Hawaii loses more than 1,500 public school teachers each year, and education advocates say exorbitant housing prices are partly to blame. The median price of a single-family home on the islands is nearly $700,000. The starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor's degree is $42,000.
Hawaii State Teachers Association president Roger Takabayashi is hoping to curb the state's 10 percent turnover rate with a proposal that would allow teachers to buy new or resale homes at a deep discount. Under his teacher affordable-housing plan, the state would buy new or resale properties, then resell the homes to qualified teachers at 20 percent of the assessed value, with the state retaining 80 percent ownership.
Teachers buying homes through the program would assume responsibility for property taxes, mortgage payments, and insurance. They would be required to work full-time in the Hawaii public school system and would not be allowed to own property elsewhere.
"The intent of this is not for investment purposes, but rather to encourage teachers to put down roots in the communities where they teach," Takabayashi says. "We have about 200 classrooms that are not filled each year, meaning those students are deprived of highly qualified teachers, by federal standards. This bill offers one way to alleviate a burden from teachers' backs, so they can focus on teaching and not so much on survival."
Takabayashi first floated his teacher affordable-housing proposal to the Hawaii legislature in 2006, where it died in committee due to lack of funding. When the 2008 legislative session opens in July, he plans to reintroduce the measure in tandem with an appropriations bill that would designate additional state funding for rental housing for teachers. Rising foreclosures could help the for-sale proposal gain traction by presenting opportunities for the state to acquire properties at a reduced rate, he says.
Rental housing for teachers (offered mostly in rural areas of Hawaii) is currently managed by the state's department of housing, but oversight will shift to the department of education in 2008.