Friday, December 19, 2014

Teachers as working poor? Really?

Isn't it great to imagine cool affordable apartments for young teachers in the now-hip Fishtown. Oh boy, they can have an office incubator with space that rents out by the day. Or they can hang out in a public cafe or trade stories about the brat in the third row as they nurse a rehabilitative beer around a fire circle in the adjacent park.
Is anyone else as disturbed as I am about the world view expressed in Inga Saffron's Changing Skyline column on the front page of today's Philadelphia Inquirer and headlining on our new website, www.inquirer.com?

Teachers as working poor? Really?

Rendering of Oxford Mills apartments, South Kensington. (Barton Partners)
Rendering of Oxford Mills apartments, South Kensington. (Barton Partners)

Isn't it great to imagine cool affordable apartments for young teachers in the now-hip Fishtown. Oh boy, they can have an office incubator with space that rents out by the day. Or they can hang out in a public cafe or trade stories about the brat in the third row as they nurse a rehabilitative beer around a fire circle in the adjacent park.

Is anyone else as disturbed as I am about the world view expressed in Inga Saffron's Changing Skyline column on the front page of today's Philadelphia Inquirer and headlining on our new website, www.inquirer.com?

There's nothing wrong with her writing, and I confess that I might not mind living in a similar situation, trading beers and stories with other reporters, young and old. But let me quote a few sentences. My comments are in parenthesis.

The development company "intends to market the units as affordable housing to teachers, especially novices working in programs like Teach for America, and others who fall into the growing category known as the working poor.

(Working poor? Teachers? Wow. But let's go on:)

"Newly minted professionals with college degrees are not generally seen as the target demographic for low-income housing....

"But the profile of those seeking subsidized rentals is changing fast," Saffron writes, talking about a new residential category called "workforce housing." (Workforce housing differs from the company towns/tenements/barracks, I guess, because they provide cafes and outdoor fire pits. Teachers are employed by the government -- so maybe it makes sense that the government provides housing.)

"Usually built with the help of government tax credits, these projects are meant to help people in low wage jobs, such as teachers..."

Had enough?

How about we just pay the teachers a reasonable wage that reflects their education and the intense demands of the job? Wouldn't that be nice? Then, they can afford to choose where they'd like to live. No doubt, many young people will choose a one-bedroom in a converted hip factory. I would. But others may be starting a family and  prefer a row house with a yard, or an apartment in a different neighborhood, or some place near their family members.

I think about my neighborhood, Mt. Airy. It has been a teacher-haven, which is what has given it so much stability over the years. Philadelphia's neighborhoods desperately need the educated professionals. They become leaders, volunteers, activists, giving back to their communities in ways that are unmeasured by most systems. If our beginning teachers are earning so little that they need subsidized housing, it's time to give them a raise.

Let them buy their own fire pits!

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer
About this blog

Jobbing covers the workplace – employment, unemployment, management, unions, legal issues, labor economics, benefits, work-life balance, workforce development, trends and profiles.

Jane M. Von Bergen writes about workplace issues for the Inquirer.

Married to a photographer she met at her college newspaper, Von Bergen has been a reporter since fourth grade, covering education, government, retailing, courts, marketing and business. “I love the specific detail that tells the story,” she says.

Reach Jane M. at jvonbergen@phillynews.com.

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer