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In the States: Arizona School District Uses Housing Project to Attract Teacher

The “In the States” feature by Kaitlyn Brennan is a weekly update to keep members informed on state-level activities impacting the education and educator preparation community.

As school districts across the nation struggle to find qualified educators to fill classroom vacancies,  one Arizona school district will utilize an unconventional recruitment tool: tiny houses. As reported by CNN, the Chino Valley Unified School District is using federal money to build 10 studio units, each 400 square feet, on a vacant lot behind an elementary school, where teachers will pay roughly $550 per month in rent — well below the market rate for the area.

In an interview, Chino Valley Superintendent John Scholl said:

“Districts are fighting over applicants, and we sometimes don’t get any, and we have to do with people that are not fully certified …We’re hoping that these 10 units will help attract and retain teachers that we normally wouldn’t get.”

Across Arizona, an estimated 2,890 teacher positions remained unfilled as of January.

Marisol Garcia, president of the Arizona Education Association expressed concerns with the proposal saying:

“Our concern would be that a professional educator would not only work for the district, but the district would also be their landlord … If there’s a leaky sink or the air conditioning isn’t working, you have to go to your boss to ask them to fix that … We’re treating a symptom and not the illness … We don’t have enough educators who want to enter the profession, who want to stay in the profession, because we’re not able to pay them what they deserve to be paid, and more importantly, we have taken steps away from respecting the profession.”

Arizona is not the only state to consider “teacher housing projects” as a recruitment and retention initiative. Last year, California passed a similar bill that would allow California school districts to build affordable housing for teachers and staff.

While teacher pay and preparation remain top concerns, it is important to note that in March, Chairman of the HELP Committee Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced The Pay Teachers Act that would raise the minimum teacher salary to at least $60,000 annually and includes significant investments to educator preparation and professional development such as the following:

  • Triples Title I-A funding ($36.77 billion).

  • Triples funding for Rural Education programs ($430 million), doubles Impact Aid Basic Support Payments.

  • ($1.46 billion), and provides an additional $1 billion for the Bureau of Indian Education.

  • Diversifies and expands the teacher pipeline by: (1) authorizing a new Grow Your Own program within the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grant program and providing $550 million for TQP grants; (2) investing $150 million in the Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence program to support teacher preparation at HBCUs, TCUs and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs); and (3) investing $300 million in IDEA, Part D to support the special education personnel pipeline.

  • Supports the teaching profession by expanding leadership and advancement opportunities by investing in and strengthening the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) program ($100 million) and the Teacher and School Leader Incentive program ($200 million).

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