The high cost of housing pushes many teachers out of the classroom, and that reduces the number of teachers of color. But a nonprofit called Teachers Rooted in Oakland has been helping, by providing housing support to the Oakland school district teachers of color for the past three years. TRiO is now expanding the program to support the district’s 2,000-plus teachers.
Oakland is not unique in this challenge; in metropolitan areas across the country, education and housing are both in crisis. In the Oakland school district, while people of color make up 90% of the student body, nearly 50% of the teachers are white. Student outcomes are negatively impacted when schools don’t have representative teachers who can connect with students and effectively teach them. For example, data shows almost 80% of nonwhite students in OUSD’s third-grades are performing below grade level in reading and math.
Teachers Rooted in Oakland (TRiO) helps recruit and retain STEM and special education teachers who are more representative of the student population, by providing subsidized housing or housing stipends. One recipient is Anthony Ochoa, a geometry teacher at Oakland Technical High School, who first knew he wanted to be a teacher when he was in the ninth grade.
Student teacher makes ends meet
“TRiO is a big reason why I was able to achieve my goal of being a teacher … I didn’t really have the funds to support going into the credential program while student teaching for free,” Ochoa said.
The TRiO program served 12 teacher residents in its inaugural year, then added 18 more in year two, and currently is adding 26 more slots, for a total of 56 this year. During year one, teacher residents were offered units in only one Oakland location. Now, teachers have access to a range of units as a result of TRiO’s public-private partnerships. TRiO is working with a growing list of partners in the housing world and beyond.
As Ochoa moves into his second year of teaching he has benefited from participating in TRiO, which in addition to providing housing support also offers financial literacy sessions, team-building activities, and the newly announced TRiO Plus.
Boosting the number of teachers served
TRiO Plus is an Affordable Housing Marketplace (AHM) available to all 2,000-plus teachers in the district. This past summer, the AHM assisted 23 teachers in signing leases for below-market units, and additional teachers, such as Anthony, secured lease renewals at a lower rate.
With solid mechanisms in place to reach those 2,000-plus teachers in the Oakland Unified School District, the TRiO team is focused on expanding housing affordability for Oakland teachers, and, ultimately, helping local students. Bank of America has doubled down on its support by committing another $1 million, announced in early October, bringing the total investment by the bank in TRiO to $2 million.
“TRiO has a unique approach to Oakland’s persistent challenges retaining high quality teachers due to rising housing costs,” said Gioia McCarthy, Bank of America president for San Francisco-East Bay. “Access to more affordable housing sets up these STEM and special needs educators for success as they teach Oakland’s youth. Bank of America’s latest grant will help propel TRiO — and TRiO Plus — into a bright future.”
Even as TRiO continues to build the foundation of these important programs, its vision is to create a model that can be replicated throughout the state and eventually the nation.
TRiO’s efforts would not be possible without the collaboration and support from a myriad of sources, including community organizations, housing developers and owners, private corporations, and school districts.
If you are inclined to make a difference for teachers, students and the Oakland community and want to contribute to fundraising efforts to support the program, visit the TRiO Plus donation page or contact Kyra Mungia, TRiO’s co-founder, at email@example.com to explore partnership opportunities.
To learn more about Teachers Rooted in Oakland click here.