Voters May Increase Teachers’ Pay in June

A ballot measure could raise about $50 million annually to keep teachers from leaving the city due to lack of affordability.

Hydra Mendoza-McDonnell, president of the San Francisco Board of Education, speaks on the steps of City Hall about the importance of keeping teachers in the city before signatures were submitted on Wednesday, January 31, 2017 to place increasing teacher pay on the June ballot (Ida Mojadad/S.F. Weekly)

San Franciscans moved by the loss of teachers may have the chance come June to help some afford living here.

Days ahead of the Feb. 5 deadline to file ballot measures, San Francisco teachers and their supporters submitted 16,656 signatures on Wednesday to about $50 million for increased teacher pay. A parcel tax would be levied to raise teacher salaries and paraeducators, increase funding for staffing and programs, provide professional development, and invest in new technological tools for learning.

The Living Wage for Educators Act of 2018 — which would generate revenue that can’t be touched by the state or federal government — adds to a list of impactful measures proposed for the June ballot

“It’s great that we can all unify around making sure teachers get a living wage in San Francisco,” says Susan Solomon, executive vice-president of the United Educators of San Francisco. “We crushed it.”

Without increasing the wages for educators, more will continue to leave and disrupt students, says Hydra Mendoza-McDonnell, president of the San Francisco Board of Education. San Francisco Unified School District has hired more than 500 teachers in the past year but still has a teacher shortage, thanks in part to turnover.

“When we lose those teachers that our students are connected to, it has grave impact,” Mendoza-McDonnell says. “Keeping teachers in San Francisco is a very high priority of ours.”

In an annual survey of educators, almost 60 percent of teachers say they have difficulty affording housing and two-thirds of their parent educators report the same, says SFUSD Deputy Superintendent Myong Leigh. About 70 percent say they have some form of economic anxiety.

“You can’t do your best work if you’re feeling anxious,” Leigh says. “San Francisco has to step up for our schools and for our students and for our educators.”

Many elected officials have already endorsed the measure, like supervisors Malia Cohen, Hillary Ronen, Jane Kim, London Breed, Jeff Sheehy, and Sandra Lee Fewer. Before the signatures were submitted, Mayor Mark Farrell told the coalition of supporters at the steps of City Hall that they would support in the Mayor’s Office.

“Investing in our teachers is simply the best thing that we can do as the city,” Farrell says. “They are simply the heart and soul of raising families in San Francisco.”

The Department of Elections has up to a month to certify the signatures before it’s officially placed on the June ballot.

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