districts across the country are focusing on housing.
Why it matters: Many teachers simply can't afford to live where they work, which can have repercussions for the quality of students' education, Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, told Axios.
- Pringle, a former teacher, said those forced to commute for hours aren't spending as much time with students and are more prone to burnout.
What's happening: In San Antonio, East Side Councilmember and former teacher Jalen McKee-Rodriguez recently proposed starting a teacher homebuyer assistance program.
Details: The program would offer no-interest, forgivable loans equal to a teacher's annual salary to help cover a down payment and closing costs.
- Teachers would have to buy a home within city limits.
- Early childhood instructors and public school support staff could also benefit.
By the numbers: The annual cost of owning a home in San Antonio is 31.5% of an experienced teacher's salary, per data from the National Council on Teacher Quality.
State of play: Some San Antonio districts are struggling with teacher vacancies as many schools started this week.
- Northside ISD, the city's largest district, has 200 teacher vacancies, about 3% of their staff, NEWS 4 reported.
- North East ISD also has about a 3% vacancy rate, with 125 openings. Edgewood ISD has 26 vacancies, about 5% of their staff, also per NEWS 4.
What they're saying: "As school districts search for ways to recruit new teachers and incentivize retention of experienced teachers, the city of San Antonio has an opportunity to remove barriers to homeownership," McKee-Rodriguez said in a statement.
What's next: Program details could change as the proposal moves forward. Mayor Ron Nirenberg must send McKee-Rodriguez's request to a committee for initial discussion before more councilmembers weigh in.
Other districts in Texas are tackling the problem from a new angle: homebuilding.
Zoom in: Districts with affordability problems are betting on various models of constructing housing with below-market rents, often leveraging tax-free, district-owned land.
- Austin ISD is looking for development partners to build and manage two teacher housing complexes on unused district land within the year.
Reality check: Although each district's situation is different, the root of the housing problem lies in chronic under-compensation of teachers, said Pringle with the NEA.
- Teachers need three times as long as the average U.S. household to save for a 20% down payment, the NCTQ found.
The other side: Jeremy Striffler, the director of real estate at Austin ISD, said the district is going into a deficit to cover a recent compensation increase, and it can't raise pay more until lawmakers change the state's student funding formula.
- So Austin has been left to think, "What else can we do?" he told Axios. "It's not in lieu of increasing compensation, it's in parallel."
Threat level: The affordability problem disproportionately affects teachers of color, who are more likely to have student debt.
The big picture: "When teachers can't afford to live in the communities where they teach … that cost can be considerable," NCTQ president Heather Peske told Axios. It "threatens the teacher pipeline" and contributes to turnover, she said.
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