Archive for Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Teaching professionals

Subsidized housing doesn’t seem like the best way to reward Lawrence teachers.

September 7, 2010


Give Lawrence school board member Rich Minder points for creativity, but his idea of establishing a “teacherage” to provide subsidized housing for local teachers seems unlikely to catch on.

Minder pointed out that, 100 years ago, it was common for communities to maintain that kind of housing for their teachers. A hundred years ago, it was common for school district patrons to board teachers in their homes and force female teachers to resign their jobs when they got married. Not everything about the good ol’ days was good.

But when it comes to modern-day teacher salaries, if Lawrence teachers aren’t making enough to afford to pay for housing in Lawrence, something is wrong. It’s not uncommon in high-rent resort towns like Aspen, Colo., for low-paid hotel and restaurant workers to commute from nearby towns with lower housing costs. But if housing costs in Lawrence have surpassed the financial capabilities of professional, full-time teachers, things have gotten out of whack.

A local co-chair for the Lawrence Education Association was willing to consider Minder’s idea, but added, “…it still begs the question: When will we pay our professionally educated public school teachers a professional wage?”

It’s a good question. These are college-educated people, many with advanced degrees, and yet, we expect them to view some kind of district-owned, low-cost, communal-style housing as a meaningful job perq? It’s a little demeaning.

The school district also should think carefully before getting into the housing business. Minder suggests that teacher housing could be paid for from the district’s capital outlay budget. Money from that budget can’t be used to raise teacher salaries, but it could be used for teacher housing. However, after funding athletic projects at the city’s two high schools, the school board already has had to delay needed capital projects at various schools. They could raise more money for that budget by raising local property taxes even more, but this hardly seems the right time to consider that move. There also would be the matter of ongoing maintenance of teacher residences, which presumably would be the district’s responsibility.

Responding to Minder’s idea, School Superintendent Rick Doll acknowledged, “There are things other than salary that are important to teachers.” Chief among those things probably is the recognition and respect of the community for the important work teachers do. Higher salaries are a tangible way to show that respect; building a local “teacherage” probably isn’t.


Roland Gunslinger 3 years, 7 months ago

School districts need to start getting corporate sponsorship that way they can afford to pay the teachers a salary nearer to that of a pro athelete.

Instead of Free State High School it could be FedEx State High School.

Or... this history lesson on the cold war brought to you by the Northrop Grumman Corporation.

Lawrence Lions football jerseys could be adorned with sponsor labels such as Repsol, Caterpillar, Honeywell, etc.


Clevercowgirl 3 years, 7 months ago

Oh, where to start. First and foremost, aren't School Board members elected to manage our educational system? Instead, we have Minder who feels that it is important to call a press conference to present his (no, not his) "teacherage" idea. This is because we need to give teachers some form of raise, when housing costs are so high.

  1. Real estate prices have actually dropped over the past 2 years in Lawrence.
  2. Interest rates are at a all time low.
  3. Tenured teachers are considered very stable borrowers for real estate loans.
  4. Due to the fact that Lawrence is grossly overbuilt in rental properties, rents tend to be lower in recent times, or negotiable.
  5. VERY FEW people are seeing any form of a raise.
  6. It is no coincidence that the communal teacherage that Minder proposes is aligned with his communal lifestyle and investments. No hint of impropriety here!
  7. I would highly recommend that Mr. Minder focus (?) more on helping to facilitate and improve our childrens academic environment, and less on how other people should live.

Stain 3 years, 7 months ago

I suspect the proponent of this idea has money on his mind - his own. He is already involved in a housing development and now he wants the school district to give him more business.

This is another TERRIBLE idea brought to you by someone in a position of trust who is supposed to be serving the city, but is out to make money for themselves in any way possible.

The next time someone runs for office on their "business record" I'll know this is what it means: I'm a businessman, and if I get elected, I'm ready to make money by exploiting my position of trust (and if you bribe me, you can make money too).


