Permit me to draw my inspiration from scripture, referencing the basic human needs of clothes on our backs, food to eat, and a shelter over our heads. How better to discern if in fact teacher salaries are where they need to be? Applying salary data from our Teacher Contract Database, we asked this question: are teachers paid enough to put a roof over their heads?
As we report in our most recent Teacher Trendline, some of what we learned isn't a surprise. Of course San Francisco and its neighbor across the bay, Oakland, have made themselves inhospitable locales, not just for teachers, but for the entire middle class. Sadly, no small number of districts--almost all of which hug our two coast lines--also qualify for this dubious honor.
But get this. There are quite a few in our sample of 124 large districts where housing appears affordable, yet homeownership is well out of reach of teachers, at least those who are not in dual-income households. That's because there's been no effort in those places to keep teacher salaries competitive with costs of living and comparable professions. Oklahoma City, El Paso, and Omaha are three such examples.
To calculate affordability, we looked at what a teacher would be earning in one of these districts after five years and having earned a master's degree. Obviously, as teacher salaries go up, homeownership becomes more doable, but we identify eight districts where a home is out of reach even when a teacher is at the top of the district's salary schedule.
But let's look on the bright side. Which districts are affordable? San Antonio, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Indianapolis top the list. Teacher recruiters, take note.
We also looked at a new teacher's ability to rent a one-bedroom apartment. There districts do a better job, with three quarters of them being affordable for rentals and Texas districts dominating the list of most affordable: Wichita (Nebraska) and El Paso, Arlington, Fort Worth, and Northside (all in Texas).
Our expectation that teachers should be able to rent an apartment in the district where they work prompted a bit of kerfuffle on Twitter from the ever-provocative Mike Petrilli:
I think I got the last word in, however: