Across the country, teachers and school staff are battling inflation
(CNN) — Teachers and school workers across the country are struggling to keep up with the cost of living.
Inflation and soaring rent prices drive out teachers who cannot afford to live where they work.
Shanika Whiten’s struggle begins before the sun even rises. She’s a single mother living in Los Angeles and struggling with debilitating multiple sclerosis, but she’s still determined to get to work on time.
“There were months of me wondering, ‘Oh, am I going to be able to afford to pay rent this month,'” she said.
Whiten worked for over 20 years in special education for the Los Angeles school system.
But rising rents and soaring costs of living almost forced her and other school employees to leave.
“It’s sad to live the way we are because of inflation, and everything goes up except your salary,” Whiten said. “Your paycheck isn’t going up, so it’s like, ‘How am I going to keep surviving?'” Whiten said.
It’s a common burden felt by teachers and other school employees nationwide.
On average, the rent has almost doubled over the past 10 years. The cost of living has increased about six times faster than ten years ago.
School systems now double up as employers and landlords to retain talented teachers.
From mountainous Eagle County, Colorado, to the beach paradise of Maui, Hawaii, school districts are funding affordable staff housing.
However, construction often takes years, leaving some school districts, like Milpitas in San Jose, to act urgently. The Milpitas School District is asking parents to come forward if they have a room to rent.
Some 66 people have already offered their accommodation to educators.
In Silicon Valley, a former convent is no longer reserved for nuns and is now used to house teachers.
The National Education Association supports these measures as well as affordable housing and better pay for teachers.
At Norwood Learning Village in Los Angeles, where Whiten lives, the need for these measures is now.
The demand for apartments is exploding. One property has just 29 units, but nearly 600 people applied, hoping one will open.
Most applicants work for the school system.
Sam Chang manages the establishment and lives with his wife, a teacher and their children.
“Yes, the need is really great; that’s basically what it means,” he said.
Chang said many people who are able to move into an apartment are almost in disbelief not only of the price but also of the quality of housing.
In a county where the average three-bedroom rent is $3,000 a month, Whiten pays less than half that and said she feels among the lucky ones.
“Living where I am, paying what I pay is a blessing,” she said. “It’s a blessing.”
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