Across the country, teachers and school staff struggle with inflation

Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 7:07 PM MDT
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(CNN) – Teachers and school employees nationwide are struggling to keep up with the cost of living.

Inflation and surging rent prices are pushing out teachers who can’t afford to live in where they work.

Shanika Whiten’s struggle starts before the sun is even up. She’s a single mom living in Los Angeles and battling debilitating multiple sclerosis, yet she’s still determined to get to work on time.

“There have been months where I would worry about, ‘Oh, am I going to be able to afford to pay rent this month,’” she said.

Whiten has worked for more than 20 years in special education for the L.A. school system.

But rising rents and a surge in the cost of living have nearly forced her out, along with other school employees.

“It’s sad to live the way we are because of inflation, and everything is going up except your paycheck,” Whiten said. “Your paycheck is not going up, so it’s like, ‘How am I going to continue to survive?’” Whiten said.

It’s a common burden felt by teachers and other school employees nationwide.

On average, rent has nearly doubled in the past 10 years. The cost of living has been increasing at roughly six times the rate it was a decade ago.

School systems are now doubling as both employers and landlords to retain teaching talent.

From mountainous Eagle County, Colorado, to the beach paradise of Maui in Hawaii, school districts are funding affordable housing for staff.

However, construction is often years off, leaving some school districts, like Milpitas in San Jose, to act urgently. The Milpitas School District is asking parents to step forward if they have a room for rent.

Some 66 people have already offered their homes to educators.

In Silicon Valley, a former convent is no longer for nuns and is now used to house teachers.

The National Education Association supports these measures as well as affordable housing and more pay for teachers.

At Norwood Learning Village in L.A., where Whiten lives, the need for these measures is now.

The demand for apartments is soaring. One property has only 29 units, yet nearly 600 people have applied, hoping one opens up.

Most of the applicants work for the school system.

Sam Chang manages the facility and lives with his wife, a teacher, and their kids.

“Yeah, the need is really great; that’s basically what that means,” he said.

Chang said a lot of people who are able to move into an apartment are almost in disbelief at not just the price but also the quality of the housing.

In a county where the average rent for a three-bedroom is $3,000 a month, Whiten is paying less than half that and said she feels like one of the lucky ones.

“Living where I am, paying what I pay, it’s a blessing,” she said. “It’s a blessing.”