- While a growing number of school districts are offering housing solutions as a way to recruit and retain teachers, little research has been done on the impact of such measures, and the only national study conducted revealed that 55% of former teachers said housing incentives were not an important factor, Education Week reports.
- Though the idea has seen some limited success in areas such as the Santa Clara (CA) Unified School District, Dare County in North Carolina, and Newark, N.J., the idea has backfired in Los Angeles and some critics of the plan say using local, federal and state funds for such programs unfairly diverts housing funds from people who are needier.
- Though housing incentives may be one piece of the recruitment and retention puzzle in some areas of the country, the Learning Policy Institute suggests that addressing school working conditions and school leadership concerns may have more impact in the long run.
The idea of providing housing for teachers is not new. At earlier points in American history, the families of students were expected to share in the responsibility of housing the teacher for a period of time, a notion most modern teachers (and families) would reject. Many countries, such as China, provide housing to foreign teachers as a recruitment strategy and as a way to keep tabs on their location. And there are parts of the country where teacher housing is a primary concern for school districts. In areas like San Francisco, for instance, most teachers cannot afford to live in the district where they teach. Other districts are exploring housing issues such as building teacher villages or tiny houses as part of a recruitment strategy.
Teacher recruitment and retention is a complex issue. While a focus on housing strategies for teachers may be a top concern for some districts, for most areas it is not necessary for schools to get into the real estate business. Making sure that teachers have adequate pay can solve most housing issues, and the issue is quite localized because the rental market varies greatly from one area to another within the same state. The needs of teachers vary greatly, too, depending on family structure.
For most school districts, housing or even teacher pay is not the top obstacle in recruiting and retention. “The main thing to realize is there isn’t a silver bullet,” said Anne Podolsky, a researcher at the Learning Policy Institute. “Increasing compensation is good, but teachers also need good administrators, support, and resources to succeed.” In another Quality of Worklife survey of 30,000 educators, only 46% mentioned salaries as a stress factor. The more important issues noted were testing fatigue, too little time to take a break or decompress, bloated bureaucracy, and the “adoption of new initiatives without proper training or professional development.” These issues may be both cheaper and harder to address.