Concerned with the effect of a rising cost of living on educators who sometimes earn less in a month than the median rent for a one-bedroom San Francisco apartment, Supervisor David Campos introduced legislation to the Board of Supervisors yesterday that would prevent educators and other school employees from being evicted during the academic year.
“San Francisco cannot be a world class city without world class schools, and you cannot have world class schools without educators,” Campos said at a press conference outside city hall on Tuesday.
The proposal builds on legislation put forward by Supervisor Eric Mar in 2010 that prevents landlords from evicting families with children in local elementary schools. That legislation was developed to minimize the stress on children who must leave their friends and a steady learning environment in the middle of the school year as their families are required to move.
“The fact is that in one out of ten classrooms…we don’t have the people to be able to fill those positions. And that impacts the education of our students,” Campos said. “We cannot educate our children if we do not have the personnel to actually do that.”
But the effect on children is just as strong, Campos and educator advocates argued, when teachers are evicted and struggling to find a place to stay – or when they leave the city and their jobs completely because they cannot afford to stay in San Francisco.
“A credentialed teacher makes less than $3,400 a month,” Campos said. “A one-bedroom apartment is more than that.”
Sandra Lee Fewer, a commissioner for the Board of Education and candidate for termed-out Supervisor Mar’s seat, said the city is experiencing an unprecedented teacher shortage in part because of its housing crisis.
“[Educators] are moderate wage earners,” she said. “They cannot compete.”
Allison Leshefsky, a physical education teacher at Paul Revere Elementary School who lived in the Castro and was evicted in December by notorious scofflaw landlord Anna Kihagi, is couch surfing with friends these days.
“I couldn’t sleep or eat. All my spare time was spent trying to find a place to live. I was unable to give [my students] the attention they needed,” she said. She lived out of a suitcase and worried where she would stay next. But she has decided to put the kids first.
“I will not be stopped from completing the school year,” Leshefsky said.
Kristen Panti, who teaches at the Mission DIstrict after-school program Las Americas, started her career as a public school teacher with a salary matching her rent.
“In 1987, I joined the San Francisco Unified School District,” Panti said. “I was really excited to make $6.90 an hour, and I could pay my rent with that.”
But now, Panti is worried she will soon face eviction when her landlady sells the building where she lives. Residential buildings often see evictions after their sale to new owners because it is more profitable to bring in new, market-rate tenants than continue with long-term, rent-controlled tenants.
“I don’t know what I would do, frankly,” she said. “This legislation would help us not have to deal with that during the school year.”