Public housing in Bridgeport.

When I decided to take time to travel after graduating college, I didn’t think I would end up discovering my future career. While traveling, I met many people who were teaching English in other countries, which inspired me to spend a year in China teaching English myself. The experience pushed me to return to the United States to continue teaching.

I received a position teaching Spanish at Bridgeport’s Central High School in 2017. Eager to start living in the community where I taught, I quickly began looking for housing in Bridgeport: I was shocked at the rent prices I saw as I scrolled through the listings. To rent a small one-bedroom apartment, including utilities, I would be paying $1,200 per month. I paid a fraction of that cost when I taught in China.

Despite my hesitation, I thought that with my entry-level salary, being a single person with no children, I would be able to afford it. Unfortunately, that was not the case. At least one of the two checks I received a month was put towards paying my rent. Rather than continue to live paycheck to paycheck, I decided to find a roommate in order to save money and cut costs.

While I have options like this to save money, many of my colleagues don’t share the same flexibilities. Many of my fellow teachers have children or are the sole earner in their households and have to work two or three jobs to make ends meet. Last year, several other teachers throughout the Bridgeport school district and I worked together to write a policy paper, with input gathered from our colleagues on issues that mattered to them and affordable housing was top of mind.

A recent article in The Atlantic reported that an increasing number of teachers are working for Uber or hosting their properties on Airbnb to supplement their income. Teachers should not have to work more than one job to afford a decent living. Quite frankly, being forced into these circumstances is disrespectful to the amount of hard work and dedication we put in day after day.

Some may suggest that subsidized housing is too expensive for municipalities to take on, but I would push back and ask legislators to consider the costs if we don’t implement affordable housing. Working too many jobs could lead to teacher burnout or losing great teachers because they can no longer afford to live where they teach. High teacher turnover has many effects on our students such as their academic achievements, more pressure on other educators, and is a burden on districts’ piggy banks.

Recently, I have been involved with a fellowship with the Bridgeport City Council to look at different ways the city can implement affordable housing for not only teachers, but for all municipal employees. I was also encouraged to hear that the General Assembly is working to pass a bill that would allow municipalities to implement affordable housing programs for teachers. This bill, if passed into law, would give educators an opportunity to enjoy their families, live a comfortable life, and do what they love – provide the best education possible for our students.

Please join me in signing this petition in encouraging our elected officials to pass House Bill 7226 to provide educators with the affordable housing they deserve.

Rob Vogelpohl is a Spanish teacher at Central High School in Bridgeport and an E4E-Connecticut member.

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