Homework troubles

School district helps the city with affordable housing, but teachers say they're the ones who need help



The San Francisco Board of Education approved a land swap with city government on Dec. 10, gifting San Francisco an empty lot that it will use to build new affordable housing. That's 115 units of living space for low-income San Francisco renters, wrapped in a bow for the holidays.

The proposal was the brainchild of board members Hydra Mendoza-McDonnell and Sandra Lee Fewer, who worked on the measure with the Mayor's Office of Housing for over two years. The district will trade a lot on 1950 Mission street and another on Connecticut Street in exchange for a property it currently rents from the city of San Francisco. The city will also pay SFUSD $4.5 million, according to district data.

The deal was the culmination of that work, which Fewer said was the right thing to do.

"Could we get more money from [selling] this property with a private developer? I'm sure. But would we get the value? No," Fewer said at the meeting.

The original intent of the land swap was to provide affordable housing for the school district's employees. Project proponents say school district workers are being priced out of San Francisco in droves. But the affordable housing project will be general use, with no specific provisions for teachers or other SFUSD workers.

teachersinSF Though the teachers' union supports the land swap, United Educators of San Francisco President Dennis Kelly warned that teachers are in dire need.

"It's more than an oversight, it's an insult, felt very deeply, and very bitterly," Kelly said at the podium. "Affordable housing will not house a single teacher, not a single one, because of where the dollar breaks are."

The board has made various promises over the past decade to aid with teacher housing, all empty words, Kelly told the Guardian. There's yet to be a solution from the school district or the board on finding sustainable housing for teachers.

The problem is a microcosm of one of San Francisco's toughest challenges during this tech-fueled affordable housing crisis. Affordable housing helps the poor, and the rich certainly don't need help staying in the city, but help for middle-income earners is hard to come by.



Research from education nonprofit ASCD shows most first-year teachers face three challenges: difficulty learning to manage classroom behavior, an overload of curriculum creation, and lack of school support. San Francisco's new teachers face a fourth: finding a place to sleep at night.

Second-year SFUSD science teacher Kate Magary, 29, knows this all too well. Her first year on the job went from challenging to hellish as she looked for an affordable place to live.

Despite having a modestly salaried full-time job, she couldn't afford a studio on her own. She eventually found a room for rent on Craigslist, but her noisy roommates made grading papers and writing curriculum a constant challenge. She started a new apartment hunt, but even that was like a full-time job.

"As a first-year teacher, it was awful," Magary said. "I tried not to let it affect me too much at school, but the stress from home eventually made it with me to the classroom."

She over-disciplined some kids, she said, and her patience was at the breaking point for most of the year. When teachers suffer, students suffer.

Magary is a science teacher at the Academy of Arts and Sciences, which is on the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts campus at Twin Peaks. Three-story homes and apartment buildings dot the hills along the road from Market Street on her drive to school, but Magary can't afford them.


Don't buy the propaganda that they are all poor.

Throw in job security and healthcare and pension plans you can only dream of, and I'd say they are doing fairly well in the economic olympics.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 17, 2013 @ 3:59 pm

I'm sure they didn't buy that home off their current salary. Perhaps their partner had enough money or they bought homes a few years ago. Don't buy the propaganda that this person is posting. Another myth is job security with teaching, most teaching jobs are year to year contracts. Health care is decent, pension plans not so as it is difficult to put in any money into it after paying the high rent. I'm a teacher and have lived in the bay area for 17 years.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 9:11 am

they get affordable housing?

Anyway, he didn't say they bought a 2 million dollar home in Pacific Heights. Probably a TIC in the mission. Problem?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 10:38 am

Yep. Total job security. Tell that to the teachers who have gotten layoff notices for the past three years in a row. And our pension money is deducted from our paycheck every month and set aside for retirement. It is not free money.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 8:54 pm

pension - don't act like you're socking it all away just to withdraw in in your golden years. That's not how a pension works.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 9:25 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 7:24 am

You forget that we get no social security. In fact, we lose most or all of the social security we earned during employment before becoming teachers. For many of us, that's the same as social security only.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 12:52 pm

So you could take all that money you save and buy a private pension. Why should I pay for both my pension and yours?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 1:16 pm

You have no clue what you're talking about. As a first year teacher in SFUSD I took a 30% pay cut from working as a temp the year before. My younger sister made more straight out of college in an entry level position at IBM than I did my 4th year as a teacher in SF. You have a completely delusional view of what the financial situation of a teacher in SF is really like. I spent my first 9 years as a SFUSD teacher living from paycheck to paycheck - literally from zero balance to zero balance with no ability to save money for my future. As a teacher in SF the only way I was able to afford buying a condo (next door to a methadone treatment clinic) was I was hit by a distracted driver while riding my bike and I used my settlement money as downpayment. Otherwise, I'd still be in my little rent-controlled studio. Of course, I also had to get TWO loans for the Mayor's Office of Housing in addition to the bank loan in order to pull it off. One of the MOH loans requires applicants to be in the low income bracket in order to qualify for it and the other is for teachers, which had the same low-income requirement. Both of the loans require that I spend over 41% (I spend 43%) of my salary on my housing. This is to ensure that I really am THAT poor as a teacher and that I stay THAT POOR. Teachers' pension plans are in no way sufficient to support them upon retirement and their salaries are small enough that putting money towards other retirement funds is very difficult. A large number of teachers end up forced to work after retirement, frequently right back in the classroom as substitute teachers, to supplement their meager incomes. As for job security, teachers in SFUSD have received pink slips every hear for at least the last 7 years due to budget cuts. Unless you've been teaching in this district for a VERY long time and are in a hard to fill position, you face being let go every year. Even then you face being consolidated to another school site without any say in the matter. I could go on poking holes in your little dream bubble, but it's late and it's a school night.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 1:05 am
Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 7:19 am

