The case for housing teachers
This past spring there was a struggle at the high school as teachers and administrators worked to fill the 17 spaces that had opened up by the end of the school year. In spite of the numbers of people who applied for each position, we were in a constant state of uncertainty about whether the persons we offered jobs to would actually stay and take them.
Those who turned down an offer to teach here said the big deciding factors were the cost of living and the lack of reasonably priced rental housing. Some refused jobs because being able to purchase a home here in the future was unlikely.
Over the past 10 years, many more of my teaching colleagues live down valley ” from Snowmass to Carbondale. The commute can be 70 minutes one-way, depending on traffic, weather or construction. There is, for most, a distinct feeling of being “unattached to the place” where they work. Teaching is a time-intensive job, not one that ends with the class day. Teachers take work home with them in the form of grading, planning, reading, worrying, more grading, and constant thinking about all the small but vital things that make a classroom work. Add in a long commute, and you have a special variant on what so many others in this valley have to do each day because it’s hard to get a place to live here.
I’m not a political guy, but I know that any group asking for money in an election is fair target at the shooting gallery for every other person or group in the same or a similar situation. Given the state of the economy, it seems hopeless to ask for public funding ” even for an excellent reason, and teachers are not the only vital community members who need housing. There are city and county workers, police and firefighters, hospital workers, Forest Service employees, all manner of ski industry workers, and young professionals of all ilk, but teachers are a sizable component of the vital people who make up a community.
The Aspen School District has the capacity to build housing on its own property for the use of its professional employees. This is a chance to secure rental housing for teachers, to ensure that teaching in Aspen can be a long-term career, not a one- or two-year struggle.
What could be better than to have teachers living where they work, involved in the community at-large? We’ve all heard the “Not in my back yard” (NIMBY) response to some proposal. I hope that we can avoid the more destructive NIICHOT response: “Not if I can’t have one too.” The Aspen schools want to help teachers have more possibilities for good, fairly priced rental housing. Teachers don’t deserve housing opportunities more than anyone else, but we should take this chance to create rental housing for teachers.
Please support 3B, the bond for teacher rental housing. And don’t forget 3A, which will allow our school kids to continue having access to first-rate technology AND will give them a safe, green way to get to school.
Aspen High School
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