San Francisco Teachers Seek 21% Pay Increase, Cite Skyrocketing Housing Costs

San Francisco teachers are rallying ahead of a Board of Education meeting this evening, calling for a 21 percent pay increase to allow teachers to continue living in the city as housing costs skyrocket, a union spokesman said.

United Educators of San Francisco union members will argue at the 5 p.m. rally that as the district is poised to receive new funding from the state, teachers need a raise to keep pace with salaries in other districts and to prevent the displacement of teachers living and working in San Francisco, UESF spokesman Matthew Hardy said today.

The rally will take place at the San Francisco Unified School District administrative offices at 555 Franklin St.
The teachers’ current contract will expire on July 1 and last week the union presented its economic proposal, which includes a 21 percent raise over the next three years and additional support for family health care costs, Hardy said.

SFUSD spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said in a statement, “Though UESF and SFUSD are still in the initial stages of bargaining, the Superintendent and Board of Education have clearly stated to employees that they are committed to giving raises to SFUSD employees.”

Claudia Tirado, a teacher at Fairmount Elementary School facing eviction from her Mission District home, tearfully recounted today how badly she needs the assistance for her and her 2-year-old son.

Tirado said she has taught at San Francisco schools for the last 14 years, starting shortly after she left college and including teaching on Treasure Island, at Sanchez Elementary School, Bret Harte Elementary School in the Bayview District, and now at Fairmount, a school specializing in Spanish immersion teaching.

Fairmount’s academics particularly appeal to Tirado, she said, as an immigrant from Mexico who started learning English at 11 years old.

“Every day it’s so challenging… but I love it because every day it’s something new,” Tirado said. “I’ve never felt like I needed or wanted to leave the classroom.”

She is seeking housing assistance to continue living in San Francisco but if evicted and priced out of the city, Tirado said she would not continue teaching in the district.

“I gave my soul to this city and if I have to leave it, I couldn’t come back,” Tirado said.

Hardy said that Tirado’s story is not unique and that San Francisco schools are facing a turnover crisis, with a larger proportion of teachers no longer living in San Francisco.

He said that a few years ago 76 percent of teachers lived in the city but that number is down to 71 percent today. Only 65 percent of first-year teachers live in San Francisco, Hardy said, so the proportion of teachers living and working in the city is expected to drop further.

San Francisco teachers make an average salary of about $62,000 per year, which is quickly becoming untenable with rapidly rising costs of living in the city, Hardy said.

Blythe noted that San Francisco’s teachers are among the highest-paid in the Bay Area, ranking second only to San Jose among 10 surrounding districts in the region.

The school district is about to receive a substantial infusion of financial assistance from the state via Proposition 30 — a statewide sales and income tax increase passed in 2012 — and changes to the state school funding formula that took effect this year, Hardy said.

Overall, the state will receive an $89 million increase in unrestricted general funds in the next few years, according to Hardy.

“We think teachers are worth the investment,” Hardy said. “They just want to be able to live in the communities where they teach.”

Scott Morris, Bay City News

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