Why teach in San Francisco when you can go across the bay to Oakland, get more affordable housing, and not have to pay even close to the $750 a month for basic health insurance for your family? SF teachers pay far more than other city employees for health insurance and it's milking them dry. I'd like to see the numbers of teachers with kids living in the city. I'm sure it's way below 50 percent.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 17, 2013 @ 7:22 pm

Why is there all this denial about affordable housing in Oakland? There may be cheaper housing in Oakland, but it's not what I would call 'affordable' anymore. They East Bay is having an affordability/housing crisis as well.

Posted by Wagnerian on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 7:12 am
Posted by Guest on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 7:46 am

cover. The current generosity on the taxpayers' dime is not sustainable

Posted by Guest on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 7:46 am

to their pensions, their healthcare, and even their salaries. Yes, salaries. Why not? It's just another earned benefit. I know it's an idea ahead of its time, but I think it's only a matter of time before some of the more forward-thinking corporations will start to propose that.

Look, the bottom line is that Americans need to realize that maintaining a middle class is not sustainable. There's simply not enough money out there to maintain the same kind of middle class we had in the 60s if we want to support dynamic job creators like the Koch brothers. We simply need to dig deeper into our pockets if the top 0.1% is to continue accumulating wealth.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 8:31 am

your argument falls at the first hurdle.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 7:19 am

Certainly can't be the United States, where half of Americans are now at or near the poverty line:

Sure, the country as a whole is wealthier. We have more gadgets. But wages aren't keeping up with inflation:

In fact, if the minimum wage kept pace with productivity, it would be triple what it is today:

The problem is that all the extra wealth that *workers* are creating for this country is going straight into the pockets of the top 1%:

Hence the American paradox: richer country, poorer people. No, guest, we are not "all" better off. Very few of us are better off.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 8:30 am

Just because there are a few more billionaires than there used to be does not mean that anyone is poorer.

You commit the classic error of measuring things like income and wealth in relative terms rather than absolute terms.

And gadgets only matter when your basic needs are met, which they are in the US.

Why always with the envy?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 10:06 am

It could have been teacher housing, but UESF elected a school board that consistently votes against our interests. We are not the problem but part of the solution. We suffer the consequences of second rate and inept leadership in this union.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 17, 2013 @ 10:47 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 7:45 am

Jane Kim talks about limited funding: How about taking back some of that $30 million of taxpayers money that the supervisors gave away to Twitter? Worth it to enable our kids' teachers to be part of the community.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 11:57 am

It may be less than it otherwise would have done, but it is ridiculous to assert that Twitter is somehow taking public money in the way that schools and welfare does.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

Ummm, Twitter got a $50 million tax break. And then they tell us there is no money for affordable housing? Don't insult my intelligence.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

affordable housing. That's why the city made the deal - it made financial sense.

That's intelligence.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 7:18 am

Teachers don't want low-income teacher housing. We want a fair wage so we don't qualify for low-income housing like any other highly educated professional in the city. We certainly don't want to pay our pitiful salaries back as rent to our employers who are paying us the pitiful salaries in the first place, thus forcing us to live in their low-income teacher ghetto housing.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 1:11 am

has deemed to be fair for the skillset.

The fact that you think you should get more (who doesn't) is immaterial.

If you cannot afford SF, live in Oakland and travel BART for a few minutes.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 7:25 am

This vote is an insult to all San Francisco teachers. The building site was sold for a song, far below market value, and for many years teachers dreamed that at least some of their colleagues--they never dreamed it for themselves, too dreamy a dream--might be able to live not cheaply, but affordably in the city whose kids they serve day in and day out.

I don't know if the property swap for parking for administrators was included in this package; what had been proposed was this deal in exchange for a parking lot for SFUSD administrators across the street from its Franklin St. office. If this remained a part of the deal, the stink is to high heaven. Teacher housing vs. central office administrator parking. Hmm.

As to the windbag complained about teacher pensions, perhaps he or she did not know that each teacher in California pays 8+% of his or her GROSS salary toward retirement monthly. Some more generous pensions systems (NOT teachers) don't ask employees to pay anything. And SOME teachers mandatorily pay Social Security as well--another 7% from the gross, totallng 15% not of the net of each check but the gross. So California state teachers' pensions are no free ride, that's for sure.

Be accurate, fellow writers. And know that it's not San Francisco teachers you see filling the tables of pricey San Francisco restaurants. Or if there are a few, take a look at what they're ordering.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 11:36 pm

That means no cheap homes for teachers, some of whom are married to ehdge fund managers.

It also means that if some public workers are not paying in at least 8% into their pensions, then they should. I'd prefer to see at least 10% so the taxpayers are not on the hook.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 7:17 am

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