I began my teaching career in Hartford nearly three years ago, and for my entire tenure with Hartford Public Schools, I have chosen to live at home to save money for future financial endeavors, such as buying a home or paying to further my own education and advance my teaching career. After graduating from college, I was saddled with a modest student loan debt, which was matched by payments for necessities of life that my family, having been in poverty for my entire adolescence, had been unable to provide for me. As such, I had already begun my teaching career on the financial back foot, and in a district that was on a three-year pay freeze. I was encouraged to learn that our elected officials have raised a bill that will — if passed — offer incentives for teachers live in the communities in which they teach.
My financial circumstances are not all that different from a number of millennials entering or already in the workforce. For those of us teaching here in Hartford and across the state, it would be most sensible for us to have an incentive beyond the three percent pay differential for Hartford residency per the Hartford Board of Education’s contract that better enables teachers to benefit from the work they do.
We have seen teacher housing benefit its districts in other states throughout the country. In Dare County, North Carolina, the Dare Education Foundation, offers two housing complexes specifically for teachers. Dare County Schools has cited the program for successfully recruiting teachers in shortage areas such as foreign languages, advanced math, and special education. Furthermore, the program played a role in expanding the districts’ foreign language program.
As someone who wants to find more ways to have a sustainable and fiscally responsible lifestyle, while passionately pursuing my profession, it is vital to begin the process of analyzing the potential for such incentives to be implemented to attract educators to our state or those who who want to stay in Connecticut, but can’t afford to live here.
While we know that Connecticut is facing many financial hardships and several districts are not in positions to provide raises to teachers, making it financially feasible for teachers to move to or stay in the communities in which they teach will open the door to recruit and retain teachers in our highest needs districts and shortage areas.
This is something stakeholders have long fought for, but struggled to find ways to do so. I encourage elected officials to continue to move this initiative through legislative session, and ultimately pass legislation, so all of our students have access to a quality education.
Gage Salicki is a Social Studies teacher and Bulkeley High School in Hartford. He is also an Educators for Excellence — Connecticut member.
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