At Wednesday’s Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, board meeting, discussions about the district’s struggles to financially support teachers and schools dominated the conversation. Despite the gravity of the topic, only five people attended the meeting.
Our community can’t afford to ignore the state of public education in this area. Teachers throughout the country already have to deal with low wages; the astronomical cost of living in the Bay Area adds an extra burden to a teacher’s plate. Too many teachers have to endure long commutes to school purely because affordable housing is much farther away. To make matters worse, BUSD teachers are paid far less than their counterparts in comparable districts. And BUSD’s $3.8 million budget cut for 2018-20 simply exacerbates the issue.
We’re still dealing with the issue of underpaying teachers — it’s not a new problem. It’s common knowledge that in order to have good schools, you need good teachers. To keep good teachers, they’ve got to be paid good wages. California ranks 21st out of all 50 states in public school quality, according to U.S. News and World Report. The state government ought to be stepping in to support public education, considering that California is home to a large segment of the country’s population.
But because the government hasn’t filled that void, another group is picking up the slack: technology companies in the Bay Area. Landed, a startup created by former teachers, recently announced that it would help Berkeley City College, or BCC, educators make down payments on homes closer to the college. This would tremendously decrease commute times, boost quality of life for some of the most important community members and improve educator turnover rates at BCC. It would also help teachers invest in their future, which high rent prices preclude them from doing in the first place.
It’s extremely commendable that Landed is dedicated to alleviating affordability issues for teachers — the program offers up to $120,000 in down payments with no interest or required monthly payments — but startups shouldn’t bear the brunt of funding public education. The tech industry is exposing the cracks in our system, making it seem like external sources are the solution to a problem that the government should be responsible for.
The state government shouldn’t ease up on financially supporting public education just because tech companies are filling the gap — if anything, the state should be supplementing these efforts even more. As a state, we need to reevaluate who should be responsible for paying for the next generation’s education.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2019 opinion editor, Revati Thatte.