Plan to House Teachers in Schools Draws Backlash

October 8, 2018

Housing costs have soared higher than what teachers can comfortably afford on their salary alone in San Jose, Calif. So California’s San Jose Unified School District identified nine district-owned properties that it wants to transform into affordable housing units for teachers and other school staff. But their plan is drawing criticism from parents and neighborhood residents, the Mercury News reports.

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The plan calls for closing several of the district’s schools with declining enrollment, such as Leland High School and Bret Harte Middle School located in a wealthy area of Almaden Valley, and turning them into staff housing. “It is ridiculous,” Mike Carrozzo, a former Leland football coach, told the Mercury News about the proposal. “You’re going to build low-income housing in one of the more prosperous areas in the Bay Area, which also happens to be the furthest corner of the district for district teachers. It’s crazy.”

But the district says some of its teachers are commuting up to four hours a day, and that it's struggling to recruit enough teachers and staff to fill jobs as housing costs outpace incomes.

The schools selected to house the teachers would not be closed, school officials say. They would be relocated, and their original buildings then might be bulldozed to make way for housing. The district has not yet secured funds for the project, but the city may help fund it through bonds.

Nearby residents have been fighting such proposals, as cases of “not in my backyard” protests against building low-income housing in wealthy areas of the Bay Area. Resident petitions with nearly 5,000 signatures were submitted to city officials against the most recent school housing proposal. Critics of the plans argue that the schools are vital to the neighborhood, and they expressed concern that low-cost housing could depress nearby home values.

But education officials warn that unless San Jose becomes more affordable for teachers, the quality of the community’s schools will decline. “If we don’t do something, there will not be enough teachers in classrooms in as little as five years,” says Patrick Bernhardt, president of the San Jose Teachers Association.