Benjamin Roberts 3 years, 7 months ago

I find it confusing that so many people (including Minder) believe that a first year single-income teacher should be qualifying for a mortgage and buying a house. This is something that happens for the rest of the working world after a few years of establishing credit, improving income (which does happen for teachers also), and usually gaining a second income via a spouse.


beaujackson 3 years, 7 months ago

Rental housing costs in Lawrence are determined by how many KU students can be "crammed" into a house, even in single family zoned neighborhoods. This flawed zoning effectively turns a student rental house into an apartment, which is legal only in MF zoning).

Multiple unrelated renters should be limited to multi-family zoned neighborhoods.

The ONLY solution to exorbitant rental costs is for the city to prohibit more than two (2) unrelated persons renting in single family zoned neighborhoods.


Turbin_Cowboy 3 years, 7 months ago

"$50+ a seat to watch a great algebra teacher demonstrate her craft in front of the class "

The seat in a Lawrence school costs $4000 to $5000 dollars for a student that is a legal resident or a illegal resident.

Next idiotic comparison please.


Paul R Getto 3 years, 7 months ago

"Why is it we can pay athletes and entertainers all the big bucks but can't pay a decent living wage to those we trust with our childrens' futures?" === It's all economics (and bread and circuses), grammaddy. If people would line up for twelve hours, fight to get in and pay $50+ a seat to watch a great algebra teacher demonstrate her craft in front of the class and the crowd of thousands who paid to watch, teachers could make entertainers' salaries. This won't happen, of course. Teachers, nurses, police, firemen, etc, know they are public servants and that they work for the taxpayers. Money isn't the only thing that matters or which motivates people. We need to stop whipping this particular dead horse.


grammaddy 3 years, 7 months ago

Minder was just trying to rent out his empty Delaware Commons.It's all about priorities and that was his. Why is it we can pay athletes and entertainers all the BIG BUCKS but can't pay a decent living wage to those we trust with our childrens' futures?


Richard Heckler 3 years, 7 months ago

The boom town economics was a nation wide fraud perpetrated on consumers by way of the Bush/Cheney admin turning a blind eye to the situation.

There are homeowners right here in Douglas County who have stopped making mortgage payments because they are losing money daily on their investment. Apparently some are still living in these homes after stopping the mortgage payments ...... some for more than two years.

60 minutes did a report on this mess which at the time noted there are more than 7 million homes on the market. That number is growing as those who could afford their homes at one time no longer can due to being among the 11 million who lost jobs.

Boom town economics = extreme inflation = bad for business and OUR cost of living,


Richard Heckler 3 years, 7 months ago

Considering how Kansas legislators are constantly failing to meet financial demands and that Lawrence is the most expensive community in Kansas to reside due to high tax dollar demand and high cost of housing thanks to so much love of the housing bubble and boom town economics.

Academic standards can also diminish without a constant source of tax dollars at a appropriate level to support demand. Excellent teaching staff may also diminish as teachers look toward Blue Valley that does pay better.

Too many legislators are always throwing out that FEAR angle about schools wasting tax dollars. USD 497 may have a wasteful spending problem but certainly is not being directed at teaching salaries and academics. Some capitol improvement dollars should be allowed on academics and teaching salaries.

The fear should be how Kansas legislators do not finance our public school systems. In my opinion the majority of Kansas legislators harass the public education system.

I cannot support USD 497 moving into the residential housing industry. IMO they pay wayyyy tooo much on their land deals.


Clevercowgirl 3 years, 7 months ago

Have any teachers come forward to express this concern? Is this just Minders idea of a political platform? Finally, based on the blogs following last week's article, the general consensus was that this idea was completely out of touch with today's realities.


notajayhawk 3 years, 7 months ago

Maybe the problem isn't that teachers in Lawrence don't get paid enough to live in Lawrence, maybe it's that Lawrence is too expensive for a teacher to live in. This is not just a matter of semantics.

Maybe I have a different perspective. I moved to the Midwest from a part of the country were it's the norm, not the exception, to live somewhere other than where you work. Take, for example, the town of Stamford, CT, where a family of four can qualify for Section 8 assistance with an income of over $83K. It's not just teachers, but policemen, firemen, almost all city workers who can't afford to live there. (And the people that can afford it, the 'rich' residents? Most of them live there because they can't afford to live where THEY work, such as NYC.)

I don't live in Lawrence, so I'm just theorizing - but is it possible the problem is just a lack of affordable housing?


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