San Francisco's taxes are being used to keep its teachers from becoming homeless

San Francisco's taxes are being used to keep its teachers from becoming homeless

CultureMay 19, 2017 By Sean Sullivan

San Francisco is the city famous for its cable cars, the Golden Gate bridge, startups that flash in and out of existence like the flick of a lighter, and at least one homeless math teacher. Don’t act shocked, teacher salaries aren’t keeping up with the city’s extortionate standard of living. Who can blame them?

To prevent a mass emigration of teachers to more affordable parts of the country — which would be a great economics lesson for the kids — San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has committed $44 million of taxpayer money for a teacher-exclusive housing development. If all goes well, it could be ready by 2022 — though the mayor still needs the approval of the school district and the Board of Education.

The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in The City by the Bay is over $3,300, nearly $40,000 a year; add in other living costs — gas, food and a subscription to Scholastic Magazine — and it’s no wonder a measly $65,000 salary can’t pay the bills. San Francisco ought to change its official song to Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.”

The idea of subsidizing rent isn’t new. It’s been floated in San Francisco for 20 years or so and has been acted upon in other cities around the country: Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Hartford County, North Carolina; even a nascent teacher’s village in Newark, New Jersey. Educators tired of listening to Mrs. Schlenker’s gossip in the teacher’s lounge have to watch out for her at home, too.  

We wonder, however, what’s cheaper: building a rent-controlled complex or raising teachers’ salaries to make living in San Francisco affordable? Last year, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that average teacher pay in the district ranked 528 out of 821 school districts in all of California, even though it has the most expensive housing in the state.

Excuse us while we insert a “the math doesn’t add up” pun right here.

Across the country, in Bergen County, New Jersey (one of the wealthiest counties in the United States) teachers earn, on average, $90,000 annually, and rents below $2,000 are easy to find. The downside is trading California’s sun for the New Jersey smog and Chris Christie influence. 

If the proposal fails, San Francisco teachers and families will be forced to leave in exodus for areas that can afford to keep an adult in the classroom. Then the city may be exclusively inhabited by fog, lumpy hills, and tech-bros rolling past the homeless on their Segways.