The state of California is in the midst of a teacher shortage. Enrollment in educator preparation programs dropped more than 70 percent over the last decade and has fallen below the number of estimated hires by school districts around the state, according to a report by the Learning Policy Institute. Meanwhile, all of the state’s programs to recruit teachers have disappeared in earlier budget cuts. One area school district, however, is using housing incentives to attract and retain teachers.
The Patterson Joint Unified School District is offering teachers a rent to buy program on two condominiums the District purchased in town and a down payment assistance program, where the District matches funds teachers save through payroll deductions to a savings account specifically to use for a down payment on purchasing a home.
Patterson Unified said the purpose of the incentive program is to both attract and retain quality teachers to reside within the District’s boundaries, while simultaneously generating a community and local economic advantage.
"We want to keep teachers in the area. A lot of teachers who work here don't live in town and we've lost a lot of teachers who leave to work in the town they live in," said Johnny Padilla, Patterson's communications and grants coordinator. "If they live here, then this is home, the community they are raising their children in."
The two programs are already being taken advantage of by Patterson teachers, said Padilla. Both of the condominiums will soon have tenants and six teachers have signed up for the down payment assistance program, leaving six spots open.
"It's pretty unique, especially in this area," said Padilla of the housing incentives.
In Turlock, where there is a low inventory of homes for sale and the average price of homes sold is rising — approximately $300,000 compared to $270,000 a year ago — housing incentives could be a good thing for local teachers, at least according to local Realtor Scott Snyder.
“I personally commend Patterson Unified School District in being creative in its approach to attract quality teachers to our area. As a group, our Turlock Realtor Network — a member of the Central Valley Association of Realtors — supports a variety of opportunities for home ownership, and all the benefits that come with being a homeowner," said Snyder.
However, the Turlock Unified School District isn't having as much trouble as Patterson in recruiting quality teachers.
"Turlock Unified continues to have a strong applicant pool for our certificated vacancies. The District is certainly mindful of the teacher shortage, however, due to positive community relations including those associated with California State University, Stanislaus, early teacher recruitment, good working conditions, professional development and training opportunities to support teachers, and a strong salary schedule TUSD has been able to recruit and retain highly qualify individuals," said TUSD Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Jason Maggard.
"Although we are not currently offering incentives in the form of money or housing, we do recognize all years of service credit from other districts, which has assisted TUSD with securing experienced teachers," he continued.