As M-A’s teacher salary schedules are racing to keep up with inflation, housing prices are also increasing rapidly. This raises the question:
Can teachers and staff even afford to live near M-A anymore?
We asked teachers and staff for their home addresses or locations near their homes. 71 responded, representing 55% of all M-A faculty.
*Based on Google Maps average commute time for 7:30 am on a Monday.
Where Do Our Teachers Live?
This is a continuation of the previous teacher housing audit we conducted two years earlier.
The blue houses represent teacher’s homes and the red pin is Menlo-Atherton High School. The blue line is the Sequoia Union School District boundary.
The graph details both where the teacher respondents live, sorted by city, and the average commute times from each city in minutes, ranging from longest (yellow line) to shortest (grey line). The cities are sorted from left to right, left being closest to M-A.
The research reveals that the majority of teachers do not live locally, and spend a considerable amount of time each day commuting. We dug a little deeper to understand why teachers live where they live.
The Teacher Perspective:
“I can name at least five teachers that have left the area because of housing concerns. That’s pretty much the number one reason why teachers leave. There are teachers that have been at M-A for 10+ years who are leaving because they can’t afford to ever buy a house in the area.”
“We’ve been told to buy a house, have our own stable family and it seems like a dream that was achievable for our parents, so would it ever be achievable for me? It doesn’t seem achievable for me in this area where a 2-bedroom, 900 square foot house is going for 2 million dollars.”
“I would consider moving districts once I am further into teaching. Also, if I had a family, that would definitely motivate my movement.”
“It’s honestly almost impossible to buy a house right now on a teacher’s salary, unless you have the added salary of a significant other, or many years of experience–and your salary increases.”
It is clear that the discrepancy between pay and cost of living near M-A is driving teachers further away. The question becomes how can M-A successfully retain its highly regarded teaching staff, while still attracting the same quality in new teachers?
On February 16th, 2022, the District Board approved a new teacher-proposed contract that asks for a total of a 7% raise over the span of two years to keep up with inflation.
In past years, teachers had to fight for any raise. This year they bargained for a 2.5% raise starting July 1, 2021, another 2.5% for the 2022-23 school year, and another 2% for the 2023-24 school year.
However, inflation is reportedly at 7.9% as of February 2022, the highest it has been since February 1982. The new raise still doesn’t account for the full impact of inflation, or the cost of living in the Bay Area.
Well, how do teachers get paid in the first place?
At most schools, including M-A, teachers get paid based off of a “salary schedule.” This is what the current salary schedule looks like:
- “Step” in the top left means how many years the teacher is there
- The “+__ (30-75)” accounts for all extra “units” or credits you have (additional courses/degrees)
- AB: Bachelor’s degree
- The numbers in the chart (ex: 72,753): the teacher’s salary, or fixed regular sum paid
- Extra $ yearly for additional degrees, at bottom
*For teachers that transfer from other districts: they can come with eight years of service for column I and ten years for column II. Per our current practice, the maximum years of experience is twelve years for columns III, IV, and V.
Lets put this into simpler terms.
Say “Teacher X” has been at M-A for 10 years, and has an AB (Bachelors) + 45 credits, in the III column.
They would earn $106,219 as of this year.
The graphs display how Teacher X’s pay would increase marginally over time, while inflation has skyrocketed.
Salary Persists as a Barrier:
On the current 2021-22 salary schedule, the yearly starting salary for teachers is $72,753. After taxes, one would only keep around $51,898.
According to Redfin, in February 2022, Menlo Park home prices are selling for a “median price of $2.4M.”
According to HSH.com, a household salary of $216,181 is practically required to buy a “median-priced house” in San Mateo County.
Put best by an M-A teacher, “It's honestly almost impossible to buy a house right now on a teacher's salary, unless you have the added salary of a significant other, or many years of experience–and your salary increases.”
The Bottom Line:
Despite the recent push for improved teacher pay, M-A salaries still don’t compare to the exorbitant cost of living in the Bay Area and peak inflation rates.
Either we need to turn towards other compensation programs for support on housing and commutes or put pressure on the District to compensate teachers for these externalities that teaching at M-A encompasses.